Rin-ne 9

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2012 – 9+ volumes

You know, I’m just going to keep reading this series, but it’s still mostly silly short stories that seem to do little to build character or story. It’s a lot like Ranma 1/2 in that way, but Ranma 1/2 had more memorable stories and funnier characters. Perhaps Ranma and Akane weren’t any more fleshed out than Rin-ne and Sakura Mamiya, but they did have more distinctive personalities.

Most of the stories are shorter this time around, which I like better. The longer ones tend to drag out these ideas a little too long, and I think they’re meant to develop the characters… but again, Sakura Mamiya and Rin-ne aren’t all that interesting. The short stories are cute, though. We see the ghost of a lonely college exam student that has a slight twist, an anthropomorphic wig, the ghost of a spurned lover, the ghost of a little girl that died before she could give special lessons to a young boy, a re-appearance of Rin-ne’s dad possessed and putting in an honest day’s work, and a slightly longer story at the end featuring Rin-ne’s shinigami suitor.

The little shinigami gadgets were the star this time around. They’re still really cheap, and they always seem to do interesting things. A piece of paper gives a scowling face to an angry, discarded wig. There’s a balloon that one student inflates in order to manifest his younger self to communicate with a ghost. Paper tubes that send spirit snakes back to the shinigami world. Little things like that make the stories a bit more charming and quirky.

I never got tired of it, but while typing this out, I noticed that all the short stories save one or two were about vengeful spirits. Those ones are the best, though, since the ghosts are always a bit funny and not very serious. The others tend to be about the less interesting regular characters, and it’s sad when I like the stories not involving them the best.

I like it, and I’ll continue reading it, but it’s mostly out of a long-ingrained Takahashi habit at this point. I do like her style of storytelling, but this is a bad place to start reading her. Ranma 1/2 is the better story if you’re into this kind of supernatural silliness, and Inu-Yasha is probably the better starting place since it’s more plot-driven. Though really, my heart will always belong to the horror series Mermaid Saga.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rin-Ne 8

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2012 – 8+ volumes

Every volume of this series that I read makes me like it a little more. I’m a little sad that it’s taken this long for me to warm up to it, but Rumiko Takahashi is always worth it.

This book introduces a new character, the shinigami-in-training Shoma. Shoma is doing a home stay with Rin-ne, and was disappointed to learn that the grandson of the very famous shinigami Tamako was dirt poor. While most shinigami-in-training finish their homestay by earning points slowly shepherding the souls of dead pets and animals to the afterlife, Shoma wants to take care of all his points in one shot by exorcising an evil spirit. Since Shoma is approximately a fifth grader, you can imagine how this goes. A devil gets involved after a time, too. Shoma is fairly hot-headed and impatient about exorcising his evil spirit, so the lesson becomes one of caring about the spirits of the dead and not being over-eager to take care of things. His hurry is usually what creates the evil spirits in the first place, which Rin-Ne usually has to take care of himself.

This longer story/series of stories is followed by three adorable one-shots. In the first, Ageha, the shinigami with a crush on Rin-ne, is conned into buying a kotetsu she believes has the power to make Rin-ne hers. While it can’t do that, it does bring her closer to the other characters in the series in a nice, friendly way. Plus, it’s the middle of winter and Rin-ne and Rokumon don’t have heat in their apartment, so…

The second story is about a “haunted” cooking table in the home ec room. This involves the usual suspects: a disgruntled ghost and the ruining of food that Rin-ne was dying to eat. He eats it anyway, even after the ghost ruins it. I’m not sure why, but sadly, Rin-ne’s constant poverty and the jokes associated with it are quickly becoming my favorite part of the series. I particularly enjoy Sakura Mamiya’s complete indifference regarding this. One of my other favorite things about the series is the slightly eccentric use of Sakura Mamiya’s full name by Rin-ne. It’s a little awkward every time he speaks to her, but not in an overt way.

The last story is about a scarf that is showing up to strangle people who are receiving hand-knit scarves with their love confessions. This is a cute story, and involves Sakura Mamiya knitting a scarf for Rin-ne.

