Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Rinne and Sakura help Ageha and Oboro resolve their feud...more or less... before moving on to investigate a ghost on a bus, Rinne's missing club fees, and the ghost of a depressed salary man haunting a friend's apartment.
Do you ever get the feeling that the mangaka has just sort of stopped trying? That's about where this volume of Rumiko Takahashi's spiritual spoof is at, with at least two of the stories being even more lackluster than usual and a distinct lack of forward motion. RIN-NE is fun, but it's no Maison Ikkoku, and its appeal is on the wane with this collection of less than stellar stories.
The book opens with the more-or-less resolution of Ageha and Oboro's feud from volume 9. Ageha has shut herself up in a special Shinigami shelter within the belly of the ghost mongoose and has no great desire to come out now that she has RIN-NE in there with her, leading the rest of the cast to use alternative measures to get her to resolve her issues with Oboro. The end of this multi-chapter arc is a little lame, although certainly within character for the feisty Ageha and the mongoose is awfully cute. After this we move on to two single chapter stories, the first about a ghost who is trapped on a bus and the second about a father trying to get a message to his daughter. This second may be the strongest story in the book, as Takahashi gets very close to treading some more emotional ground and uses fewer gags to get the tale told. The ghost naturally has a strange obsession, but the ultimate goal and message of the chapter show that RIN-NE is a series that is capable of doing more than it has been.
This may be the biggest issue with the series – it has the potential to be both funny and moving, but Takahashi errs on the side of comedy to the exclusion of nearly all else. The storyline about the ghost girl in the 4th volume of Inu Yasha had a combination of pathos (the girl's story) and humor (Inu Yasha's reactions) that could easily be put to work in RIN-NE, and yet this story about the father and daughter is as close as we get. That is not to say that there is something wrong with a comedic approach; it is just that the gags begin to wear thin after ten volumes and a little something else would help to revitalize things.
That particular issue aside, a couple of the later chapters in the volume simply feel as if they aren't trying. While more could have been done with the earlier ones, they at least stand alone fairly well as light comedy pieces, whereas the chapter about expired ghost traps is neither especially funny nor hugely interesting, and ghost of the boy who wanted to play tennis is fairly pat. The one chapter narratives do do a good job of transitioning between the two longer arcs in the book, and really this is the perfect volume to read while busy doing something else, as it lends itself to being picked up and put down very well. It isn't a great read, but it is an easy one.
Takahashi's art, while it will feel retro to some readers, remains a draw. Over the years she has refined it so that anatomical flaws are easy to overlook and the overall smoothness of her pages and images are very pleasant to look at. Lines are clean, tones are minimal, and there is never a question about which order the panels should be read in. Even the background characters are easy to distinguish, each having her own little quirk of hairstyle that makes her stand out in a crowd scene. Sakura's perpetually blank expression can get a little grating, but it fits her unruffled character so well that it can be forgiven. The translation reads fluidly and Viz has elected to put important notes in the troughs between the panels rather than in a separate note section. This tends to be a matter of preference for readers, but in the father/daughter chapter it works quite well.
On the whole, RIN-NE has lost its edge. With a few lame duck chapters and a story that really doesn't seem to be headed in any specific direction, it is easy to tire of. While the art and translation remain very good, the plot is just not all that compelling or funny. If your patience for this title was wearing thin before now, volume ten will not bring it back. On the other hand, if you've really been enjoying it, this is more of the same on a slightly lower storytelling level, so you should like it. One thing that can consistently be said about RIN-NE is that you always know what you're getting.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B+
+ Pleasant to look at and easy to read. One chapter is fairly compelling.
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