It’s hard to not expect great things from Rumiko Takahashi. Ranma 1/2 and InuYasha are some of the most well-known manga series around, and her fame for these series doesn’t even touch how awesome some of her more romantically inclined work like One Pound Gospel, Mermaid Saga or more importantly, Maison Ikkoku is. So, when things weren’t automatically awesome in the first volume of Rin-Ne, I get a little fidgety. You might call it prejudice, or InuYasha syndrome, or whatever, but while Rin-Ne was interesting in the first volume, it didn’t sparkle like other Takahashi manga.
By: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Viz Media – Shonen Sunday
Age Rating: Older Teen
Enter volume two. We get to see the characters resolve the ochimusha ghost case from volume one in a funny way, and another ghost of the week plot where a drowned girl haunts a pool. Rin-Ne starts to depart from the episodic ghost tackling with the introduction of a devil who has a huge grudge against Rinne, and wants to try and ruin him financially in debtors hell. It’s an interesting plot line that does things a bit differently than what we’ve seen so far in the comic, and I think it represents a hopeful turning point for the story.
The characters in Rin-Ne are developing nicely – Sakura starts acting more like a partner to Rinne, and Rinne still bumbles along with his bad business sense, catching ghosts and sending them off to the wheel of reincarnation. Rokumon is an interesting character in that he knows the spirit world, and so he can help Sakura and Rinne get out of sticky situations, but it’s hard to tell if he’s working for his own gain, or out of some sort of friendship, or maybe even out of debt to Rinne’s grandmother. He isn’t exactly the most honest bugger, but he’s fun, feisty, and he keeps things lively.
One of the more interesting things about this manga is its focus on money. I really enjoy the idea of Rinne as a partial shinigami who has to use costly equipment to do his job. The tools that Rinne employs in order to get things taken care of are some of the cooler parts of the manga, and it makes me wonder what kind of money-related devices I’ll see upcoming volumes.
The issue that I’m still having with Rin-Ne, despite its development, is that it just doesn’t seem like it’s trying to be its own manga. Rin-Ne is too much of a “by the book” manga, and it seems as though Takahashi is playing things safe with this book. I realize that juggling two very different audiences may make authors frightened, but you have to be able to do something with your manga that sets it apart from what’s available for purchase. As it stands right now, there’s just not any real reason why I would choose Rin-Ne over InuYasha, which is actually kind of a shame.
Rin-Ne while not being a terrible comic book, needs to find its feet, and it needs to get up and start running. The humor and characters, while fairly entertaining, lack the critical spark that other manga in the same genre have, and that’s ultimately what I feel is missing from the series at this volume. Rin-Ne lacks that essential liveliness that other Takahashi manga have, and I think it’s because she is playing her cards a little too tight. Sometimes, you need to be a cowboy (or cowgirl!) and take some risks. I would rather see the manga try too hard to be good than not try at all, and the rewards for success could be great.