Kyōkai no Rinne
by Lauren Orsini,
Today had the potential to be a pivotal point in Kyokai no Rinne. Was the show going to keep skimming the surface of character development or dive a little deeper? This second episode of a two-part plot had both Rinne and Sakura being more open with their feelings than ever before—which still wasn't very much. So what worked and what didn't?
We return to the scene we left off last week—Rinne's father is marrying him off to one of many willing damashigami girls in a transparent effort to get him to take over his debt-engorged company. Strangely, Sakura seems easily convinced (by Rinne's dad and an obvious puppet no less) that getting married to a random girl is Rinne's own decision. This is perhaps the most visible emotion we've seen her show all season. It'd be easy to laugh at her for being so easily deceived, especially since she's so unruffled by everything else. However, since Kyokai No Rinne is clearly set in middle school, it's hard to expect its characters to act any more mature than that.
At least Rinne seems to be coming to terms with his feelings. In episode four, he seemed confused about why he was getting upset when Sakura spent time with another boy. Now he has at least admitted his crush to himself. He indirectly tells his dad that he likes a human girl, mostly by avoiding the subject—and the focus of his love is obvious to everyone except the subject herself. Meanwhile, Tsubasa is touting his scam love charm in a gag that just keeps escalating. Even when Tamako proclaims that Sakura and Rinne are dating, they don't even act on that! Everybody's in love with somebody, and the humor comes from nobody knowing how to express it. Somebody help these oblivious kids out!
“What are you thinking? I can't figure you out,” Rinne thinks of Sakura, and that's perfect, since she betrays so little emotion. She looks mildly concerned, however, when Rinne attempts to take down his dad in the boxing ring. As usual, the combat relies on wacky weapons utilized to peak humor value. Rinne's dad uses a “blood-sucking fire wheel” that turns everything it touches into cash, as expected of the kind of guy who would steal money from a kid. The way Dad takes damage is also related to his miserly personality. Though Rinne's dad is just awful, I couldn't help thinking “like father, like son,” when Dad took physical damage after giving up some of his cash. After all, every time we watch the opening sequence, we see Rinne crying tears of blood when a coin slips through his fingers.
Even after admitting defeat, Dad uses increasingly transparent means to acquire Rinne's thumbprint, which can apparently be used in place of a signature on financial documents. Some of the biggest laughs of the show come from wondering, “How low can he go?” The answer is pretty darn low, prompting even morally neutral Tsubasa to observe, “Your dad seriously sucks.” Dad also admits he has forged Rinne's seal. Fortunately, Sakura and Rokuman are assisted by a friendly seal in finding Rinne's seal, and at this point I wonder if the translators are having a field day with puns. Last episode's “It's a trope!” when Tsubasa and Sakura fell through a trap door, combined with this week's seal/seal translation, suggest cleverness on the part of the subtitlers and not only the show's writers.
In the end, this episode was just as surface-skimming as ever, focusing on the gags it does well in lieu of any sort of substance. I've grown to expect this, but I can't help but be disappointed when the show teases so persistently. When the focus isn't on Rinne and Sakura's relationship, it can be easy to forget about how silly they're being and just enjoy the show. When the entire plot centers around it and the pair still don't admit their feelings, that can get a little frustrating.
Kyōkai no Rinne is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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