RIN-NE -- Rumiko Takahashi's (Inuyasha, Ramna 1/2) latest shonen work -- is a solidly entertaining series, even if it is not the most original contribution to the "girl who sees ghosts" genre.
I should note one of the things I enjoy most about RIN-NE is the two main characters' rather practical take on their "supernatural" abilities. As a child, Sakura Mamiya was spirited away by a "bad" shinigami and upon her safe return to the human world she discovers she has gained the ability to see ghosts. This doesn't seem to cause her much emotional stress, as she grows to become a rather easy-going teenager who tends to avoid the ghosts who like to strike up conversations with her. Nor is she ostracized by her classmates for occasionally seeming to have a conversation with the air.
Her life changes when shes sees Rinne Rokudo -- a perpetually absent classmate -- in his role as a shinigami, as he's sending spirits off into the next world...and when regular humans shouldn't be able to see him at all. Rinne is a rather serious and strange shinigami -- upon their first meeting he demands (well. Extorts might be a better way to put it) a fairly cheap fee from Sakura, in order to follow through putting a difficult spirit's soul to rest. Amusingly, he keeps trying to extract insanely paltry amounts for doing his job incrementally, which Sakura exasperatedly pays.
Since Sakura's a human she's not supposed to be involved in these kinds of supernatural activities but Rinne's attempts to hypnotize her into forgetting her trip back to the "wheel of reincarnation" -- which she first saw as a child -- fail. His shock at this discovery -- and the realization one of his classmates has his number -- is rather muted as are almost all of his emotional responses. There's a flatness to his affect that is probably influenced by the fact he really doesn't seem to belong entirely to the human world or the shinigami world. He's only "sort of" a shinigami and throughout volume 1, Sakura learns more and more about his difficult personal circumstances and the reasons behind his odd behaviors (including blackmailing his classmates for small amounts of food and money in his shinigami guise so they won't be "cursed"....by him).
One of the things I particularly like about this series is that it is very character focused so far -- there isn't a sense that there is just a "spirit of the week" that they have to help out every chapter. Instead, Sakura is slowly learning more and more about Rinne's world and, of course, getting drawn into his life and work. Once again I return to the characters' absurd levels of practicality -- they accept their circumstances in life a little too easily, which considering Rinne's rather paltry existence in the human world seems rather sad. I'm looking forward to seeing how these two continue to influence and change each other through their association...which perhaps one day will develop into a real friendship.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.