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Manga News You Can Use: Catching Up With Rin-ne

posted Aug 16, 2012, 10:42 PM by Douglas Sun
Originally posted: May 24, 2009

Blogging has been light and will continue to be light as I get ready to head out to ConSim World Expo on Tuesday. But I did want to make sure I caught up with Viz’ online serialization of “Rin-ne;” true to their word, they’ve been trotting out a chapter per week since the series debuted, and they are now up to Chapter 4, with #5 due middle of this week.

First reactions:

The big question going into the debut of “Rin-ne” (at least for me) was where Takahashi would turn in terms of tone and subject matter after “Inuyasha.” “Inuyasha” was noticeably darker than her previous major works (unless you consider “Mermaid Forest” one of her major works), with characters who veered more toward the tragic than the comic, and tapping into Japanese mythology for some genuinely horrific visual elements. Having been there and done that, where would she go next?

So far, I’d have to describe “Rin-ne” as “Inuyasha”-lite. The premise leans heavily on both Buddhist and Japanese folk mythology; Rin-ne Rokudo is a human who finds hungry ghosts — restless spirits of the dead who linger in the material plane because of regrets that they carry from their lives — and guides them to the Wheel of Transmigration so they can be reborn into their next lives. But through Chapter 4, none of Rin-ne’s cases seem all that deep or consequential: a chihuahua, a bookworm who died without ever going on a date, a boy who was killed before he could receive a gift from a girl whom he liked. It’s mostly standard fare that could have come from any high-school comedy, and nothing that would take Rin-ne’s sidekick, Sakura Mamiya, out of her ordinary world the way Kagome Higurashi was transported from hers in “Inuyasha.”

Here’s another way of looking at it: See pp. 23-35 of Chapter 1. Compare it to Mistress Centipede, the demon who appears at a similar point in “Inuyasha.” They’re both freaky, but not in the same way.

Rin-ne appears as a character of power and mystery, lean and flinty-eyed, and yet Takahashi undercuts him harder and more frequently than she did with Inuyasha. Inuyasha loses his dignity when funny stuff happens to him; the very conditions of Rin-ne’s existence strips him of his dignity: his Ryoga Hibiki-like poverty, the paltry sums that he demands in exchange for his services, the tin can phone that he uses to communicate with the dead.

Takahashi has always been a keen observer of everyday life, and so I couldn’t help noticing that the story of Chapters 2-3 hinges on one of Sakura’s friends having a cel phone. Compare that to “Maison Ikkoku,” which is now about 20 years old, and in which many of the gags revolved around the fact that the live-in manager and the tenants of a boarding house all had to share one landline.

Takahashi has now been around long enough so that she can become self-referential. See Chapter 4, p. 17, the boats carrying the spirits of the dead. Yes, it is willfully and deliberately the head of Ranma’s father Genma in his panda form.

Early prediction: Sooner rather than later, Rin-ne’s backstory will be revealed, and it will share many elements with the childhood incident that gave Sakura her power to see ghosts. Therefore, she will realize that she could have the same duties and powers that Rin-ne has, if she wants them. Eventually, she will become his co-equal rather than his sidekick.

We’ll see.