Read or Drop? Rinne Vol. 1-5

When I reviewed Food Wars!, I mentioned that I’m not typically a huge shounen series lover – with the exception of all work by Rumiko Takahashi, the mangaka of series like Inuyasha and Ranma ½. Rinne, Takahashi’s newest manga, revisits many of the same themes addressed in both series I mentioned, and that thrills me beyond belief.

KYOKAI NO RINNE © 2009 Rumiko TAKAHASHI/SHOGAKUKAN

KYOKAI NO RINNE © 2009 Rumiko TAKAHASHI/SHOGAKUKAN

One reason I fell so deeply in love with the Inuyasha series was because of how the series treated its protagonist and titular character, a teenage boy who is half-demon and half-human. Inuyasha is a loner, ostracized by humans for being half-demon and looked down on by demons who see his human half as less worthwhile.

Like Inuyasha, the titular character – Rinne Rokudo – is a mixed-race character, though rather than half-demon, he’s part human and part Shinigami. The Japanese Shinigami is something like a grim reaper, a supernatural being whose duty it is to guide the dead to the afterlife. In Rinne, Shinigami also have other duties, mainly dispatching evil spirits and making sure nothing supernatural goes terribly awry. But Rinne, who is part Shinigami and part human, has diluted supernatural abilities, making him more dependent on devices than other Shinigami.

Takahashi’s work rarely has a hero who is also the protagonist, and the true protagonist of the series is a girl named Sakura Mamiya, who sees ghosts and spirits but is otherwise ordinary.

The first five volumes so far have served to introduce the series’ major players: the protagonist Sakura, the titular character Rinne, each of the two’s other primary love interest, and Rinne’s father, who seems to be the Big Bad of the series. These volumes also set up most of the running gags of the series: Rinne’s extreme poverty and subsequent stinginess, Tsubasa Jumonji’s obtuse one-sided crush on Sakura, and the Shinigami Ageha’s unrequited love for Rinne.

(It wouldn’t be a Rumiko Takahashi story without a love hexagon or three.)

One of my grievances with this series, though, is that I’m five volumes in and have no idea what the overarching plot is about. It seems to be more in line with a Ranma ½ style situational/romantic comedy, but the Shinigami plot feels more like Inuyasha’s more epic style, which is a bit confusing. No quest has appeared so far, and the largest issue (besides Rinne being extremely broke) is whether or not Sakura and Rinne are into one another.

The series is very funny, though, and I’ve enjoyed the whole thing. The art style is pretty typical of Takahashi’s, which has been so consistent over the course of different series that you practically expect Ranma and Inuyasha themselves to pop up at some point.

I’m not sure if too many people would be falling over themselves for this series, but lovers of Ranma’s light tone and Inuyasha’s supernatural elements will love it.

Story: 2.5 out of 5

Art: 3.5 out of 5

Overall: 3 out of 5

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