What do you know – we finally got another full-length story set in the Rinne-verse. And unlike the last one, a rather serious two-parter that introduced Rinne-kun’s mother at long last, this one was more like the usual silliness multiplied by three. And at times it was rather brilliant, too, though perhaps more hard-edged than the series’ usual humor (which is pretty flinty to begin with).
Matsugo is kind of a tough character to peg. Male characters who openly long for other male characters (especially the protagonist) are still relatively rare in non-BL manga and anime. And the traditional way we see them – when we do see them – is to be used as comic devices, often in a rather mean-spirited way. And I don’t think Rumiko-sensei totally avoids that here (R-15, for example, mostly did), though God knows I’ve seen far, far worse. Matsugo is neither a fool or a scoundrel, but he is a bit of a buffoon – and the way even he won’t openly acknowledge what’s so obvious that literally every character knows it is (while funny) somewhat absurd.
Well, that being what it is, as I said I do think this episode often reached the level of comic genius. The premise is that Matsugo is part of a training at Shinigami First which requires the students to use mahou no incense to turn a dream demon (which gender-flips the dream once it gets to the good part) loose in their subconscious, and they have to hunt it down in whoever’s dream it’s hiding in to pass the training. Matsugo being Matsugo has secretly planted incense in Rokudo’s hovel, and uses the training more as an excuse to have some intimate time with Rokudo than anything else. Once Rokudo figures out what’s going on he goes to put a stop to it, and Mamiya Sakura, Jumonji and Renge tag along.
This whole extended dream sequence is inspired, as one by one the others join it and turn it into a daisy chain of unrequited adolescent longing. Hilariously, Rinne-kun’s dreams are now more about the food Mamiya Sakura prepares for him than Mamiya Sakura herself. Eventually Anju-kun and Kain gets drawn into this as well, as everyone is taken on a dream-nightmare roller-coaster that can’t end until the dream demon is captured. It’s very silly (Rokumon-chan as all seven dwarves is pretty indicative) but as is often the case with Rumiko, there are shrewd and cutting insights about all the characters stashed throughout. I love the added possibility these full-episode stories give Kyoukai no Rinne, and I sure wish they happened a little more often.