Kyōkai no Rinne
by Lauren Orsini,
If Kyokai no Rinne had chosen purely to borrow from the pantheon of Japanese Buddhism, it would never want for material. However, this latest episode indicates that the show's influences extend far beyond just one mythos, spanning Shintoism, Christianity, and even urban legends. It's a positive development for this so-so sitcom, improving its chances for originality through unique mash-ups.
Although I hadn't heard of the hinotama (or fireball) that was referenced a couple of episodes ago, I have definitely heard of Hanako the Toilet Girl, the urban legend about a ghostly girl who lives in a bathroom stall. Like every spirit portrayed in the mellow Kyokai no Rinne, this Hanako is harmless, though a bit of a firecracker. Hanako's powers are limited to her ability to frighten children, but she's got a beef with Tsubasa's elementary school attempt to exorcise her that has driven her to deal with evil spirits far above her level. “Everyone used to know me back in the day!” Hanako says. “You outdated horror story,” Tsubasa replies. There's also the silliness of Hanako's preferred attack—wrapping Tsubasa up in toilet paper and flushing him away.
As Hanako wreaks havoc at school, Tsubasa decides to put her to rest then and there—this exorcist does NOT keep a low profile. I used to think Sakura was extremely chill with the fact that there are mischievous spirits all around her, but she's only slightly less bothered than her entire high school class. They don't seem scared out of their wits by ghostly handprints on the ceiling or the word “Revenge” seemingly written in blood on a desk. Either way, their only response to Tsubasa going full exorcist in the middle of class is mild befuddlement. It seems to be a bit of Rumiko Takahashi manga humor getting lost in translation. On the page, the class has more of a chorus role, reacting to the situation to enhance its clarity. Translated to anime, the result is a world that doesn't really try to be like ours, where you can't compare a character's reaction to the way you'd react to an event. It makes it more difficult to understand and relate to the characters—nonplussed Sakura especially—but removing Kyokai no Rinne from our world's way of doing things primes it for full fantasy escapism.
In the world of Kyokai no Rinne, even the biggest, baddest spirit isn't anything to worry about. Even as this episode's true villain, Toichi, aims straight for Rinne's face, there's no concern that he's in danger. This episode's conclusion also progressed Rinne's character development, as we discovered his true reason for being a cheapskate. By the end of the episode, he has even more important things on his mind than collecting a cash reward, by his own admittance. Likewise, Tsubasa is becoming less of a jerk all the time, as he begins to see the errors of his exorcise-first-ask-questions-later ways. If only we could get some kind of progress or explanation as to how Sakura became so accustomed to the supernatural, we'd have three understandable, if not entirely relatable, main characters to follow.
Kyokai no Rinne isn't informed by the way real people behave in our world at all, but this episode hit a high point with its multiple influences from global mythologies. As the complexities of its world expand, this show is becoming anything but dull.
Kyōkai no Rinne is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
Lauren writes about anime and journalism at Otaku Journalist.
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