Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rin-Ne Volume 5

By Rumiko Takahashi. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Sunday. Released in North America by Viz.

After the heavy plot arcs of the last volume, this one is back to more ghost-of-the-week type stories. Sadly, that means there's far less to talk about. So let me ponder about Sakura again.

Last review I noted that I was wondering if Sakura's complete passivity was a plot point rather than simply Takahashi rebelling against her stereotype. This volume makes it perfectly clear that this is the case, as situations are designed to get Sakura to react in the extreme, but she simply doesn't. A lot of it is straight out of the pages of Romantic Comedy 101 - Rinne is discussing a clingy jealous girl and notes he doesn't dislike her, and Sakura only hears the last part; not to mention said girl telling Sakura to stop getting so close to Rinne. Throughout it all, Sakura just sort of stands there, though at one point she clearly thinks to herself that she doesn't want to lose Rinne, but is at a loss to explain why.

Clearly something happened to Sakura that's left her like this, and I suspect in the future it won't be a good thing. In the present, though, it means that almost all the comedic moments go to the ancillary characters as always. Ageha, introduced last volume, is now following Rinne around the real world, determined to get his attention, and she's an excellent edition to the cast, being someone who will overreact when needed. Most of the comedy here, though, goes to the ghosts and/or problems of the day.

After wrapping up the lost sister plot from last volume (in an incredibly unsurprising plot twist), and seeing what a naive idiot Ageha can be, we get back to school, and back to ghosts with problems. In a nice switch, though, the first person with a problem is actually Rinne, who's been given a bento by Ageha that's actually sealing an evil wish-granting spirit. Of course, since it's sealed in a bento, it's become a giant octopus-shaped hot dog evil spirit. This is one of the funniest sight gags of the book, and reminds you how good Takahashi is at taking a situation and stepping up its lunacy.

Other situations here involve a mysterious protector of a library aisle and its master who's rewriting her own memories; a tale of two guilty track stars and the smoldering attraction between them (well, OK, not really, but come on, the ho yay in these chapters was SO THERE); and a cedar tree that's haunted by the spirit of a boy who turns out to be familiar to Sakura. The last chapter was the most interesting to me, if only as it showed that Sakura was still pretty nice (and passive) even as a little girl.

I still enjoy Rin-Ne for its inherent Takahashiness, but once again the main issue with it is her two leads. I wish that she'd step up her game and either have Rinne realize to himself that he loves Sakura, or have her stunted emotions become more of a plot point. But until then, this still appears to be a title where Takahashi can coast along, exhausted after 56 volumes of Inu-Yasha and wanting to relax and draw random ghost stuff. Which is nice, but not fantastic.

1 comment:

  1. I think you've hit the nail on the head in regards to Sakura, and this is a similar conversation we've been having at the Rumic World Messageboard. Sakura is a very difficult character to get a read on, and I made the observation there that even Miho and Rika, the most minor and inconsequential characters, are more well defined than Sakura at this point.

    At any rate, I enjoyed reading your assessment. It fits well with the discussion we're having. If you'd ever like to join in, please feel free to join us, I'll include the link in my name.