As hinted at last time, Kyoukai no Rinne has indeed unleashed the romcom hijinks in full force. And as you’d expect based on this cast and general tone, it’s a perfect fit. This bunch is a perfect vehicle for Rumiko to remind everyone just how good she is with this sort of material, which is always present in her work but hasn’t been front and center like this for decades. Along with Jitsu wa Watashi wa, it really takes us back to another era in anime romantic comedy.
Among the elements that make this setup click is the exquisite contrast between Mamiya Sakura and Ageha, who’s surely one of the biggest baka in anime this year – and indeed the way each of the central players comes at the struggle from a completely different place. Ageha could almost exist in a romcom where she was the only character, because she’d keep busy arguing with herself. “Koi” is a difficult concept for her to accept, so she almost convinces herself she has “TBK” (Suspension Bridge Syndrome – I didn’t know the Japanese called it that or what the acronym is, but it’s a recurring theme in anime). But an emergency hug convinces her of the truth, and she sets about claiming her prize in her own innately baka way,
I thought thought that when she crossed paths with Baka #2, we were going to start seeing some development on that front. Things would be a lot smoother if Tsubasa and Ageha would just hook up, but smoother is obviously not what Rumiko is going for here. Instead, they decide to team up as their goals are symbiotic, and it’s not hard to predict that things are going to get very silly as a result. Poor Rinne can’t even pin down Mamiya Sakura alone long enough to try and explain what’s really going on (“Isn’t she old enough to go to the bathroom by herself?”).
Eventually Rinne will get a chance for that moment alone with Mamiya Sakura, but there’s a great running gag here where her total lack of reaction flummoxes first Rinne and then Tsubasa. The moment when the light clicks on and Rinne-kun realizes Mamiya Sakura is going to give him nothing for free, and that he’s going to have to confess or get off the pot is subtly hilarious. But we have to get there first, and that comes courtesy of one of Ageha’s airhead schemes to win Rinne over. She grabs a stacking lacquer bento box out of her (loaded) family’s storage shed, believing that it brings with it a charm to seal a relationship. But it’s actually cursed, containing an evil spirit which grants three wishes and then claims the wisher’s soul. Grandma couldn’t have mentioned that at some point – or at least stuck a post-it note on it?
The running gag of Mamiya Sakura invariably walking in at every inopportune moment when Ageha is glomming onto Rinne really should be getting old, but it never does – maybe thanks to her Sphinx-like demeanor. And Ageha’s evil spirit is hilarious too, a giant tako-wiener (who hates to be called a tako-wiener) that Mamiya Sakura immediately assumes is the “Sausage Fairy”. Rinne involuntarily makes a wish before he realizes what’s happening, and it’s a telling one – he wants everyone out of the classroom so he can be alone with Mamiya Sakura, which is when the non-confession debacle occurs. The Sausage Fairy has teleported everyone out of the room and erected a barrier, and temps Rinne with promises of bending his dream woman to his will.
This is a pretty zany way to go about it, but this silliness does nudge things between the major characters along quite a bit. Rinne’s intent is clear in his wish, and Ageha is forced to admit she may be an oblivious third wheel – a “KYP” (I confess, I’d never heard that one before). And when she tries to order Mamiya Sakura to stay away from Rinne-kun, Mamiya Sakura is forced to admit “I don’t really want to” – though she won’t admit why that is (yet). Of course Rinne isn’t going to let an evil spirit talk him into controlling anyone’s mind, but boy, after the Sausage Fairy is broken up into a thousand tiny cocktail fairies and disperses through the town offering to grant wishes, it sure seems for a minute as if Tsubasa is tempted. I think it’s desperation – Rinne instinctively knows he’s going to win ether way, and Tusbasa-kun knows such skullduggery is his only hope.
Maybe the best moment of the episode comes when Rinne – after asking Mamiya Sakura to “do something for me” and a long dramatic pause – asks her to loan him ¥500, and she flashes him a smile. Mamiya Sakura’s reactions are so rare that when they happen, they really stand out. And as silly as all this is, there actually something warm and charming between Mamiya Sakura and Rinne, and one gets the sense that she understands how he really feels.