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Review: RE:Play, Vol. 3

In the first volume of RE:Play, we’re introduced to Cree and Rail, the principal musicians in an up-and-coming band called Faust. When their bass player quits unexpectedly, Cree stumbles across a suitable replacement busking in the street. She invites the scruffy-yet-handsome Iszak to join Faust for a trial period — an invitation that quickly leads to Izsak becoming her bandmate and roomie. As the two grow closer, however, Cree begins to realize that Izsak is hiding something from her. What is his secret? And why he is being stalked by a pair of sinister-looking hipsters?

RE:Play, Vol. 3
By Christy Lijewski
Rating: Older Teen (16+ for profanity, violence, sexuality)
Tokyopop, 2009, ISBN: 978-1-59816-739-9
200 pp., $10.99

The third and final volume of RE:Play provides the answers to Cree’s questions, revealing the identities of the two figures who have been tailing Izsak and explaining what, exactly, Izsak is. (In volume two, the author hints that Izsak may, in fact, be some kind of supernatural being.) Though Izsak’s terrible secret isn’t terribly surprising, Christy Lijewski pulls off the difficult task of tying up the story’s loose ends in a satisfactory fashion that’s neither pat nor predictable. She also uses the final volume to give her supporting cast members a turn in the spotlight, exploring the complicated relationship between Rail, the band’s stern, big brother figure, and Char, the band’s flirtacious, cross-dressing drummer and stylist.

Lijewski proves both an excellent writer and artist, demonstrating an uncanny ability to pen witty, authentic dialogue; as the members of Faust bicker about their "artistic direction" and personnel issues, the reader feels like he’s overhearing a real conversation. Lijewski’s characters, too, seem like fully-realized individuals, not archetypes. Cree, for example, is energetic — one might even say spazzy — profane, fiercely loyalty to her friends, and fond of piercings, the kind of tough, ambitious young woman you could imagine playing dive bars in pursuit of her musical dream.

Though Lijewski acknowledges her debt to shonen manga-ka such as Tite Kubo (Bleach, Zombie Powder), her stark, stylized character designs also bear a resemblance to the androids and Gothic Lolitas found in josei artist Mitsukazu Mihara’s work (Doll, The Embalmer). Lijewski, like Mihara, draws rangy, elegant figures with sharp features and cat-like eyes. Yet for all her affinity with Kubo and Mihara, Lijewski’s style is not a simple amalgamation of Japanese influences; her artwork feels like a true synthesis of Eastern and Western traditions, a Siouxsie and the Banshees album cover crossed with an issue of Shonen Jump.

Librarians and parents should be aware that RE:Play earns an Older Teen (16+) rating because of a few swears, a few panels of graphic violence (a character thrusts his arm through Izsak’s chest, with gory results), and a love scene set in the bathroom of a club. (No clothes come off, nor do the characters get much further than a kiss.) I’d argue that all of these elements are necessary to the story; without them, the characters would seem too wholesome for the seedy milieu in which RE:Play unfolds. The book’s heavily stylized artwork and edgy storyline has gender-neutral appeal; teens aged fifteen and up are the ideal audience for this supernatural rock-n-roll fable, though the story’s strong, take-no-guff female characters give RE:Play special resonance for young women. Recommended.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Katherine Dacey About Katherine Dacey

Katherine Dacey has been reviewing comics since 2006. From 2007 to 2008, she was the Senior Manga Editor at PopCultureShock, a site covering all aspects of the entertainment industry from comics to video games. In 2009, she launched The Manga Critic, where she focuses primarily on Japanese comics and novels in translation. Katherine lives and works in the Greater Boston area, and is a musicologist by training.

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