What They Say:
Sakura Mamiya has been seeing ghosts since she was a child. Now she’s a teenager and they’re really getting on her nerves. But when you’re usually the only person who sees the specters, who can you talk to without sounding crazy? Well, there IS that guy who sits next to her in class sometimes. Rinne Rokudo. But he seems to be absent a lot. And even when he IS there, other people don’t always see him. Because what Sakura doesn’t know (yet) is that Rinne is part Shinigami and tasked with helping ghosts move from our plane to the next. Unfortunately, Rinne’s not as powerful as a full Shinigami and could really use a little help. So … is this a supernatural hook-up made in Heaven or what? And if it isn’t, wouldn’t sending lost souls to the afterlife get deity-approval anyway? Drop your schoolbooks and gear up for an after-school exorcise program like no other as famed creator Rumiko Takahashi unleashes a spooktacular new masterpiece with RIN-NE!
The audio presentation for this release is wonderful for this title considering that it is only available in Japanese with subtitled Dolby Stereo 2.0 encoded at 256 kbps. You are not overwhelmed by a studio’s need to cover the dialogue with unnecessary music – they allow the characters to speak powerfully for themselves with the tranquil sound of an average school day chattering away in the background. And when it is needed, orchestral accompaniment or soft rock ballads are only used to emphasize awkward moments or some other emotional situation which needs to be interrupted to break the tension. The occasional roar of Rokumon, the painful assaults on spirits by blunt objects, or some other comical effect are the only other times in which the series uses sound to interrupt the seiyūs performances.
But of course, none if this would be as effective if not for the themes of the series. Every one either sets the mood of the episodes or closes it with a melody which solidifies the effectiveness of what we just saw. And it begins effectively with an upbeat J-pop song called Okaranman by Keytalk, spoken as if they are departing souls. As they leave the physical world, floating aloft as if on the wings of a butterfly, they will not leave with bad feelings but only the pleasant memories of the seasons as they pass into the afterlife. The ending theme Tokinowa sung by Passepied is another energetic and fast paced melody sung through Sakura’s point of view, an exciting day of solving problems with Rinne as they try to right the wrongs caused by mischievous spirits. The entirety that these enveloping melodies invoke bring about the essence of the series – being able to help those who have passed on which are in trouble since they cannot let go of what is holding them the earthly realm. A very appropriate opening and closing to each episode.
This series is broken down into three disks expanding the breadth of thirteen episodes for the first cours of the first season, encoded in standard MPEG-1/2 DVD media format and 720×480 anamorphic resolution. The 16×9 aspect ratio playback is very welcoming for the panoramic views of the school grounds and its facilities, all brilliantly illuminated by sunlight and other luminary sources. You are brought into the life of Sakura and Rinne through the diversely colored environments, even in the enclosed spaces of the classroom, they are extensively lit due to ample windows and the open spaces of the scenes. It would seem to be an ordinary high school anime until we are introduced to the first spirit – its barely transparent body so subtly shaded with color that it fits in until someone walks through it. The two worlds of the living and the dead are so dramatically incorporated that you forget that they have always existed, side by side; the only time they interact are when something disturbs the balance and then Rinne gets involved.
But once he must escort someone to the other side, we are introduced to the spirit boundary called Kyokai and that is an entirely different world. Solidity and the ethereal exist together within an almost festival like atmosphere. The crimson awnings of road side stalls sell their visitors what they need for the trip to the next world, all located within a feudal Japan environment. Dirt roads lead to every destination, with store banner signs beckoning to come inside so they sell you their wares. But once you look up to the sky, you acknowledge that this is not the earthly plain with a beautiful menagerie of glittering clouds scattered amongst the pastel tinged sky; however the thing which stands out the most is a bright red wheel accents with gold, the Wheel of Reincarnation, slowly revolving as the spirits board it to begin their final journey. All of these elements so brilliantly incorporate within the series so as to create a dual existence, only accessible the Spirit Road, a shimmering kaleidoscope of colors which speeds by as you leave one and enter the other.
