Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chapter Review: RIN-NE, chp. 1

Let's face it, Rumiko Takahashi is a goddess among mangaka, and there's no denying her influence, storytelling ability or popularity. Each week, I'll do my best to review the latest chapter of her newest manga, RIN-NE, as it's dubbed in America by Viz. Be sure to read along here.

The story: Our female protagonist, Sakura Mamiya, has been able to see ghosts and other spirits since the peculiar adventure, called a "spiriting away," she had as a child. The first chapter, "The Mysterious Classmate," opens with color pages of that adventure and then transition to present day, where Sakura is a high school student. The aforementioned mysterious classmate is Rinne Rokudo, the male protagonist of our tale and self-described "kind of" shinigami (or reaper).

Reaction:: The initial color pages are nice and quickly relay the backstory of our tale. As a dog owner, I really thought the chihuahua ghost was entertaining and, as much as a giant version of a toy dog can be, a little scary. While Sakura is in the vein of "everyday schoolgirl" a la Kagome of Inuyasha fame, I didn't get much of a "read" on her character.

Deep thoughts: Honestly, I think it's amazing that Viz is breaking ground with simultaneous English translations of Takahashi's latest work. While so many in the industry have been lamenting the work of scanlators in taking away market share, Viz is actually doing something about it and doing it well.

Artwork: If you've seen Takahashi's artwork once, you've seen it all. Her distinctive style is much the same as her other classic works, like Inuyasha, Maison Ikkaku, One Pound Gospel, Ranma 1/2, etc. Here, her characters are a schoolgirl who usually sports braided pigtails and a black track suit-wearing shinigami with red hair. She's not breaking ground here with a major change in her style, but it's comfortable and, besides, the real focus is Takahashi's storytelling ability, which, understandably, is very straightforward.

The verdict: While I can't exactly recommend this one way or another (one chapter does not a review make!), I doubt it'll prove to be a dud. This first chapter had several key elements going for it: mystery, intrigue, romance and a reason to come back! So, you guessed it, I'll keep reading until I can't take it "no more." RIN-NE is serialized online by Viz and can be read here.

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