I knew it was coming, but it was nevertheless a bit of a jolt to actually see Tsubasa-kun’s face in the classroom early on in this episode of Kyoukai no Rinne. He’s been absent for so long I was beginning to think everyone’s memory of him had ben erased by hiyou or something. It was sort of fitting that this was the episode that saw his return, as it felt like a first-season episode in a lot of ways.
At this point I’m pretty used to this series turning its black comic eye on Rinne in rather harsh terms, but this was one of those eps that really pushed past the line for me. Starting with Mamiya Sakura’s (out loud, mind you) observation that he was “too poor to come to the summer festival with the rest of us.” Ouch – I mean, that’s pretty much textbook bullying right there. I know Mamiya Sakura is a high-school girl so I’m assuming she’s not exactly flush with cash, but you seriously can’t slide the guy a thousand Yen so he can buy a couple of candy apples?
Fortunately (depending on how you look at it) Rinne is going to end up at the matsuri anyway, because a girl named Natsumi has hired him to attend posting as her boyfriend, thus revealing the nature of a curse that seems to follow her every year when she attends the festival. Before that there’s a brief encounter with an “EZ Reidou” that’s spilling out mosquito spirits all overt town. Continuing the cruel theme that runs through the episode, Tamako-sama more or less coerces Rinne into trying to close the reidou using his own blood in a spell, then pops up at the last minute and flips its “closed” switch, pocketing the EZ Reidou (and accompanying reward money) for herself. Thanks a pantload, Granny – sometimes I think when it comes to Sabato the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree.
Naturally Mamiya Sakura sees Rinne-kun on his “date” with Natsumi, and naturally Tsubasa sees this as his opportunity to seize the moment. Alas for him he’s saddled with Mamiya Sakura’s two gossip buddies, who insist he buy them everything they want in exchange for the privilege of being with them (well – he can afford it). Natsumi-san’s curse involves the shooting game and a ratty old stuffed bear which emits a black aura and dodges the corks being fired at it. Turns out the issue here is that Natsumi had asked her grandfather to win it for her (or so he thought) when she was a little girl, and he failed – and died three days later. So he’s stuck around for ten years waiting for her to come back and cursing her boyfriend every time he tried to win “his” stuffed bear.
There are two elements of this that really work comedically, the first being what an absolute shamelessly shallow cad Natsumi is. Even when confronted (thanks to Rinne’s Cloak) with the spirit of her dead grandpa, she has no qualms about telling him he was wrong all along – she wanted the makeup kit next to the bear. To make up for it she asks him (a spirit mind you) to buy her a 20,000 Yen ostrich bag. The other hilarious element here is Rinne’s reveal that he has a “business smile” – one he only trots out when there’s income on the line. Not even being on a date with Mamiya Sakura can bring back that smile once the job is done – though its absence does reflect that Rinne is actually enjoying himself for a change…