April 23, 2009
by: Serdar Yegulalp
A new start for a veteran manga-ka ... or the same old same old?
Waiting for Rumiko Takahashi to finish with Inu-Yasha and start a new series has been like waiting for a good friend to get out of prison. In this case it was a creative prison: what started as yet another great entry in Takahashi-sensei’s roster degenerated into a dead end of head-slamming repetition designed to milk the whole thing dry. Most sensible fans bailed out and headed for more interesting territory long ago. They didn’t miss a thing. Me, I was worried the poor woman would keel over dead before she had a chance to start anew.
Thank whatever gods you believe in, because that chance has finally arrived. Plus which, the folks at VIZ have worked with Shogakukan to premiere her new series, Rin-ne (aka Kyōkai no RINNE) on both sides of the Pacific at the same time—even going so far as to offer the first installment entirely free, and in pretty high quality to boot. Pop the champagne! (Just don’t get any on the bookshelf.)
And yet I was worried before I even clicked to open up the preview. I’d see what had happened to other artists after they’d been ground into cornmeal under the wheel of corporate serfdom. Many of them turn into robot burnouts, picking up what paycheck they can scrape out of the business. Some leave comics entirely and go do something that seems boring but comes as a comfort to them after having their noses rubbed in their own creativity for so long. Please, I thought, do not let Rumiko Takahashi turn into yet another one of those victims.
© Rumiko Takahashi / Shogakukan
Sakura and Rin-ne, Rumiko Takahashi's newest odd couple.
As far as I can tell, she hasn’t. But as far as I can tell, she also hasn’t broken any new ground here—at least not based on anything I see in the first chapter of Rin-ne. Its premise is terribly familiar: a girl who can see spirits meets for-pay exorcist in her own high school. After Bleach and all the rest of its ilk, fore and aft, the only thing she’d have to bring to an idea like that is … well, the one thing that’s always been hers: her quirky characterizations. But, again, there’s only so many quirks that can surface in an opening chapter, and so far Sakura (the heroine) and Rin-ne (the spiritualist) feel like placeholders into which more absorbing characterization will be inserted later.
The way Sakura and Rin-ne play off each other is also familiar territory. It’s the same odd-couple dynamics that drive most commercially successful manga, Takahashi’s former works included. Take two headstrong characters, chain ‘em together at the ankles, drive ‘em up a tree, shoot weirdness at them, and watch how they react—both to the goings-on and each other. Inu-Yasha and Kagome had the same thing going on; ditto Ranma and Akane; Lum and Ataru; etc. and etc.
A cliché? Well, it’s only a cliché if it doesn’t work—and the only way to find out if it does work is to see the whole of it when there’s that much more to see. I’m just grateful Takahashi-sensei is back to work on something now. And doubly glad Dogboy isn’t chasing those goddamn shards anymore.
source: VIZ Media's Rin-ne Preview