Manga Review: RIN-NE Volume One

RIN-NE Volume One introduces Sakura Mamiya, a girl who mysteriously disappeared in the woods behind her grandmother’s home when she was a child. She returned safe and sound, but ever since then, she’s had the power to see ghosts. Sakura is now a high school student, and she wishes the ghosts would leave her alone.

RIN-NE Volume One
Written by: Rumiko Takahashi
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: October 20, 2009

Volume One shows that that the desk next to Sakura’s has been empty since the start of the school year, even though a student is assigned to sit there. One day, Sakura sees a boy named Rinne Rokudo show up to class, but no one else can see him. At this point, the reader realizes there’s something unusual about this boy, although they’re left just as puzzled as Sakura is.

Sakura encounters Rinne after school while trying to chase off a male ghost that’s always following her. Thinking that Rinne might be a ghost, she bumps into him. Instead of going through him, she can feel Rinne as they collide. During this scene, Sakura learns that Rinne is “kind of” a shinigami, and that he guides those whose regrets keep them bound to our world and are unable to pass on. As Volume One continues, the reader learns that Rinne knows someone who is connected to Sakura’s disappearance as a child, as well as getting to know more about Rinne and his backstory.

When Rinne first explained what he is and what he does, I couldn’t help but think of Bleach. What Rinne does is very similar to what the Soul Reapers in Bleach do. While RIN-NE isn’t necessarily a blatant rip-off of Bleach, it’s easy to see that it could have realistically been an influence on this manga.

When it comes to the character designs, I also couldn’t help but feel that Takahashi was simply modifying the designs of some of her earlier characters, primarily from Inuyasha. Unfortunately, I found these recycled character designs distracting as I read this volume. To me, Sakura is what Kagome from Inuyasha would look like if she wore her hair in braids, Rinne looks like Inuyasha if he had short red hair, and Rinne’s grandfather in a flashback looks like his facial structure was inspired by Miroku from Inuyasha. Takahashi also made sure to include an adorable looking animal spirit who aids the protagonists of the series, which made me think of Shippo from Inuyasha.

But for all of my complaints about how some of the character designs feel recycled, there was one bit of art in this manga that is worth noting. On page 107, in a panel showing people crossing the river of the dead in animal shaped boats, one of the boats was designed to look like the panda form of Genma from Takahashi’s Ranma 1/2 manga. When I saw this reference, I was amused by it.

RIN-NE has an interesting premise behind it, even if it feels as if it was heavily influenced by Bleach. I hope that with future volumes, Takahashi will find a way to distinguish her story so it starts feeling less and less like Bleach. When it comes to the recycled character designs, there isn’t much she can do about that except to try not to make any future characters she adds to RIN-NE bear too close of a resemblance to other characters from her previous works.

But for a Takahashi work, RIN-NE hasn’t grabbed me as much as Ranma 1/2 or Inuyasha did when I was first exposed to them. Maybe the series will become more interesting as it progresses? I don’t want to judge RIN-NE simply by this first volume, so I’m willing to give future volumes of the series a chance.

After reading RIN-NE Volume One, I think it will appeal to readers who enjoy stories with supernatural elements and don’t already have a familiarity with Takahashi’s earlier works or with the Bleach franchise. Takahashi fans might be distracted by the recycled character designs or by the fact that the story of RIN-NE isn’t as compelling early on as Takahashi’s previous works are.

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