Sentai Filmworks created a marvelous design for this collection’s cover, immediately grabbing your attention with a cheery portrait of Rokumon, Rinne and Sakura all displayed upon a warm azure background, with Rinne’s massive scythe looming over his shoulder. But they do not stop there and continue the welcoming scene with a traditional kimono decoration of chrysanthemum blooms and white sakura blossoms scattered about a white and pastel orange graduated cloth with a cloud pattern. The title is emphasized on this busy display with alternating red and black letters, making it stand out and proudly declaring itself for all to see.
This enthusiasm continues with elaborate care applied to the three silk screened disks inside the case. Each has the same kimono graduated pastel orange cloud pattern background with chrysanthemum blooms and white sakura blossoms, but this time they have a selection of character portraits lounging on top of each. Then to carry on the identification to this title, aside from the alternating colors used in Rin-ne itself, Sentai also adds a flaming icon for the disk number, connecting it to Rinne’s Haori of the Underworld and completes it with a red fringe on the disk edge. This case’s decoration is definitely one of the better design incorporations for any series that I have reviewed.
As I have said before, the design for this collection is one of the better ones which Sentai Filmworks has put out, and these captivating menus are no exception. While the displays may still be static, the character portraitures still stand out amid the background of traditional kimono patterns – swirling wind, chrysanthemum blooms and geometric block mazes. But what makes everything stand out are the variations in colors: rich vermilion highlighting the actors, a solid crimson block with the white episode titles plus a flaming gold cursor for selection and then the graduated pastel orange on the right side of the screen. While it may appear to simplistic, this classic Japanese theme ties everything together into one elegant package. However once again, the most discomforting flaw in this area is the repetition of the first minute of the opening theme Okaranman echoing in the background; though this may have been done to get the viewer ready for the show with its energizing J-pop beat, it quickly gets tiresome once it restarts at the end of the cycle. Sentai should have given us an option to turn off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend much time in this area by driving us away with this endless, if however charming cacophony.
This section is the most disappointing area for the whole collection. While they did a great job decorating it with the same aesthetic sense of rich colors and traditional Japanese patterns, after that it falls short. Most sets would include some material concerning the series itself, but for some reason, all Sentai did was include trailers for their other properties. And then if that wasn’t bad enough, first minute of the closing theme Tokinowa blares in the background, just like in the previous menu. Although I can understand this appropriateness for the main, why put it in a side section when all of their shows have silence? The energetic J-pop beat quickly gets on your nerves so instead of wanting to look at the samples, all it does is chase you away. This is no way to promote other series when the melody is so annoying you want to close off the menu. Sentai should have once again given us an option to turn off the music, but they might not anticipated the viewer to spend that much time in the area, which is another mistake.
Content: (please note that Content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Sakura used to have a normal and pleasant childhood, until she wandered off an old mountain path and found herself where no human should have never gone. That mistake deposited the small girl into the forbidden realm known as Kyokai – the boundary in-between worlds where souls of the dead go to be reborn. The wonderful sky of pastels and glittering clouds seemed like a dream, but that is when she saw the Rinne no Wa or the Wheel of Reincarnation floating above, slowing rotating. She would have been lost if not for the kindness of a woman wearing a solid black kimono beneath a flame patterned white haori who helped her out. Although after that incident, nothing has ever been the same … for now she can see spirits all around her while no one else can.
Several years have passed and now Sakura is in high school. She has friends with who she can gossip, but then again, there are also ghosts which try to get her attention. This is all just routine before one morning when attendance is taken, and the boy in the desk next to hers is missing, or is he? No one else can see a red headed teenager wearing a white flame accented robe is floating above the seat, aimlessly looking around, as if he is waiting for something. When Sakura tries to point out that there is someone there, everyone gives her a strange look since they see nothing, so she just assumes he is another phantom. But of course, this is not the last time she will see this strange neighbor; the next day, the same red headed boy is now sitting in the desk and everyone whispers that the delinquent student is finally here. When the teacher asks him why he is not wearing the school uniform, Rinne answers that it would cost too much and also be a waste of money. The instructor is stunned by his answer and swears never to bring up such a painful memory ever again.
