Anime Spotlight: RIN-NE

RIN-NE is an anime series based on a manga written by Rumiko Takahashi. The anime is produced by Brain’s Base and is directed by Seiki Sugawara. The series aired on Japanese television from April 4-September 23, 2017. As of this writing, Sentai Filmworks holds the North American distribution license for RIN-NE. This writeup focuses on the first season, since I watched it as a simulcast back in 2015. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the other two seasons.

The series introduces Sakura Mamiya, a little girl who had somehow made it to where the Ring of Reincarnation is but was led back to the human world by an unidentified woman.

The story then jumps ahead to when Sakura is in high school, and we learn that she can see spirits. It’s also established that Rinne Rokudo, the student who is supposed to sit next to Sakura in class, has been absent since the beginning of the school year. One day, a red-haired boy wearing a haori sits down in the empty seat, but only Sakura can see him. She then sees a large ghost of a Chihuahua enter the room and Rinne trying to exorcise it.

But the next day, the same red-haired boy appears in the classroom. This time, he wears a track suit and can be seen by the other students. It turns out the red-haired boy is Rinne. Sakura gets to know Rinne and learns that he is “kind of” a Shinigami, and that it’s his job to guide restless spirits with earthly regrets to the Ring of Reincarnation. It’s later revealed that it was Rinne’s grandmother, Tamako, who had helped Sakura return to the human world when she had accidentally wandered into the afterlife as a little girl.

As the series continues, more characters enter the mix. Rokumon is a black cat contractor who is sent by Tamako to serve Rinne. Tsubasa Jumonji comes from a family of exorcists and knew Sakura in the past when they were children. He had a crush on her back then, and his feelings for Sakura have remained all these years. He doesn’t get along with Rinne, and the rivalry only gets worse after Rinne starts developing feelings for Sakura. Rinne’s father, Sabato, is the president of an illegal business in the afterworld that steals the souls of people who have not ended their lifespan. Sabato is constantly taking out loans and putting Rinne down as a co-signer, which has caused Rinne to be constantly broke. Ageha is a Shinigami who is trying to track down Rinne’s father but finds herself falling for Rinne in the process. Masato is a wealthy devil who harbors a grudge against Rinne. Kain is a registrar in the afterlife who also has a grudge against Rinne, but it’s due to Sabato’s actions rather than anything Rinne himself has ever done.

I had read the first volume of the manga before seeing the first episode, so I already knew to expect some of the weaknesses that the series had. The biggest weakness is the fact that there’s really no hook to grab the viewer, unlike other Takahashi titles such as Ranma 1/2 and Inuyasha. There was something that those series had to grab the audience’s attention, which just wasn’t present in RIN-NE. By the end of the first episode, there was no real chemistry between Sakura and Rinne, Sakura came across as a bland character, and the only characteristic that Rinne seemed to have is the fact that he’s broke.

RIN-NE is what I would call a “slow burn” series, because it took it a while to truly get going and start to become interesting. Some of the later episodes seemed to have too much of a reliance on running gags that were overused and wore out their welcome. But by the end of the series, I still didn’t think it was as strong as it could have been. It never seemed to truly find the “spark” that helped to make other anime series based on Rumiko Takahashi’s work interesting to watch.

After watching RIN-NE, I can say that while it isn’t a bad show, it’s not anything outstanding, either. I hope that at some point, I can find the opportunity to watch the other seasons of the series to see whether it gets any better.

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