Rin-Ne, Vol. 1
written by Rumiko Takahashi
Ever since she got lost in the woods as a little girl, Sakura Mamiya has been able to see ghosts. This doesn’t really bother her that much, but she does wish that she knew why she has such a strange ability. When a new classmate mysteriously shows up, Sakura soon discovers that he isn’t quite a ghost, but he also isn’t quite human. Rinne (his name has no hyphen inside the book) has the power to exorcise ghosts and soon Sakura begins to discover more about the strange world of the dead and her place in it. But can she really help Rinne when he refuses to accept help from anyone?
Rumiko Takahashi is one of the greats of manga. She’s been writing shonen titles with shojo appeal since 1978, including very popular—and very long running—series like Maison Ikkoku, Ranma ½, and Inuyasha. Rin-ne is her newest series, literally, published in 2009 in both Japan and the United States. Even someone who has not read her earlier series can pick up Rin-ne and instantly see why she is one of Japan’s most popular exports. Filled with dry humor, cute exorcist boys and smart school girls, and a unique take on the paranormal, Rin-ne is fun from beginning to end.
Part of what makes it so much fun is the main character, Sakura Mamiya. She’s a smart, down-to-earth girl despite her ability to see ghosts. She goes along with things amiably, only occasionally stopping to make slightly snarky comments when other characters don’t recognize the ridiculousness of a situation. Rinne, the title character, is a nice counterpart to her. He’s obviously meant to reflect the stoic, hard-working boy-with-mysterious-powers who is found in so many paranormal manga, but with several amusing twists. For example, he charges money for each service he provides, but the amounts he charges are laughably small, usually just ten cents or a dollar. He’s also desperately poor, celebrating the acquisition of such luxuries as used gym clothes or a bowl of rice with fish flakes. But even though his poverty is used to humorous effect, Takahashi never makes sport of him. Sakura genuinely worries about Rinne and wants to help him, even though his pride gets in the way of her doing so.
Takahashi’s art is effective because of its simplicity. She leaves a lot of white space around her characters and rarely, if ever, uses a full-page spread. Her panels are simple squares or rectangles that hardly ever overlap. Characters have round faces and large but not overly detailed eyes. Everyone is attractive, but in a girl/boy-next-door kind of way. The paranormal elements have a touch of creepiness to them, especially when a ghost boy and ghost Chihuahua merge into one being, but this is a comedy, so nothing will keep anyone from sleeping at night. The comedy is as subtle as the artwork, so there are no chibis or other comedic devices. Instead, Takahashi relies on her audience to recognize when a situation is absurd. Readers looking for humor that is a little quieter or readers who don’t mind a laugh to go with their ghost stories will be eager to pick up this latest work from a manga master.