By Rumiko Takahashi. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.
As if to answer my prayers for more flawed and annoying characters, this volume of Rin-Ne brings the big guns. Here we meet his father Sabato. It's always a pleasure seeing Takahashi draw parents. They're so aggressively horrible, and totally play to her strengths, as the more awful a character is the better the comedic potential. From UY with Ataru's parents constantly wishing he'd never been born and Ryuunosuke's psychotic and abusive dad to Genma 'why yes, I traumatized my son over and over as a child to make him grow stronger' Saotome, Takahashi's fathers are unrivaled.
And here we have Sabato Rokudo, who manages to set new lows. If this manga wasn't essentially a lighthearted fantasy comedy, it would be grotesque. (Fans of Hayate the Combat Butler, and his parents, know what I'm talking about here.) Here we have a man who tells his young son that his mother is dead, then holds a competition to see who can be his "new mom". He's liberally stealing money from his son's bank account and leaving huge debts with IOUs in his son's name. And best of all, he's desperately trying to get his son to become a MURDERER in order to hold up his failing company of murderers.
We'd seen Rinne get upset about damashigamis in the previous volume, and this one goes further into explaining why. It blithely discusses the fact that damishigamis go after the souls of humans who aren't supposed to die yet, and take them to the afterlife. Um... that's killing them. No two ways around it. And his father is one of the top damishigamis around, and wants his son to take over the family business? If I weren't already so used to 'hilarious' Takahashi plots that are stunningly horrific when looked at seriously, I'd be disgusted.
Luckily, the funny is also brought. There's tons of silliness here, ranging from Sabato's various weapons of debt (I wonder if the debt/death puns are solely a Western coincidence?), to the side chatter from all the various girls and demons Sabato has charmed into wanting to marry him, and of course the simple one-liner gags, like Sakura's cell having not only a barred jail door but an easily walked-through sliding panel door. It's a froth of silly that's not going to make anyone gasp or cheer, but is fun and relaxing.
As for our two leads, Rinne is getting a little better, especially as he seems to finally be realizing that he's falling in love with Sakura. In fact, the rest of the cast all seem to be acting on the basic idea that they're already a couple. Which would be great, if only we knew what Sakura felt about it. Or indeed at all. If anything, she gets even WORSE here, being the most implacable and unemotional Takahashi girl I've seen since Kasumi Tendou. I actually have to wonder if it's getting to be a plot point, rather than a deliberate choice. This was especially noticeable at the end of the arc with Rinne's father, where she's asked if the statement about her dating Rinne is a lie. Her reply is "Hmmm... I guess so" with a blithe smile on her face. Later we see her in her room thinking she was happy Rinne wasn't forced into a marriage, but again her face is so implacable it's suspicious. Did she leave her temper in the afterlife?
I enjoyed this book more than the previous two. Even though this can be a very frustrating series, I'm prepared to give it the benefit of the doubt. And I hope we can see more of Rinne's horrible father soon - he adds much needed spice.