All of the stories in this volume were cute, fun to read, and very much gave me the flavor of this series. Sakura Mamiya and Rin-ne still aren’t very distinct characters, but they’re growing on me, and I’m enjoying their stories more and more. They’re more comedies than anything else, and I doubt anything about this series is ever going to be over-complicated or plot-driven. But I’m still enjoying it, and I like it now that I’ve hit a comfortable groove.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rin-ne 7

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2011 – 7+ volumes

Lots of one-shot stories and smaller arcs this time around! The stories are growing on me a little more, though the characters still have some catching up to do to meet my standards.

There’s lots of fun to be had in this volume. One of the stories is about Rin-ne going to a summer festival with a girl who claims her boyfriend is haunted by one of the shooting games. Turns out it’s her grandfather doing the haunting, and Takahashi is the best at telling funny grandparent stories. One of the stories is about a ghost beach, where Rin-ne and Ageha gather the souls of the dead and give them one last day of fun that lets them pass on. Another story is about a couple bakeneko that are unleashed in a neighborhood and cause all sorts of problems. Elsewhere, a student brings a way stone into Sakura and Rin-ne’s school, which causes ghosts to lose their way and haunt the students. Another story is about Sakura’s house suddenly becoming home to many ghosts, and what may have changed to cause this. The last story is about a curse that’s gone all sorts of wrong.

I think I liked this volume more because the stories that make up Rin-ne are cute ideas when they play out for a chapter or two, but any more than that and the story begins to lean on the characters. Neither Rin-ne nor Sakura have much personality, unfortunately, so that doesn’t work as well. But watching the two of them interact over all the strange ghosts and hauntings is a lot of fun. Both are still too stoic for my liking, and that doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon, so… I’m curious about how long the series can go on like this.

I’ll admit though, I still kinda like all the jokes about how cheap Rin-ne is. I think I can take several more volumes of him making awful faces when someone suggests fatty tuna is the solution to his problem.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rin-ne 6

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2011 – 6+ volumes

Part of me is still very ambivalent on this series. But this arrived after I had read the latest Inu-Yasha 3-in-1, and I like that series so well that the good vibes rubbed off on this one.

The stories were a little more interesting and character-centric this time around, too, though I still feel like none of them have much chemistry together. The first story came close to pulling everything together though. It was a cute one about Jumonji getting jealous about how close Rinne and Sakura were. A devil showed up and gave him a book to curse Rinne with bad luck, and what followed were a really long series of great Takahashi gags. Rinne finds good food to eat, but is cursed with bad luck before he can eat it. Jumonji keeps throwing the book away, only to have it accidentally land under his hand when he’s thinking bad thoughts about Rinne. We also learn that devils are part of the Rin-ne mythology, and that’s fine by me. I doubt very much they’ll ever be more than a gag character, though.

This story had the flavor of something like Urusei Yatsura, and has probably been my favorite in the series so far. I loved the humor, and the way the characters played off one another was great. I hope that we get a lot more stories just like this one.

The next story was another Rinne ghostbusting story, this time a jealous twin ghost that wanted to see her sister again. Also, she was a sort of sukeban, which was pretty awesome. I’m becoming less and less interested in stories like this, though. As strange as the ghosts sometimes are, these just aren’t the same as some of the better ghost stories I’ve seen from Takahashi over the years. Not quite as funny, and again, the characters lack chemistry, so there’s nothing to fall back on when the story is only okay.

There was a longer and more plot-centric story that took up the last half of the volume. We are introduced to a shinigami debt collector who basically steals Rinne’s soul and kills him. Rinne’s astral body, along with Sakura and Jumonji, go into the afterlife to retrieve his soul. This whole thing is, of course, the fault of Rinne’s father forging Rinne’s name on money-lending slips, and the debt collector’s mother is involved in a con, et cetera. The story was a good one, with lots of little interesting twists and turns, and I loved the way it fleshed out more of the mythology of the series. I also always love seeing Rinne’s deadbeat dad in action. I’m also quite fond of stories where the main character “dies” and somehow it has to be prevented. There wasn’t too much drama here (it was obvious that Rinne wasn’t going to actually die), but I still enjoyed it quite a bit.

