April 30, 2010

,   |  

Re: Play Volume 2

Written by C. Lijewski
Illustrated by C. Lijewski
Tokyopop

Izsak's back where he started--or is he? While Rail tries to get to the bottom of the troubled bassist's life, Izsak is given some sage advice and a free meal, leading to revelations for both of them.

But it's not all roses when Izasak returns, as his past might still come back to haunt him, just as as he tries to be happy in his new life. What's really going on here?

Unfortunately, that was basically my question after I finished this middle section of the story. The trend of packing too much into too little space continues as we get a lot of new information here, both about Izsak's past and the organization that's following him.

The reader is not helped by Lijewski's odd choice to veer away from the main story to tell part of the past of Niji and Char. We're not even full through a second volume at this point. If you want to do retrospectives, you need to be a longer series or tie them tightly to the main plot. I love Char as a character, but she doesn't need a feature that doesn't tell us anything we couldn't have guessed already.

As with the first volume, it feels like Lijewski is trying to throw every single manga concept into her story, whether they fit or not. Thus we get the two history chapters, rational explanation for one one mystery while other questions raise their head, new characters are introduced, and there's just as much chaos at the finish as there was when the volume opened. It's jarring to the reader, and makes me less interested in following the story.

Adding bonus features that aren't more story didn't help much for me, either. I know they're standard in manga, but again, I wish there was a focus on the basic story. Fan drawings? A mock interview? Sketches? Give me an extra chapter with those pages!

I've spent a lot of time in this review being annoyed by this manga, and that's because I don't think there was much in the way of actual story movement. Izsak comes back after a lot of pages are spent covering what could have been told in a single chapter, and I don't feel like his return triggered the kind of reactions it needed to, because Rail's main reason for hating him is gone, without a good reason to replace it. Similarly, the agency we know is following Izsak has a fair amount of screen time, but I don't feel like we learned anything from it.

There's just not enough interesting conflict going on here for my taste. The scenes and ways in which Lijewski is opting to present to us are too passive, despite the fact that we're supposed to be wondering about Izsak's bloody past. I'm not feeling any thrill, which is a problem. It's like Lijewski is telling us a story with the key scenes removed. It's a useful narrative trick if done well, but I think she's holding back a bit too too much.

This volume felt like it was marking time, and given it's only three trade long, that's a big negative for me. I've mentioned before in reviews that I can tolerate a slow volume here and there in a long ongoing story This is not the case here, and if I didn't already have the final trade on hold at the library, I'm not sure I'd have bothered finishing up.

Lijewski's art makes sure we know we are reading a manga, and I do like her character designs. She mentions in the bonus material how she visualizes everything and that's clear to see. She even thinks about the seasons this is set in, which I think is a nice touch. I definitely think her art chops are solid, if obviously influenced by others. Unfortunately, Lijewski's plotting is just not up to the challenge here.

I'm afraid I don't think Re: Play has enough going for it to be worth recommending. It has nothing to do with not being originally in Japanese--it's just that the story is not being given enough heft because we're trying to hit every note in the "how to draw manga" playbook. I'm going to finish this one out, but I don't think there's any need for you to go back and find it.