How nice it is to be able to write about the final episode of Kyoukai no Rinne knowing there’ll be two more cours starting next spring. Anime is a funny business – this is an anime that isn’t especially popular and barely registered a blip in (DVD only) disc sales – yet it receives a second season, while many much more-discussed series (which would be pretty much all of them) don’t. It’s all thanks to NHK and the unique set of rules that apply to the anime they produce – the same rules that gave us a second season of Baby Steps (though sadly not a third) and five of Bakuman.
I ended up enjoying Rinne way more than I anticipated when it started, and it’s interesting (to me at least) to speculate on why that is. I’d read some of the manga and liked it, though I was hardly blown away – “second-tier Rumiko” is how I referred to the series way back when. Did I simply not give the manga enough of a chance, or is the anime really that much better than the manga? I honestly think it’s much more the latter – Rumiko’s comic timing is impeccable, but this deadpan style just works far better in anime form.
A lot of the credit goes to the cast of course – top-notch all the way. All of the leads are excellent, and I very much include Nabatame Hitome in that – the way she gets so much mileage out of a tiny line like Rokumon’s “Ne?” (in response to Grandma’s “That must suck”) this week is a perfect example of her genius (Nabatame is truly a marvel to excel with roles as varied as Rokumon, Margery Daw and Kazusa from White Album 2). Giving Rumiko’s dialogue actual voices – the right voices – seems to make all the difference with Rinne.
I don’t know if I’d call Kyoukai no Rinne Rumiko’s best manga, as she’s had some gems (I like Inuyasha far more than most seem to these days), but I do think it’s her funniest. I find the comedy here more effective that the broad slapstick of Ranma 1/2 – more sardonic, more mature, more effortless. It’s unmistakably the work of a writer who just doesn’t sweat it, who’s writing what she wants and not worried about impressing anybody.
While the season finale was a bit more serious than some eps have been, it was very much in-line with the Rinne we know and love. The premise: don’t-call-me-Grandma has come around with a candy to counteract the effect of the one she so thoughtlessly gave Mamiya Sakura when she was a little girl. The result is that Mamiya Sakura can no longer see spirits – which of course means she can no longer see Rinne, so long as he’s wearing his robe. That presents a special problem because the “A-1 Grand Prix” (the A stands for “Asmodeus”) is just about the begin, a tournament where evil spirits curse a chosen living target competitively – and Mamiya Sakura is chosen as this year’s victim.
It’s not too hard to see that this is going to be a story built around Mamiya Sakura’s decision about whether she actually wants to stop seeing spirits, but the fun is in seeing how Rumiko and Brain’s Base play it out. As usual, Rinne-kun takes on the thankless hero role, acting to save Mamiya Sakura from all 5000 spirits entered into the A-1, though she can’t see him doing so. He actually gets some help from Tamako this time, a 30,000 Yen “decoy doll” that looks exactly like Mamiya Sakura and lures the evil spirits away from her – but only for three hours. And for his trouble Rinne gets the reputation of a pervert who had a life-size Mamiya Sakura doll made for his own illicit reasons…
We’re so used to seeing Rinne get screwed by fate that it comes as a bit of a shock to see him blessed with an honest to goodness happy ending. It doesn’t come courtesy of Grandma – she screws him out of the 25 grand he’d have made from the spirits he exorcized to help her pay for the doll – but from Mamiya Sakura herself. She chooses not to keep eating the candy – not just because she wants to see Rinne, one suspects, but because she’s realized that she’s actually kind of lucky to have such a special ability. And it’s also clear she suspects the truth about what Rinne’s been doing, and rewards him with a homemade bento – and there cane be no surer sign of teenage romantic commitment in anime than that. Rinne’s “Umai!” is the perfect way to bring the season to a close on a deliciously happy note for a character who really deserves it.
But there is a bit more – dessert, if you will. The epilogue is the sequel announcement, and it’s fittingly one of the funniest we’ve seen in a long time. No one can say “Ehhhhh?” like Mamiya Sakura, and it’s nice to hear it one more time – especially given the reason for it. NHK may have denied us one sequel that we were hoping for this week, but as consolation prizes go this is a darn good one. See you next April…