Way Up in the Middle of the Air, Rin-Ne by Rumiko Takahashi

Rumiko Takahashi’s latest project is Kyoukai no Rinne (or Rin-Ne). It can possibly be described as “Bleach turned upside down, shredded, and then put in a blender on frappe with a handful of Takahashi’s romantic comedies.” I figure that now would be the best time to do a review of it, since it’s currently long enough to get a feel for the story, and short enough that I don’t have to tear my hair out trying to condense five hundred chapters into an overview. (Takahashi’s style tends toward the melodramatic continuous plot twist and cliffhanger side of the literary force. (It’s like Charles Dickens, only not.) This can be entertaining or frustrating depending on my mood and general interest in the series.)

Rin-Ne is about a girl named Sakura Mamiya who was “spirited away” as a child, and as a result, can see the spirits of the dead. (Who are generally chatty and annoying, so she does her best to ignore them.) When she starts high school, she meets a mysterious boy named Rinne Rokudo who it turns out, is “something like a Shinigami.” She ends up entangled in his adventures after she sees him attempt to put the spirit of a Chihuahua to rest. In the classic Takahashi fashion of “one problem on top of another problem leading to a disaster,” the entanglement involves Sakura first trying to walk through Rinne because she thinks he’s a ghost. (I would make a dry comment involving the movie The Sixth Sense here but I haven’t actually seen the movie.) Then of course a very persistent ghost that had been bothering Sakura became corrupted by the Chihuahua ghost, which lead to Rinne having to rescue her from the ghost and then use her as bait to lure the ghost to the Wheel of Samsara.

It turns out that Rinne is only part Shinigami–his grandmother fell in love with a human she’d been sent to escort to the Wheel of Samsara and managed to work out a deal where the man’s life was extended, so she could marry him. Part of the deal involved an increase in her quota of souls…which she wasn’t able to meet. Therefore, it falls to Rinne to pay off the debt. Unfortunately, it’s apparently very expensive to be a mostly-human Shinigami, so Rinne is homeless and very, very broke most of the time.

The storyline is light in tone, and played for humor. The relationship set up appears to be “The Kind-Hearted Girl and the Brash Boy” (sort of similar to the Kagome and Inuyasha relationship, only with less violence.) The overall tone of the series so far appears to follow the comedy and highjinks of Ranma ½ rather than the more serious (though still at times goofy) Inuyasha. I recommend the series to anyone who loves Rumiko Takahashi’s romantic comedies, with the caveat that the humor might seem slightly formulaic.

The Cast So Far

Sakura Mamiya: A girl who was “spirited away” as a child and has the second sight as a result. She meets Rinne’s grandmother in the otherworld by either accident or design (but doesn’t remember this until later.) She’s the typical slightly sweet, slightly ignorant, slightly bratty Takahashi heroine. Sakura has no use for her ability to see ghosts and spirits, and tries to ignore them (to the point of walking through them.) Once she meets Rinne, her gift becomes slightly more useful (to Rinne.)

Rinne Rokudo: Rinne is the grandson of a Shinigami, currently trying to work off the debt acquired by his grandmother. He is very stubborn and independent, and generally refuses to accept any sort of help from his grandmother, with whom he seems to have a slightly antagonistic relationship. Due partly to the fact that being a mostly human Shinigami is very expensive, he is homeless, and relies on donations left in the school’s tool shed. (The other half of the problem is that he lost his home after the death of his grandfather, and he refuses to live with his grandmother in the other world.)

Tamako: Tamako is Rinne’s grandmother. She’s a very light hearted cheerful person who seems determined to “help” her grandson as much as he seems determined to refuse her help. It isn’t not hard to see why, either, as Tamako’s help seems to take the form of extortion. (She tried to terrorize Rinne’s classmates into giving him money for instance.) She appears to be very young, and absolutely hates being called “grandma.”

Rokudon: Is a black demon cat formerly employed by Tamako. Black cats like Rokudon are supposed to serve as a Shinigami’s assistant in subduing evil spirits, and he initially claims to have been sent by Tamako. Since Rinne can’t afford to feed a cat, he refuses Rokudon’s offer. When it later comes out that Rokudon was actually fired, Rinne accepts him on the condition that he fends for himself as far is food and board is concerned.

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Filed under fantasy, humor, manga/anime, Review: Manga

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