Do you like anime? Anime where the hero is awesome? The girls are cute? The villains are multi-layered? And the plot sucks you into its narrative? Well then prepare to throw everything you thought you knew about anime out the window (although the girl is still cute)!
Created by one of the most successful artists in the manga/anime industry Rumiko Takahashi, Rin-ne is the anti-anime, where the hero is… okay, the girl is average, the villains are just dumb, and the plot punches you in the gut for expecting anything more than flat-out comedy. AND IT’S GLORIOUS!
After all, this anime makes fun of the one thing fans hate to love and critics love to hate: the tropes.
Rin-ne (Kyōkai no Rinne) stars our totally predictable, hardly ever romantic pair of high school students, Sakura Mamiya and Rinne Rokudō. Sakura was given the gift (or curse?) of seeing ghosts and evil spirits at a very young age, and Rinne is an orange-haired, half-human half-shinigami kind of thing, that is definitely not a stab at the success of another shōnen hero with similar features. Kubo-sensei would not be pleased.
Together, Sakura and Rinne go on wacky adventures to bring lost souls to the spirit world, where they can enter the mysterious Rinne no Wa: a place where spirits cross over peacefully and be reincarnated as something we’ll never get to see (because that’s how reincarnation works, folks).
And of course, they meet a very colorful cast of characters along the way. So colorful, I don’t have time to cover every last one of them in a single review (sorry)!
Everything would seem to go well for Sakura and Rinne, had it not been for at least one thing holding them back. After all, Rinne lives in an abandoned apartment, pinching every last yen he could get in order to survive!
Now as unfortunate as that sounds, I wouldn’t pity or romanticize poverty if this series wasn’t as chaotic as it is. While the rest of the cast seems to be pretty one-dimensional, Rinne is actually what I would consider a hero, and that’s not because I had to reevaluate what it means to be a “hero” after watching two seasons of this show. Honest, responsible, always doing what he believes is right, and ultimately taking care of himself at the end of the day, Rinne is very relatable. He just happens to get the short end of the stick when it comes to things like money, because screw you Capitalism!
But, you know, he’s also got that shinigami kind of thing going on, so he’s not quite human either. Sorry, Rinne, but we don’t all own ethereal haoris or shed tears of blood.
But the hero isn’t much without his special love, right? Standing opposite Rinne is his own Sakura (man, that’s a really common main character name!), and he’s totally in love with her! Even though he doesn’t do much to impress her.
Sakura may be super cute to Rinne and his exorcist rival Tsubasa Jūmonji, but she really doesn’t do very much to stand out. In fact, Sakura is there to express everything the audience is secretly thinking about this show. She may seem like a plain girl with a monotonous voice, but that cold stare of hers says everything she needs to say. Just looking at her sarcastic face lets you know that all she sees are shenanigans. Lots and lots of shenanigans!
Although Rinne seems hopelessly in love with Sakura, he actually doesn’t have to try very hard to impress her because she’s with him all the time anyway. Strictly in terms of fecundity, Rinne and Sakura actually make a good pair because they spend a lot of time with each other. Unfortunately, Rinne prioritizes earning money he doesn’t have over his romantic life, and every time Sakura drops a hint that she’s also in love with Rinne, she laughs it off, because it’s a lie.
Or is it?
Even if Sakura is in love with Rinne, she’s going to have a very rough time making their romance happen! After all, everyone else is also vying for Rinne’s attention or has a very bromantic vendetta against him. How can Rinne possibly do his job, when the obscenely rich Ageha tries and fails to gain his affection, the obscenely rich Tsubasa wants much of the same (seriously. Those two should just hook up already. I’m leaving that intentionally vague), the demon Masato wants revenge for some reason, Tamako wants him to stop calling her gran– never mind, and Kain wants his money back!
But come on, Rinne can’t do much else because he needs money that his deadbeat father can’t seem to stop increasing their family debt! Give him a damned break!
But if there is any character in Rin-ne that deserves more love than the fans really give him, it’s the best black cat helper, Rokumon. Sure, all of the character development that happens in this series are just elaborate set ups for witty punchlines, but no one can take Rokumon’s victories away. He’s that awesome, but mainly because he’s a cat with a human head, and he’s a carbon copy of relatable Rinne in every way.
Every other character has their flaws, but Rokumon is uncommonly loyal to Rinne, and helps out in the nick of time, delivering every critic’s nightmare of ex machina plot holes. Sure, he’s a trickster that probably takes more punishment than he deserves at times, but like Rinne, he also maintains a very strong ethic, and he works extremely well on a budget.
I won’t spoil the punchline for the episode when Rokumon takes a promotional exam to raise his black cat rank, but let’s just say he will always be my MVC.
But what am I doing trying to justify how awesome this anime is, by getting all sappy about it? For all it’s worth, Rin-ne is a very zany show that will leave you laughing with every episode. And yes, I am looking forward to its return, come later this year.
That’s pretty much all I have to say about this anime on the whole. So in honor of making fun of anime tropes, I’ll end by sharing an image of Takahashi-sensei’s signature animals that appear in Rin-ne.
So if you like the worst of anime that playfully deserves to be on par with the classics, watch Rin-ne.