Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne (2008) – Episodes 1-6 (Complete Run) – English translation starring Colleen Clinkenbeard, Jamie Marchi, Clarine Harp, Todd Haberkorn, Robert McCollum, Christopher Bevins, and John Swasey.
I know almost zero about anime. I watched Starblazers and Battle of the Planets and Voltron as a kid, and whatever that Force Five show with the dragon spaceship was called (was it called Force Five? No clue.) but that’s it. Is that proper anime? Is that scorned anime? Am I decidedly uncool?
As an adult I’ve dabbled from time to time with Japanese animation – I own Akira and Ghost in the Shell because you have to own Akira and Ghost in the Shell, and I bought the first Appleseed DVD and remember liking it, but the only anime that I watch and genuinely love are Steamboy, the Cowboy Bebop movie and a bunch of the Miyazaki stuff.
Again, where does all this fit into the big classification system? No clue. Not sure if I care right now, but I had such a great time delving into Star Trek and classic Doctor Who that I thought I’d try out a few anime – both movies and TV – just to see what hooked me and what didn’t.
So, yeah, recommendations welcome.
I have found that the Miyazaki stuff is so good its actually a deterrent to enjoying other stuff, but I’m always open to finding new stuff to like, so from time to time I’ll dip into the anime pool until I become bored with it.
I started with RIN: DAUGHTERS OF MNEMOSYNE because Netflix kept recommending it, because it had solid reviews, and because it was only 6 episodes long. Look, I tried once upon a time to watch Robotech and I couldn’t make it through four episodes, let alone 75. I’m not going to commit to something long-form at the start. Let me get comfortable in the kiddie pool before we go deep sea diving together, okay?
RIN is six 50-minute episodes and I figured I’d keep watching as long as it kept me hooked.
The verdict? I made it through all six episodes and greatly enjoyed the story, the animation, the voice work, and the overall strategy of telling a story that took place over many decades, but was put off by the gratuitous torture and nudity sequences and the more high fantasy aspects of the series. When RIN is about this green-haired immortal solving mysteries, the show works really well as an adult supernatural detective series; when it focuses on the presence of Yggdrasil (a flaming giant tree on the edge of the city that only the immortals can see) and its time spores, the show gets a little silly. When the time spores (think sparkling marbles) enter a woman, she becomes immortal but when they enter men, they become angels. Not alabaster, God-fearing angels, but cannibalistic winged zombies that first screw and then eat the women immortals. Why would the women have sex with men who are going to eat them? Because they can’t resist them. Literally. If an angel is around, the women just want to rut and become angel food.
That’s the kind of silly, internal rule that’s put in place just to trump up the salacious bits at the expense of the story.
I’m not a prude and the show handles sex elsewhere in an adult manner, but the whole immortal/angel screw-and-die stuff just doesn’t work.
Rin, her sidekick Mimi, and their big, fluffy dog are immortal, and the series drops us into their lives at various points. The character Koki joins up with them in episode one and has been with them a year in episode 2. There’s a cop that Rin uses for information and we see him age roughly 50 years over the course of the series. The producers do a great job of using this time jump to give you a sense of all the stories we haven’t seen. Rin runs a private detective agency and where Koki is a frazzled, scared kid in the first episode (he’s actually a clone), he’s a contributing member of the team in the second story. That we don’t get to see his development is a shame, but that would take 20 episodes and for this jumping ahead in time approach, it works.
What makes RIN work most of all, however, is that each episode feels like its own little mini-movie; the stories are strong and the characters are engaging. Rin’s a great character; she has this detached, almost bored or disillusioned attitude but she never complains about doing her job. Which is good, because I hate stories about people with cool powers who hate doing their job.
In episode one, “Cats Don’t Laugh,” Rin has been hired to find a missing cat and instead ends up saving Koki, a very confused young man who feels like his memories are his but false. He wants Rin to help him figure out why and she does, even though he can’t pay. They end up visiting some secret science facility and battling clone zombies and it’s all done in a very assured, atmospheric manner that brings you right in to the story. Rin’s assistant Mimi is the large-eyed, super-energetic equivalent to Rin’s more somber approach, meaning the show keeps its energy in good balance – with Rin the show can be serious and moody and with Mimi the show can be goofy, or serious with a bit of bombast.
Episode 2, “Angels Don’t Cry,” takes place one year later and it’s another investigative episode. Rin is hired to look for a super rare stamp while Koki is helping a girl look for her brother, who turns out to be an angel. Building off the tightly-defined characters of the first episode, “Angels” starts building the mythological framework of the series with the whole angels/immortal sex/death thing.
I’m not going to go further because with Episode 3, which takes place 20 years on, people start dying. It’s enough to say that episodes 3 and 4 continue the supernatural mysteries and continue to be strong. When we get to episodes 5 and 6 (which is a two-part story that takes place 30 years after episode 4), we turn from mystery to the final act, which is a high fantasy angels vs. immortals throwdown with Rin as the prize in the middle. Rin has lost her mind (even though she’s immortal, she dies and then regenerates) due to a particularly violent death and long regeneration and the story is pretty melodramatic as a result. Mimi is now living in a temple filled with immortal women which would be a dramatic character change if we’d seen more of her pre-temple life. There are some things that work better with a longer history and this is one of them.
These last two stories are hurt by the lack of in-between details because we haven’t know these characters long enough to really feel like we want an end-of-the-line story. We want more investigating, not angels screwing and killing immortals in an orgy of sex and blood and a main character who doesn’t know who she is anymore.
RIN takes a few too many steps into uncomfortable territory. Just because someone is immortal and animated doesn’t mean I want to see them skewered with countless knives and swords and left to suffer. I take no joy in watching something like Hostel and it’s a shame that such a strong story as RIN gives you bits of this snuff material. The show doesn’t need it; for whatever points a program gains by showing you torture, it would gain even more by hinting at the degradation and letting your mind fill in the blanks.
Other than the immortals being turned into sex puppets by the very presence of angels, the series manages to handle sex in a much more adult fashion. There’s an informant that Rin and Mimi use that demands sex as payment for her information, but Rin and Mimi keep choosing to use her so instead of it being simply exploitative, it complicates their characters. Rin and Mimi are certainly the heroes of the piece but they’re more than willing to give their bodies over to these informants in their quest for information they can’t achieve any other way. As the series progresses, Mimi even seems to enter into a relationship with one of the informants, seeming to choose this method of research much quicker than she did when it was Rin engaging in the sexual exchange.
When the bad “girl” is revealed to be a bad hermaphrodite, the show comes across as desperate to give you a sexual shock instead of simply treating it as a story point naturally discovered.
For the most part, though, RIN is really engaging storytelling with great animation and a serious, supernatural vibe. You always get the feeling that these are real characters with real problems and that makes me willing to watch them. If we could have gotten a full season of Rin’s detective agency, I’d have watched every episode. If we’d gotten a full season of angels violating and then eating immortals, I’d have passed.