The weak characters keep me from really loving this series as I should, but then again, this volume has been the best yet. I don’t mind too much if it doesn’t have an overarching plot, but if the characters continue to grow and develop, I think I could really love it in another volume or so. But again, I love Rumiko Takahashi, and this still has a lot of her trademark charm and humor, so it’s hard for me to resist even if the characters stay just as they are.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rin-ne 5

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2011 – 5+ volumes

So one of my problems with the series thus far is that it’s hard to read both Rin-ne and Sakura. The story is beginning to hint at the two of them being a couple, but really, Rin-ne is the one that gets worked up when a rival shinigami girl starts hitting on him. Sakura being completely emotionless becomes a “thing” here, since with her acting like that, Rin-ne really can’t tell what she’s thinking when Ageha randomly shows up to court him. He’s… sort of the same way in terms of stoicism, but he’s a bit easier to read since he’ll do anything for tiny amounts of money, seems to always be depressed, and clearly has a crush on Sakura. I do like that Sakura’s complete lack of emotion is a plot point, though. Hopefully that will get fun later, or Rin-ne will develop a bit more of a personality to balance her out.

The short stories are still a little zany for my taste, but there were a couple fun ones this time around. My favorite was about a Haunted Cedar at Sakura’s old elementary school that she, Rin-ne, and Tsubasa exorcise together. It’s pretty straightforward, with a ghost from Sakura’s past and an evil spirit, but I think my favorite part was the yo-yo tricks. It also had a cute ending, which is a little out of the ordinary so far.

Other stories include one about a ghost whose dog haunts the library, a mystery ghost grabbing the ankles of the track star, a haunted bento, and the end of a story from the last volume that introduced Ageha the shinigami, whose older sister is romantically involved with Rokudo’s dad. Most of them make more of an attempt at humor than genuine scary/supernatural subject matter, and the humor is falling flat for me, but there’s something about them that is rather addictive. All the stories are in a 3-chapter story arc, and it’s hard not to finish and immediately start the next one. There’s no real plot development or major goings-on this time around other than the beginnings of the Sakura/Rin-ne pseudo-relationship, but I can tell that the dance around these two will take a long, long time to resolve itself. Sigh.

Ageha and Tsubasa are sort of the same character at this point, exorcist/shinigami that are head-over-heels in love with one of the main characters. I like Tsubasa a little more than Ageha, but only because he is so energetic and free with his sacred ashes. That joke still hasn’t gotten old. Ageha is all right as far as a secondary female romantic interest goes, she’s a lot girlier than Sakura and isn’t afraid to show a little affection towards Rin-ne. Rin-ne is torn on this point, since he doesn’t want to encourage Ageha, yet can’t turn down free food.

Honestly, it’s more-or-less the same story it was in volume one, but the characters are starting to grow on me, and it becomes harder and harder to put down with every volume. I still don’t like it nearly as much as the other series I’ve read by Takahashi, but it’s beginning to get that sitcom-y quality to it, where I’ll come back for every volume just because I like the characters and enjoy watching them do things. I’m still hoping for a little direction plot-wise within the next couple volumes, though.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

Rin-ne 4

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2010 – 4+ volumes

Ah, this is starting to grow on me a little. It’s still not nearly as good as what I’ve read so far of Inu-Yasha, possibly because there’s not much of a driving force behind the plot aside from Rin-ne being poor and earning money. Rin-ne and Sakura are still rather flavorless as far as characters go, but their relationship does develop a little in this volume. I don’t know if you could call it a romance just yet, but all the same, it’s in here.