As the day wears on Rika, one of Sakura’s friends, asks if she and Miho can help with her new phone; every day at a certain time, she gets a creepy call from guy demanding to meet behind the gym after school. But of course, when she goes to investigate, there is no one there. Rinne overhears the conversation and tells the group that if Rika places an offering, some money and a letter explaining the problem in the old weather box behind the school building, then someone will take care of the problem. As soon as class is over, the friends go to the hut and place everything they were instructed to inside, then see the items eerily begin rise in mid air, with no apparent means of support. Rika and Miho race off screaming, but Sakura can see what they cannot: Rinne is wearing the same haori and is carefully liberating the items for himself.
When she confronts Rinne about the theft, he calmly reveals that what he stated before was the truth for he will do everything that he claimed. Still confused as to how Sakura can see him, she then elaborates about her ability, until he sees Rika dropped her cell. Pleased by turn of events, her enigmatic friend waits until they receive the call and instantly asks for 100 yen. Puzzled as to why he would ask for such a small sum, Rinne painfully explains he has no money and pleas that it is essential for the investigation. After handing over the amount, he pulls out what appears to be a string phone and deposits the coin in the side slot. Instantly a portal composed of pastel colored energy opens and Rinne steps in, with Sakura close behind. Confounded as to why she would enter such an obviously dangerous doorway, she clarifies that she is determined to see this case through to the end. However, what has Sakura gotten herself into and how will Rinne solve what seems to be an otherworldly matter? Oh and did he ever mention that he is sorta of a … shinigami?
While you may not think that a comedy about the exploits of hunting down spirits or the afterlife would be funny, then you would seriously underestimate the brilliance that is Rumiko Takahashi. Most viewers may be familiar with her other works like Maison Ikkoku and InuYasha, but this show is not one to be underestimated. But at the same time, you cannot help but to compare this series with her previous, with Sakura being Kagome and Rinne as Inuyasha; and once the rest of the characters are revealed, there are more equivalences from which there are other characters natures that can be gleaned. Although you may see some parallels, that feudal fairy tale does not have much in common with this anime since it took itself so seriously and this one spares no expense of making fun of itself.
Of course since this show is a comedy, they do not spare anything as subject matter for that fodder. The most obvious is Rinne’s perpetual poverty: making paper roses to earn cash, using the weather box as means to earn more income and food, his constant amazement as to what is luxury and his fellow students’ lavish lifestyles … and the list goes on. Even while you watch as a new device to his arsenal is shown, one cannot but think it is an advertisement for a late night infomercial! And then we cannot forget that the costs of his items and having to borrow money from Sakura to buy them makes him ever more dependent upon his new friend; however, at the same time, Western viewers have to realize that one dollar is worth approximately 114 yen. So for Sukura to allow him to constantly procure funds is like giving him part of her allowance – not easy for a teenager. I am still amazed she doesn’t pester more often for reparations every time he asks for more money.
Even within all of this joyous entertainment, the minor drawback would be this series does not have much of a plot. Each episode is a school day and so every adventure could be watched in any order, thus you would not lose much cohesion aside from when new characters are introduced. The only premise which connects the anime is the continuing mission to help restless spirts, guide those with fulfilled lives to the Wheel or help his friends when they get into trouble. Though there is a gradual flow towards the major individual in Rinne’s life, the few intervening shows are only necessary to allow for smooth transition without stumbling into unexplained occurrences which lead into those debuts. I would have liked more structure towards the end of this cour, but all in all, this anime is one of the great ones!
Though I do love this new take on shinigami from what we learned in Bleach, Takahashi-sensei still manages to fit in heartfelt sympathy towards the dearly departed in between all the jokes. Rin-ne is another achievement in her career of wonderful manga and anime and it would be a shame if you missed this series thinking it is just another show about spirits. The characters are charming and the tongue-in-cheek humor is at times hilarious; you cannot but help to laugh at Rinne when he cries tears of blood after spending money on a frivolous things, ever knowing that could be flat broke once again!
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening & Closing Animations, Sentai Filmworks Trailers
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: July 12th, 2016
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i mpeg-1/2 video codec
Aspect Ratio: 16×9
Review Equipment: Sharp LC-42LB261U 42” LED HDTV and Sony BDPS3200 Blu-ray player