by Carlo Santos,


GN 4

Rinne Rokudo is a denizen of the spirit world whose quest on earth is to seek out evil damashigami and bring them to justice. Accompanying Rinne on his adventures is Sakura Mamiya, a high school girl with a strong sense for the supernatural. Rinne and Sakura's latest dilemma is something far worse than evil spirits, though: it's Rinne's father, a greedy, womanizing swindler who runs the entire Damashigami Company. Mr. Rokudo drags Rinne and his friends into the underworld, hoping to force him into joining the "family business," but Rinne will have nothing to do with such unlawful practices. In the end, Rinne and his father agree to a one-on-one battle to resolve the issue! Later on, a young shinigami named Ageha asks Rinne to aid her in fighting the damashigami forces. But how can Rinne explain to Ageha that his father runs the entire organization?

Daddy issues! Now there's a way to put some spark in a story. Rinne's rocky relationship with his father provides much of the momentum in RIN-NE Volume 4, which comes with all the adventurous ups and downs that one expects from Rumiko Takahashi. New characters are introduced, fierce battles are fought, comedic chases ensue—and that's only the first two-thirds of the book, as there's still enough room to bring in Ageha and shift Rinne's quest in yet another direction. This fast-paced supernatural romp has a few rough edges to it, but the fun factor still remains consistently high.

This volume is at its best in the early chapters, where Takahashi's creative urges are at their most unrestrained. With the story arc still in its building stages, the narrative is free to move in any direction—which it does, from fanciful comedic touches (who knew that spirits could contract an "afterlife flu"?) to rapid-fire plot reveals (Here's Rinne's dad! Here's the evil corporation he runs! Here are the women trying to mooch off his ill-gotten gains!) to madcap chases spanning both the human and the spirit world. Even with the urgency of Rinne's buddies being pulled into the underworld and briefly imprisoned, there's always space for wry, off-the-cuff gags like a fortune-teller selling fake charms.

The story's inventiveness loses steam in the middle, though, as Rinne's showdown with his father turns into a knock-down drag-out fight of the most pedestrian variety. Although still infused with that unmistakable Rumic flair (who can forget a cursed bauble that turns any object into its cash value?), this battle is ultimately two guys flinging magic spells at each other until one of them screws up. The finale in which Rinne outwits his father relies too much on a clunky, contrived setup—something about marriage certificates and a forged thumbprint—and at the same time, Sakura is so busy trying to set things right in her own way that it interferes with achieving a dramatic finish.

Thank goodness, then, for the introduction of Ageha, who despite being a fairly typical "feisty beautiful girl" type is still a refreshing change from drawn-out supernatural warfare. Her reasons for anti-damashigami vigilantism, coupled with Rinne's sketchy family background, guarantee that future chapters will result in conflicts just as hot-blooded as what was seen in this volume. And chances are, some of that may even involve the are-they-or-aren't-they relationship between Rinne and Sakura...

Although the series changes gears several times over these couple of hundred pages, the artwork provides a unifying thread, with distinctive characters and a flowing style that's equally suited to comedic pratfalls, showy battles and everything in between. Of course, the showy battles of a pure action/fighting title are still superior, but for a series that bridges so many genres, Rinne's scythe-wielding technique and the shapeshifting creatures of the spirit world provide some worthy fireworks. On the other end of the scale, though, it's clear to see that comedy is Rumiko Takahashi's natural element, with visual gags and old-school slapstick (plus a fair share of cute animal mascots) working their way into every chapter. Best of all, there is none of the forced "Hey! Hey! Look at me! Isn't this hilarious!" mugging that so often passes for comedy—these gags just come flying in without warning, making their humor that much more effective. The uncluttered panels and straightforward layouts also help the story to move at a quick, easily readable pace; even that knock-down drag-out battle in the middle doesn't drag for too long.

Straightforwardness is also the name of the game in the dialogue, which never gets too heavy, even during long stretches of plot exposition. The complications between Rinne and his father are presented in as uncomplicated a way as possible—because as readers, we all just want to get to the action and the fun. There's certainly fun to be had in the way the characters snipe at each other with one-liners and often make humorous asides, even during drama-filled moments. Less artful, however, are the sound effects, which in their English form (all Japanese text has been edited out except for signage) are something of an eyesore against Takahashi's art. The sloppy fonts and conspicuous placement of every "crash" and "bang" simply don't fit in with the delicate linework. As a minor consolation, there is at least a brief glossary that explains some of the tricker cultural and translation issues that come up throughout the story.

When they say that manga has something for everyone, RIN-NE is one of the few titles that actually fulfills that claim, with its effortless shifts between comedy, action, drama, supernatural, and other shades of genres in between. Some of these shifts are more successful than others, and certainly Volume 4 has its moments where Rumiko Takahashi seems to be trudging through the story just so she can get to the parts that she enjoys best. A change of mood and a feisty new character end this installment on an upward note, albeit an inconclusive one: the resolution of the Ageha plotline clearly lines further in the future. But getting there is half the fun, if not all of it, especially with that trademark Takahashi humor. The adventures of Rinne Rokudo may not necessarily leave one gaping in awe or deep in thought—but they're practically guaranteed to leave a smile on one's face.

Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B

+ Quick pacing and a breezy sense of humor provide great entertainment value even as the story and the character relationships grow more complex.
Has a slow stretch in the middle where the battle between Rinne and his father drags into a standard shounen fight.

Story & Art: Rumiko Takahashi

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