Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Chapter Review: RIN-NE, chp. 6

The story: While some questions are answered in this chapter, "Mystery in the Club Building," Takahashi has also introduced a new character that raises even more questions. In this short chapter, Rinne reveals some secrets about his past, including an odd reincarnation story about his grandfather becoming a mackerel. But, when Sakura's friend Miho notices an odd light in a soon-to-be-demolished campus building, it only raises more questions about Rinne and the company he keeps.

Reaction: Ah, once again Rumiko Takahashi has found a way for me to keep coming back for more! While it's easy to guess what the "odd light" is in the abandoned club building, she finds a way to reel me back in with another cliffhanger-ish ending, wherein she dangles more of Rinne's mysterious past before me.

Deep thoughts: All the cultural references are pretty cool -- whether it's about reincarnation, or how mackerel tastes good simmered in miso. With the exception of Inuyasha, I'd say this is one of Takahashi's most distinctly Japanese series so far. By bringing together spirtuality, religion, food and other other cultural "markers," Takahashi truly illustrates tidbits of Japanese culture without shoving it down her worldwide audience's throat.

Artwork: Alright, I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for cute characters and the new character introduced in this chapter is no exception. Otherwise, nothing amazingly exceptional here -- Takahashi's a deft artist and seems to have a balance of "just enough" detail in scenery and in characters. While I wasn't a huge fan of the character design of Rinne, I must admit that the more his character is revealed, the more his design seems to fit.

The verdict: If only... Six chapters is more or less what would be contained in a single volume. While I admit that this series certainly isn't the worst thing I've ever read (far from it, actually), it isn't what I've come to expect from Takahashi, either. In many ways, this story is reminscent of her most recent series, Inuyasha: a boy with a "mixed" heritage, wildly colored hair, lonely childhood and mysterious background accompanied (and, at times, assisted) by a young, teenage schoolgirl.

Honestly, if Takahashi hadn't set the bar so high with stories like One-Pound Gospel and Maison Ikkaku, I don't think I would have "graded" her so hard. Of course, I'll still keep reading and reviewing this series, especially since I want to encourage Viz's venture into legal, simultaneous translations of Japanese manga. RIN-NE is serialized online by Viz and can be read here.

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