It’s a beautiful life.
It’s a milestone episode for any series this week on Kyoukai no Rinne, #50 – but happily it’s not the sort of milestone we thought it might be a week ago. My mood in watching this ep was altogether far more upbeat than it could have been, because Kyoukai no Rinne is coming back for a third season next spring. You know that if you stuck around for the Sabanetto omake at the end of the episode, but the announcement actually came a couple of days ago in the manga publication, Shounen Sunday. And what a happy bit of news it was.
If indeed this had been the finale of Kyoukai no Rinne – as I think almost all of us expected – it would have been a pretty bittersweet experience watching it. As easy as this show is to take for granted, it’s even easier to love – Rinne has become a fixture of my Saturdays, a chance to relax and laugh and let the stresses of the week fade away for half an hour. If there were ever an ED sequence which perfectly captured the mood and spirit of a show it would be “Beautiful Life” – silly and upbeat and chipper. That’s what this series is, a simple pleasure – and the more water passes under our personal bridges the more we come to realize how precious simple pleasures are.
This wasn’t the ending – only an intermission, thank goodness. But it still had to be an ending because Rinne is taking a six-month break, so it had to serve the role of both table-setter and capstone for the previous six. And it did so effortlessly and in breezily enjoyable fashion, concluding last week’s storyline with an even stronger focus on Rinne-kun and Mamiya Sakura. This was probably as close as we’ve ever seen to a “serious” exploration of their relationship (though nothing with this show ever loses levity and levitation), and it sets the stage for a third season (I’m not going to say “final” because now, who knows) which might just see real progress on that score.
One thing is pretty much indisputable at this point – Mamiya Sakura likes Rinne “that way”. Heck, she even admitted it to herself (“bummed” indeed) – that’s why she was so down when he seemed to admit he was using her for money and snacks. So there’s no unrequited love here (not that there was ever any real doubt), and that means it’s just a matter of Rinne and Mamiya Sakura getting on the same page and letting the other know how they feel. And since Mamiya Sakura is pretty much a walking antithesis of every anime female lead trope, we might just have a chance of that happening.
Of course, the last ep was full of the traditional Rinne humor that’s so effortless every other anime comedy should be green with envy. Some of it comes from Anju, who seems to slip into a kind of Baka #2 role behind Ageha. And I love, love, love Kuromitsu – Uchiyama Yumi is killing it here, and the black cat contractor cast of this series is pretty much all pure gold. There were the also the usual great standalone moments, like the leaky spirits showering Anju with eraser shards and shouting “Feel the curse of mild exasperation!”.
In the end, Rinne-kun finally wises up to the fact that his constant chase of stuff like shrine charms is a “sweet trap” where Mamiya Sakura is concerned. She’s arguably the most deadpan main character in recent anime history, but she’s human – full credit to Inoue Marina for getting her emotions across so well without any changes in tone – and she needs emotional validation just like anyone else. The ending was in essence the perfect way to break – Mamiya Sakura and Rinne together (with Rokumon-chan of course), sharing the bento she made for him, smiling till next spring. This is a dark comedy despite its breezy charm, and it’s nice to go into the hiatus on such an upbeat note.
It’s interesting to speculate on why we’re getting more episodes of Kyoukai no Rinne when even a second season might have seemed a surprise. I noted that it popped up in the ratings Top 10 a couple weeks ago, and the manga volumes do sort of OK – they generally chart for a week and sell 25K volumes or so. Plus this an NHK series, which implies a different economic model than the traditional production committee template for modern anime. But by no stretch is this a commercially powerful series, and as thrilled as I am to get more of it I confess to being a bit puzzled. Rumiko’s attachment certainly can’t hurt, and for that matter it’s easy to see why she keeps drawing Kyoukai no Rinne – surely this series is blast for her too, letting her indulge her cheeky whims as much as she wants without a lot of expectations or pressure.
In a way, maybe Kyoukai no Rinne represents a kind of utopian vision of what anime might be like if the world were different, where series could be made just for the fun of it without trying to nano-market to a rigidly defined subset of disc buyers. That would be a pretty cool world indeed if more shows like Rinne were the result – it’s a testament to the way anime can expand on and improve a manga, and to the impact a superb cast of experienced seiyuu can have on a series. The explanation for this week’s happy news might be elusive, but the result is not – more Kyoukai no Rinne is straight-up happiness. It’s a beautiful life.