The stories are pretty fun this time around, though, and reveal a lot about Rin-ne. We learn about Damashigami, shinigami that kidnap souls not scheduled to die in order to collect extra money, and they play a rather large role in this volume. We also meet Rin-ne’s deadbeat and carefree father, who loves women and spending money. There is a Ranma 1/2-style shinigami fight between Rin-ne and his father later in the volume, and everyone gets involved, including Sakura, Rokumon, and Tsubasa, along with a bunch of other afterlife residents and some cuts of beef. It’s fairly entertaining, though I prefer the fights in Ranma. Rin-ne’s father is really funny though, mostly because he does everything with a straight face and is incredibly persistent and devious. He’s my favorite character so far.

Another new story arc starts towards the end of the volume, introducing another new character named Ageha, a shinigami with a grudge against someone who looks like Rin-ne. I’m… not very excited by this. While it proves that Rin-ne’s father will be back, I’m not all that interested in new side characters since Tsubasa, the one most recently introduced, has been tagging along with no purpose whatsoever through this entire volume. I have no idea why he’s still around, except to remind us that Rin-ne’s non-existent romantic angle with Sakura can be challenged at any time.

There were some cute romantic beginnings here, though. I like that Rin-ne is at least thinking about whether he likes Sakura “in that way.” I don’t think Sakura is, but that’s all right. I’m patient. I’m going to keep reading this series, even if it’s just to act as filler between the Inu-Yasha Big volumes. This is definitely not her best work, but it’s still pretty comfortable and familiar, and it is free and current over at the Shounen Sunday website.

Rin-ne 3

Rumiko Takahashi – Viz – 2010 – 3+ volumes

I think the series is finally starting to hit its groove. I like that it has found itself a strange sense of humor.  It’s more subdued than either Urusei Yatsura or Ranma 1/2, but also way less serious than Inu-Yasha.  But after reading all the stories in this volume, which included the beginnings of romance, it still feels like Rin-ne lacks character.  Both Rin-ne and Sakura are still pretty… faceless, and just take things as they come.  It can be funny when neither of them have any sort of reaction to the myriad of strange situations, but it doesn’t help develop them into likable characters.

There is a new character introduced this volume, a classmate named Tsubasa who can see spirits like Sakura and has decided to exorcise them with sacred ashes.  He immediately clashes with Rin-ne, who believes in giving spirits a chance to settle all their unfinished business and make the choice to pass on rather than forcing them with the spirit ashes.  Tsubasa also has a huge crush on Rin-ne, so Rin-ne and Sakura begin to question their feelings for one another.

The problem there is that neither one of them have a romantic bone in their body, and the thought process behind this romance is extremely forced.  It only comes up a few times, and the characters only think on it for a panel or so when it does.  Add to this the fact that both are a little… ambivalent about nearly everything, and you have problems.  They also don’t feel like a couple, which is very strange for a shounen series like this.  It looks like Rin-ne will get a little bit more character development next volume, and there’s also unlimited time to develop both the characters and the romance, so it’ll probably get better in the future.

The stories in this volume were pretty funny, though.  I like the absurdity involved in some of them, like the fact that flat-broke Rin-ne has to sponsor a ghost on a date to the amusement park so that he can settle things with the girl he had a crush on.  There are lots of funny jokes sprinkled around in there, but my favorite was a panel where Rin-ne was crying tears of blood for having spent so much money.  Later, he is chasing a spirit with a huge bounty, and the spirit just happens to have possessed a lesser ghost, the Hanako of the Toilet that inhabits all school bathrooms in Japan.  The evil spirit with the bounty also uses an old-fashioned Tahakashi monster design, one that shows up in Ranma 1/2, Urusei Yatsura, and probably every single one of her other series.

Rin-ne’s pretty light when compared to Takahashi’s other series.  Inu-Yasha is a more compelling read because of its ongoing plot, and Ranma 1/2 is more manic and funny.  But Rin-ne does have a lot of good stories, and I appreciate its somewhat dry sense of humor and the way it incorporates urban legends with all the shinigami stuff.  At this point, it still hasn’t quite clicked as a lovable Takahashi series, but it is entertaining, and Takahashi’s track record is such that I’m more than willing to keep reading.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


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