Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
It's study abroad time for students in the Shinigami World, and Rinne has a young border. Shoma is less than thrilled with his home stay assignment with the terminally impoverished high schooler and instead of slowly gathering the fifty points he needs to return home, he is determined to get all fifty in one go by sending off an evil spirit. This makes him an easy target for the devil Masato, who continues to nurse his dislike of Rinne. Later Sakura and Rinne face off against a possessed “strangling scarf” that appears whenever a girl gives a hand knit scarf as a gift. Can Rinne turn this to his advantage?
RIN-NE's eighth volume is Takahashi doing what she does best, or at least what she is best known for – light gags with a supernatural bent and frustrated love. While most of the volume is taken up with the former in the “Shoma's home stay” arc, there's plenty of the latter as well, with both RIN-NE and the shinigami Ageha trying to get closer to the ones they like. These plots combine to give the book the usual (for this series) episodic feel while still managing to be enjoyable and entertaining, even if it contributes to the sinking feeling that this series is going nowhere fast.
The first six chapters comprise the story of young shinigami Shoma staying with RIN-NE while he completes the Shingami World's version of studying abroad. Shoma is a bit of a brat – he isn't pleased with RIN-NE's meager offerings of food and shelter and he feels somehow above just getting the piddling souls of pets. So instead of working diligently like his classmates and gathering points here and there, Shoma decides that he'll just get a nice, fat evil spirit and win all fifty of his required points in one fell swoop. This plan not only makes him easy prey for Masato, but it also leads to his (and by extension RIN-NE's and Sakura's) bizarre adventure with an alligator spirit. As far as Takahashi plots go, especially if we factor in Ranma ½, this is pretty vintage. What makes it nice is that we get to see RIN-NE being the competent, hero figure instead of his usual hard-on-his-luck pseudo loser. We get the feeling that Shoma is really underselling his mentor, and just maybe we have been too. This competence only lasts as long as the Shoma arc, though, because as soon as we hit the seventh chapter, we're back to the series' old standbys: wacky misunderstandings and romantic blunders.
The last four chapters of the book contain three stories, returning us to the episodic nature that has by turned plagued and entertained readers. All three deal with fairly typical subject matter for a high school based series – a kotatsu, home ec class, and hand knit scarves. The last one is the most promising, particularly if you have any investment in the series' romantic subplot, but it is just as likely to frustrate in that regard as satisfy. We all know by this point that RIN-NE has a serious crush on Sakura, but she seems utterly oblivious, or at least ambivalent in her own emotions. While this can be funny, by volume eight it would be nice to see some signs that Takahashi was going to go someplace with this subplot rather than keep stringing us along. As it stands, however, very little has changed in eight books. Once the basic premise was established – Sakura can see ghosts, RIN-NE sends them on to the afterlife – very little has been done to flesh it out. In this regard, it's a good thing that volumes have a relatively long gap between them – reading too many books of RIN-NE at once could make it painfully obvious just how little there is to this story.
Regardless of that fact, though, Takahashi does know her way around manga. Pages are easy to read and she has a talent for both the understated and the overdone facial expression. Her children look like kids rather than shrunken adults and some of her details – such as each shinigami's scythe – are well thought out and creative. If her jokes are a bit old or repetitive, they are still fun and her artwork is clean and pleasant. Viz's translation continues to be good, although the disappearance of end notes is still one to be lamented. Somehow small footnotes in the margins between panels does not cut it.
If you're a Takahashi fan, chances are you're still enjoying RIN-NE. It isn't anything new or groundbreaking, but it is still fun in the way that most of her longer series are. Those who got fed up with Ranma ½ or Inu Yasha for dragging on, however, will be nearing the end of their patience, as it is becoming abundantly clear that there are not likely to be any major developments or surprises anytime soon. RIN-NE is at this point the macaroni and cheese of manga – a little bit bland, but still a comforting dish.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B+
+ Still looks nice and reads easily. Good details in the artwork.
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