Make no mistake about it – Kyoukai no Rinne’s got game.
By now, Kyoukai no Rinne’s comic chops are unassailable for the seven of us watching it. But there’s another side to this series, and while it’s rarely on display (this was the first time this season) it’s no less significant. When one considers that many of the episodic plots of this series are built around the untimely deaths of teenagers (or younger) it’s not surprising that there’s a darker side to Rinne, always lurking just underneath the surface, biding its time for occasional incursions into the story.
This time around the focus is on a strange rumor in school – the much-beloved student council president, Yuuki Naomi, is dressing up in a pink wig and mugging people on the street. It’s not until the victims are Mamiya Sakura and her two friends that the truth becomes clear – this isn’t Naomi at all, but a ghost who bears a strange resemblance to her. Also strange is the fact that normal humans seem to be able to see this ghost, who talks in a dialect the bewildered millennials she’s harassing can’t make heads or tails out of.
Without a doubt there’s some very funny stuff going on in this episode. The whole premise is a hilarious take on the Shouwa delinquent trope (beloved of Japan’s film and TV industry – and manga), which really takes comic flight when Rinne’s grandma is called in to interpret what the ghost is saying for the youngsters’ benefit. Also very funny indeed is seeing Rokumon pose as an abandoned kitten in the rain (another dig at the Shouwa delinquent cliche) only to be distracted by the edible weeds in the vacant lot where Grandma leaves him as bait. Then with the ghost finally arrives and Rinne corrals her for a chat, he spends the entire time eating grass. And not to be overlooked is the always-uproarious role the narrator plays in all this.
But fundamentally, the ghost – whose name was Ranko – has a very sad story to tell. She was a bad girl all right, but in love with the same boy as her twin sister Rinko (Naomi’s mother) – the boy who eventually became Naomi’s father. A prank gone bad led to her untimely demise (seriously – are there no stop signs in this town?) and an afterlifetime of regret for never getting the chance to apologize to her sister for tricking the boy who was in love with Rinko into thinking that’s who she was.
It would be a stretch to say that enabling a kid who died way too young to pass on to the next world is a happy ending, but that’s what makes Kyoukai no Rinne a bittersweet series, and it’s generally the best Rinne-kun can do. He finally accomplished this through the use of a “time holograph“, allowing Ranko to see Yuuki-kun one last time – and by posing Naomi as the absent Rinko. Yuuki-kun is a goofball and a terrible singer – then and now – but he and Rinko were and are in love, and Ranko was fated to be on the outside looking in. That’s life – it’s not always fair, and no one knows that more than Rinne. I think that’s why he takes these cases so personally, because it’s his own small way of giving the ones Karma has frowned upon just a bit of solace.