I dream of shinigami.
Years back (eleven, in fact), Viz Media began near-simultaneously releasing chapters of Rumiko Takahashi’s latest manga digitally. Despite feeling lukewarm on Takahashi’s overall output (I love her art-style but not a whole lot else of the recurring aspects of her work), the fact that it was a spirit-busting yarn piqued my curiosity enough that I opted to check it out. What I read seemed decent, but I figured it’d be a title I got back to at some point when there was more of it out… only for the entire arrangement to be chucked before I managed to. Faced with the prospect of having to collect physical volumes to read a series that I assumed would grow to titanic proportions, I figured I’d just have to wait for the collected volumes to start getting a digital release. Which, maybe it would… someday… eventually… and, so, many years passed.
Lo, then – a tweet from Viz alerted me to… a sale. A sale? A sale of that manga in question, RIN-NE. And, oh? The sale is for the digital volumes? Wait, it did finally get a digital release? When’d that happen??? (Beginning last March! And there’s still a big chunk of middle volumes that haven’t been released yet.) So, here we are.*
Sakura Mamiya is a high school student who can see ghosts; Rinne Rokudo is her oft-absent classmate who she spots subduing a ghostly chihuahua during homeroom one day. Thus begin their adventures, as Rinne’s hope of wiping Sakura’s memory clean of the spirit busting that follows on from the dead chihuahua proves a false one. Even as he insists that Sakura shouldn’t get involved with his work as a shinigami, together they end up tackling difficult situations involving ghosts who can’t move onto the next world because of… school uniform mix-ups and missing false teeth. At the end of the day, this is a Takahashi manga, after all.
Back when this started serialization, I saw plenty of comments that this was Takahashi opting to do her own version of Bleach, although the more obvious similarities with Noragami makes me wonder a bit about the latter, whose first chapter appeared roughly a year and a half after RIN-NE started. (Then again, it’s all just Yu Yu Hakusho in the end, right?) But, the basic trappings aside, the goings-on in these opening volumes remain significantly goofier than any of these other titles are, with even the stories featuring more potentially consequential material leaning into their more absurd elements to prevent the atmosphere from growing serious. It’s easy to note its similarities with other works, but its also very much Takahashi’s beast… although I can see why it didn’t do all that hot in Anglophone fandom, as at the point it was coming out, the folks who were eagerly grabbing at it were doing so with a background primarily in Inu-Yasha, and while I-Y had “humorous” moments, it was the romance and angst that was the big draw there. That the leads here are mistaken for a couple in the second volume does make it likely the romance’ll eventually materialize, its simply not here yet, nor is any sense of genuine drama.
Speaking of the leads, they’re both fairly engaging, even if they are absolutely recognizable as types Takahashi keeps returning to the well for – Sakura’s practical and difficult to fluster while Rinne isn’t the brightest young thing. After years of manga and anime in which teens who can see ghosts and spirits are isolated and sometimes tormented, Sakura comes as a bit refreshing in that she hasn’t dealt with that; she has friends and the way they treat her indicates she’s viewed as being the reliable and smart one. She’s very easily my favorite character in the thing so far. Rinne’s less fleshed, with the story preferring to focus on the humorous aspects of his characterization, although there are glimpses of a fairly complicated family situation, although I’m relieved that he shows no signs of my least favorite traits for male Takahashi characters (not a pervert, and not a jerk!).
While not especially novel, I really enjoyed these two volumes of RIN-NE, and I’ve already got the next two ready to start reading. I’m into these kinds of paranormal tales and it turns out that I also like Takahashi’s style of humor a lot more when I’m not cringing around things that haven’t aged well (looking at all of you, Urusei Yatsura, Ranma 1/2, and Maison Ikkoku). Having said that, given that this bears more in common tonally with her earlier stuff, folks hoping for an Inu-Yasha-type effort will probably find this disappointing. (Although, given how long this manga’s been out, surely anyone who was picking this up since they enjoyed I-Y will already have long since been disappointed in it.)
* Viz’s pages for individual volumes link to several retailers, but the sale isn’t solely confined to those (although it is confined to the US storefronts for retailers). I bought my volumes on Kobo… and in fact paid even less than the sale price from Viz because my VIP Membership discount was stacked on top of the Viz discount. So, if you’ve got VIP status, too, it’s a mere $4.49/volume for the first sixteen volumes. Viz also has the Urusei Yatsura omnibuses on markdown.