RIN-NE 1 by Rumiko Takahashi: B+

rin-ne1From the back cover:
As a child, Sakura Mamiya mysteriously disappeared in the woods behind her grandma’s home. She returned whole and healthy, but since then she has had the power to see ghosts. Now a teenager, she just wishes the ghosts would leave her alone! At school, the desk next to Sakura’s has been empty since the start of the school year. Then one day her always-absent classmate Rinne Rokudo shows up, and he’s far more than what he seems!

Sakura’s curiosity about the mysterious Rinne draws her deeper into an amazing world on the boundary between the living and the dead. Helping Rinne is one thing, but will tagging along with him leave her trapped in the afterlife? And does Rinne really know what he’s doing? Dealing with the afterlife isn’t easy, especially when you don’t know all the rules!

When Sakura Mamiya was a little girl, she was lured into the afterlife by a corrupt shinigami. A kind lady rescued her and sent her home, but ever since then Sakura has been able to see ghosts. Having lately begun her first year in high school, Sakura had hoped that by this point in her life things would’ve changed, but she continues to see spirits. Still, her wish is granted in a way when she is the sole witness to her mysterious classmate, Rinne, banishing a chihuahua spirit in the middle of class. She’s the first person who’s ever been able to see him performing his spiritual duties, and he’s the first person who’s ever been able to see the things she can, including a persistent male ghost who’s starting to get a little too attached to her. After dealing with beings both amorphous and amorous, Rinne and Sakura work together on a couple of other cases, with Sakura sending “business” Rinne’s way when her friends have supernatural problems.

There could never be any doubt that RIN-NE is a Rumiko Takahashi manga. If her distinctive art weren’t enough of a clue—and it really looks gorgeous here—there’s her gift for creating characters; the building of camaraderie via episodic adventure; the gentle, never zany humor; and an amazing sense of pacing and paneling to bring the point home. Weekly chapters of RIN-NE are published online by VIZ and I’ve actually already read the eight chapters collected in this volume, but somehow I enjoyed them so much better in this print edition. The story flows well and I firmly believe Takahashi’s art simply looks better on paper.

The series is off to an intriguing start, but it’s too soon to tell whether a long arc will materialize or if the episodic adventures will continue indefinitely. I like the characters and setup enough to enjoy several volumes in that vein, but I might grow tired of it eventually. Also, the characters in RIN-NE will likely feel rather familiar to InuYasha fans. You have the schoolgirl heroine with special sensitivity; the half-human, half-supernatural boy she encounters and who says “feh” at least once; and the pint-sized, animalesque character with the ability to create illusions. The specifics are different, of course, and I can understand why Takahashi would stick with a formula that has proven successful, but if a tough chick and a lecherous guy join the group I am going to have to cry foul.

Ultimately, volume one of RIN-NE is entertaining and fun in that special Takahashi way. If you’re already a fan of hers, you’ll probably like this series, too.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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  1. I can see why she’d stick to formula too, but I wish she’d mix it up a little more. I’d love to see another Maison Ikkoku type aimed at an older audience.

    • So would I. One Pound Gospel is seinen, too, but all of the other licensed series—which I noticed all bear the names of their male protagonists—are shounen. Not that a shounen tale can’t be sophisticated, but hers tend to be more… comfy.

      • Does Lum Urusei Yatsura count as licensed? Takahashi generally names her shounen after the not-so-human leads rather than the male leads. And I think the titles Ataru, Akane, Kagome, and Sakura would not be as iconic.

        • I wasn’t counting Urusei ‘cos it’s out of print so the license has probably lapsed.

          That’s true about all the guys being not-so-human. I wasn’t trying to accuse her of sexism or anything; I just noticed the trend is all. 🙂

        • Licensed or not, it’s just called Urusei Yatsura in Japan. Lum was the US title. Therefore it’s not named after anyone, human or non-human.

  2. You had me at ‘banishing a chihuahua spirit’ :-). I do like Takahashi’s stuff, no matter how formulaic it can get, so I must check this out!


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