This series really is full of terrible people…
I’ve mentioned this before, but Kyoukai no Rinne is one of the blackest of black comedies – it just does a good job of making you forget that fact for long stretches of time. When you really stop and think about what Rumiko is mining for humor here it’s kind of shocking: teenagers dying young. Child poverty. Souls taken to the afterlife ahead of their time. Parental abuse. It’s a dark ride, this series – the line between comedy and tragedy runs through a different zone here than it does in any other show I can remember.
Take this week. Renge – who proves herself to be a truly terrible person in every respect – takes away Rinne’s one minuscule source of income (and sustenance) purely out of petty spite. Then she realizes that as a side benefit, she can effectively curse the entire school and cash in on that by harvesting a bunch of souls to the afterlife before their time. Meanwhile we see Rinne and Rokumon slowly starving inside an abandoned building until Rokumon secretly pawns Rinne’s one invaluable possession (his scythe) in order to buy a few onigiri at a convenience store. A child and a cat starving to death – how the hell does Rumiko get us to laugh at this stuff? And what, Mamiya Sakura can’t sneak a loaf of bread and a bag of rice crackers out of the house for crying out loud??
Before all that, there’s also Tama, Renge’s obaa-san of a black cat contractor, tricking Rokumon into drinking hench tea (as you recall, it makes someone your slave) and serving it to Rinne, Mamiya Sakura and Jumonji. This leads to some rather humorous elements as the boys take rather too willingly to Renge’s commands to hit each other, but not to much when she tells them to love each other (even if they took that spiritually rather than physically, it was still a trauma). Easily the funniest moment in the episode is Mamiya Sakura’s “That’s hot!” response to seeing the two of them cuddle. Renge’s plan is to turn Mamiya Sakura and Marilyn into soul harvesters, have Rinne steal souls early and Jumonji… clean the floor, but fortunately Rokumon is so used to being poverty-stricken that he made the hench tea at only 10% strength and it soon wears off.
“Poverty saves the day” is definitely the theme of this week’s episode. The straps Renge and Tama distribute throughout the school do a lot more than kibosh Rinne’s business – they’re about to expire, and when they do a bunch of spirits flow into the vacuum they’d created, with the students who’d been wearing them especially hard-hit. Renge’s plan seemingly includes distracting Rinne while Mamiya Sakura is destroyed by evil spirits (what a nice girl) but happily, Rinne’s binbou stench is so powerful that even evil spirits are put off. The episode does at least give us a bit of a redemptive punchline – Rokumon steals all of Renge’s furniture and pawns it to get Rinne’s scythe back. Hey – that’ about as fair as life gets in this twisted mythology.