Got a new contender for the already-crowded field of terrible manga/anime parents.
The spirit busting continues and some plot happens in these volumes, albeit plot primarily in the form of new characters surfacing. Tsubasa, a former classmate of Sakura’s re-appears as an exorcist who struggles equally with differentiating evil spirits from all others as he does with differentiating between what constitutes dating and what does not. Others who enter the mix include Ageha, a shinigami searching for her older sister (who shows up looking remarkably like Sailor V in a suit), and Rinne’s incredibly odious father, a man who manages to make the likes of Hayate Ayasaki’s* parents look relatively benign. (*For people whose anime fandom dates back only a few years, please feel free to swap in ‘Iruma Suzuki’ here.)
It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before Rumiko Takahashi kicked into high-gear and went for all her hoariest of devices. Even expecting, as I did, that Sakura and Rinne’s relationship would eventually develop romantic tones, it was dismaying to watch it catch up on the shoals as quickly as it has. Worse, the only reason it does so is because of new players who enter the scene, as their dynamic is curiously distinctively lacking a romantic spark to it. As much as we’re shown things like Sakura being a bit perturbed over Ageha grabbing Rinne’s hands, or of Rinne trying and failing to get to speak with Sakura alone, their interest in one another just doesn’t convincingly go past the point of being platonic. There are a lot of very silly and contrived misunderstandings that don’t even have a compelling pairing at the center.
Less interested in spending time on it, but Rinne’s father, Sabato, turns out to be the oversexed one in this particular yarn, although he mercifully steers clear of being openly and gleefully perverted, sticking to a harem of consenting women. Pity he can’t apply similar principals to his son’s finances, as he’s apparently been thieving from his son’s piggy bank and bank accounts since Rinne was a very young child, in addition to forging his name on loans.
(Speaking of hoary, its a minor detail, but sure is wild to run across a high school girl who still has bloomers as part of her gym clothes, even considering the chapters in these volumes originally ran in 2010. I swear they’d already become solely the stuff of ecchi and hentai by that point, so its weird to run into them in such a mainstream work.)
I sound like I hate it, but I really didn’t, even as aspects I’ve dislike in Takahashi’s other stuff has come home to roost. Even as they succumb to foolishness in some regards, I still like Sakura and Rinne a lot, and the deadpan bits of humor are funny to me. And I also very much enjoy how dedicated Takahashi is to undercutting any potential for things to take on a more serious tone, as mysteries resolve in patently absurd fashion and tragic stories turn out to be more simply stupid. The one instance which ducks such a result nevertheless ends in such a warm fashion that the sadder elements are themselves essentially solved by that warmth.
If my claim that I’m still enjoying it rings somewhat false, I’ll note that I’ve already started in on the fifth volume, and, in fact, I’ve been driven to sit down and write up my review so I can read it with a clear conscience – its hard to review individual volumes if you’re reading too fast! But I do wish some aspects could’ve been dispensed with, even as I also freely admit it’s a bit foolish to have hoped for that given that it’s Takahashi’s world and we’re just all living in it.