I’m enjoying Brain’s Base’s adaptation of this series so much that it’s making me wonder if I don’t need to give the manga another look, because I definitely don’t remember the same level of enjoyment. It was pretty good, but the anime seems to have a certain spark the manga didn’t – maybe it’s good casting, or maybe it’s the fact that the comic style is so deadpan that it’s more effective in a medium that’s normally so demonstrative and hyperkinetic.
No question, part of the appeal for me here is that Kyoukai no Rinne is something quite distinct from what anime normally is these days. The character designs are obviously old-school, but Takahashi’s writing is every bit as much so. She’s been doing this long enough that she doesn’t feel the need to try and oversell the comic (or dramatic) moments. And she clearly has no inclination to trying to mimic modern tropes which are of no interest to her.
The cast is filling out nicely, with last week’s excellent addition of Rokumon being followed up by the arrival of Juumonji Tsubasa (the always welcome Kimura Ryouhei). Transfer student Tsubasa is the scion of an exorcist family who fell in love with Mamiya Sakura (we have a triangle here where both males call the female by her full name) when they attended grade school together and bonded over their shared ability to see spirits. He arrives back in town full of pomp (and himself), looking rather ridiculous in a bolo tie, and promptly confesses to Mamiya Sakura as soon as he sees her. This is a pretty hilarious scene, since she has no memory of him whatsoever and only gets his name right because the teacher (seriously – what it is with those eyes? I don’t think “cross-eyed” was meant to be taken this literally) has written it on the board.
Tsubasa is a full-on core cast member in his own right, but he does serve some obvious functions in the dynamic of the story – he’s a foil for Rinne, clearly, with his divergent views on spirits. And he’s a prompt for Rinne to consider his feelings for Mamiya Sakura (it’s clear enough that his “I have no interest in that sort of thing” is a lie, but Mamiya Sakura’s usual stone-faced demeanor makes her own views harder to read). The nature of both these conflicts plays out through the story of a ghost, Usui (Ichiki Mitsuhiro) who’s stayed around because he died of illness before he could go on a date with the girl of his dreams – Mamiya Sakura’s friend Miho (Tokui Sora).
In the first place, Tsubasa is clearly a hard-liner – he’s only interested in exorcising Usui, while Rinne wants to help him find closure and move on to the next world. Then we have the scenario of the date, where Miho suggests a double-date with Mamiya Sakura – clearly thinking she’ll end up with Rinne. But it’s Tsubasa who ends up as her partner, so Rika (Suzuki Aya) asks Rinne to make it a triple (maybe there’s a little crush here, but I think she’s mostly just being a good friend). Despite spending himself into debt again at the amusement park and crying tears of blood, Rinne actually has a good time – and discovers that he doesn’t much like the notion of Mamiya Sakura being on a date with another guy. And judging by the way she was clutching that dolphin plushie Rinne won for her, there might be some reciprocated feeling here.
This is all fairly zany and quite funny, but again the real charm of it for me is how ridiculously low-key it all is. You’d think a show this mild-tempered might be boring, but Rinne is anything but – rather, it’s quite refreshing. There’s no attempt made her to be overly realistic – this is anime that’s content to be a fantasy on every level, but the naturalistic tone makes for a pretty interesting contrast. I truly think this series would have seemed a lot more generic if it’s aired 10 or 15 years go, but it didn’t – and in this environment, it’s a real breath of fresh air.