A brief spoiler-free review of the single-volume BL manga “RePlay,” story and art by Saki Tsukahara, published in 2020 by TOKYOPOP.
Out of the Game
Although Yuta and Ritsu have been playing baseball together since they were children, a devastating defeat in a local tournament the summer before their senior year results in the “married couple’s” retirement from the high school team so that they can focus on university entrance exams. Yuta still yearns to play baseball again, but even when he’s given the chance, the game just doesn’t have the same appeal without Ritsu. Whenever Yuta brings up the sport, however, Ritsu seems to distance himself further.
What does baseball mean to Yuta, and why should it matter whether Ritsu is there or not? As the boys begin ask themselves these questions, feelings that have always been present are realized, and the bond between teammates develops into something far more affectionate and intimate.
This has got to be one of the most satisfying BL manga I’ve ever read. To Saki Tsukahara—where can I read your other works??? I had so much fun getting to know the history of this couple, as well as watching Yuta and Ritsu realize their feelings for each other. A surprising amount of character depth is crammed into this book, and the ending beautifully rounds out this story of compassionate love and fresh starts. The final pages (following our one sex scene, of course) left me happily content and hopeful about their future. Older audiences may also appreciate the high-school-to-college shift—along with the “separation angst” of changing friendships—that Tsukahara tries to capture.
Teammates to Something More . . .
Since we mainly take in the story from Yuta’s perspective, let’s talk about him first. Yuta Mizuhara is your typical loudmouth, food-snatching, panic gay who can’t seem to understand that others may actually like him. A lot. Defs the jumpy uke type. Still, he’s got a really cute face and them ATHLETE ABS THO, and most readers will enjoy him if even just for that. Compared to Ritsu, Yuta has to try a lot harder in his studies, especially if he’s wanting to attend the same university as Ritsu. I’m glad that his studying habits (or lack thereof) play a prominent role in the plot.
As for Ritsu Mashino, the dude’s RIPPED and ready for college life. The smart, quiet, handsome-type seme. Because he can get into practically any university, he spends a lot of his time going behind Yuta’s back to prep “surprises” for him. (If I say anything more it’s spoiler territory, so my lips are zipped.) Anyway, he’s also got a cute hairstyle and face to match, and I simply can’t express enough how PERFECT Saki Tsukahara’s characters look! The whole manga is just plain pretty. (And for my friends wanting something steamier, RePlay is fairly tame, save for the occasional shirtless scene and the last couple pages . . . )
The only part of the manga I found a bit cringe was how Yuta and Ritsu’s fellow teammates and classmates would keep calling them the “married couple.” They’d even refer to themselves in this way, and it’s such a weird term, even for manga. Like, when you’re this adamant on calling each other the school’s married couple, you’re not even queer-bating at this point—they both might as well just come out to each other already. At first, it’s a cute label, but it becomes harder to take even as a joke with each repetition.
A Satisfying Single-Volume BL
RePlay explores the attraction between two high-school seniors who are trying to sort out their long-withheld (or unrealized) feelings for one another while also preparing for university life. Since both boys have graduated from club activities, the sports element mainly serves as a backdrop to the soft and sweet story about the fear of growing apart. The volume reads like a sports anime fanfic, yet also has a sense of completeness that is rare for this kind of manga.
Saki Tsukahara’s lovely art remains consistently light and gorgeous, and their character designs match my tastes to a T. If you’re a fan of childhood-friends-to-lovers romance and are looking for a BL that looks fondly back on high school life as its characters make plans for college, I highly recommend RePlay as one of my new favorite single-volume BL manga!
“On the field, we understood every facet about each other, but now . . . “
This was such a great read, my goodness. Thank you to all who recommended this manga to me! If my enjoyment wasn’t obvious enough in this post, RePlay is a certified “Caffe Mocha” manga here at the cafe, a rating reserved for my favorite reads and watches! I’ve got a growing list of TOKYOPOP single-volume BL manga that I plan to pick up soon, so hey, if you liked this post, I’ve got more on the way! Drop your thoughts on this manga review (or your BL single-volume recommendations) down in the comments! Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!