Kyōkai no Rinne
by Lauren Orsini,
Holy plot development, Batman! Kyokai no Rinne is an entertaining show, but it's never presumed to be deep. However, this week involves a surprising new discovery about Rinne's past, while Sakura and Tsubasa gets dragged along for the ride.
This is the first half of a two-parter that's certainly going to need another half hour to wrap up. Part of that is Kyokai no Rinne's hesitation to pick up the pace and sacrifice any of the tiny visual gags that give it its soul. I do think that the show does better with short, easily-resolved stories to keep from weighing down these gems. In a longer story like this, it's more like the gags weigh down the plot. But given the choice, it's better to keep these little non sequiturs than leave them out. Some of the silly moments in this episode: Rokumon's “office” is a cat condo, the authorities' headquarters is simply a house that says “Authorities” on it, Tsubasa's radio show write-in, and the woman who just wants crab in a sea of gold diggers.
However, the star of the show is Rinne's father. That's right, he exists. Since Kyokai no Rinne is so very light on plot, I'm pleasantly surprised by the way it managed to telegraph his existence several episodes ago, when we saw the red-headed Damashigami boss, but only from behind. Physically, he's the spitting image of Rinne. Mentally, he's a cartoon villain so heartless that he nabs his sick son's cash and tatami mat right out from under him.
Up until now, we assumed that Rinne's grandmother, Tamako, was the one who accrued all the debt for Rinne to pay off. It seemed pretty cut and dry, but Sakura began to get suspicious. If Rinne is paying his grandmother's debt, why isn't he mad at her? Also, according to Sakura, Tamako isn't that kind of person. (I'd beg to differ. This is a woman who altered the laws of life and death to get what she wanted.) At this point, the entire story unravels a bit too quickly, and a completely unapologetic villain—Rinne's dad—is introduced. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about this man, who steals from his son to court women with jewelry, furs, and yes, on one occasion, crab. It's a completely two-dimensional portrayal of a Bad Guy, but this is Rumiko Takahashi, and there's some self-awareness to it. For example, he pulls a rope to send Sakura and Tsubasa plummeting through a trap door, like every villain since the beginning of time. “It's a trope!” they scream while falling, calling out the cliche.
Most of the humor this episode comes from Rinne's dad's increasingly unforgivable behavior. As cruel as it is, the cartoonishness of his motives and means keeps him from seeming like a believable threat. Meanwhile, the subplot is Tsubasa's crush on Sakura, which has him acting like even more of a loon than usual. I was hopeful that Tsubasa's questions to Sakura about Rinne's life meant he was actually looking outside of himself for once, but nope, it was just to get Sakura thinking and drive the plot. The viewer's perception of both Sakura and Tsubasa has yet to change even this late in the game, and even as Rinne's backstory gets more interesting. This upcoming episode will likely put yet another wrinkle in Rinne's tale, but there doesn't seem to be enough time or energy to spare for anyone else's development.
Kyōkai no Rinne is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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