RePlay: A Sweet Single-Volume Baseball BL || Review

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 . . . “

Yuta Mizuhara


Afterword

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!

– Takuto

BL Metamorphosis: A Blossoming Relationship || Manga First Impressions

First impressions for volumes 1 of Kaori Tsurutani’s manga series “BL Metamorphosis,” published in 2020 by Seven Seas.


The Start of Something New

After the sad discovery that the coffee shop Ichinoi used to frequent with her late husband has closed down, the 75-year-old calligraphy teacher decides to cool off from the heat in a local bookstore. It’s been at least a year since she was last here, and while searching for the since-relocated cookbook section, an unsuspecting volume of BL catches the old lady’s eye.

The high school girl who rings up Ichinoi’s order at the register knows this BL series well. From this initial encounter, the two go on to form an unlikely yet endearing friendship. BL binds them, but is there a deeper lesson to be learned?

I’m going to keep this post short if only for the fact that it’ll quickly turn into a fanboy ramble about this sweet friendship. I totally see parts of myself in young Urara’s groggy eyes. She loves boys love manga, yet is ashamed to let anyone know—and I get it. There’s no worse feeling than being judged for liking something. Thankfully, Ichinoi is there to shine a light on the joys of living without shame.

And let’s talk about Ichinoi. Y’ALL, I love this lady. She doesn’t really understand BL, but she’s rooting for the boys anyway, and that’s all you need to say to win my heart! She’s also really kind, warm-hearted, and observant of others’ feelings. Sure, her approach is a little dated (like when she buys fruit for Urara as a thank-you gift, or how she decides to call when late to an email). But, the sentiment is always well-meant, and I wish there were more people like her in the world!

Living Vicariously through Manga

When you think about it, Ichinoi and Urara are living the dream. Two friends, both passionate about the same book genre, are making their way though the increasingly large and foreign world of BL and its collective fandom. They won’t need to hide anything entirely anymore because they have each other to gush over their favorite books and characters. I’m envious of their budding friendship just as I am happy they found each other! ;_;

Like how I find myself living vicariously though Ichinoi’s awakening to BL, I’m also noticing how Ichinoi is recalling her own life’s experiences through her friendship with Urara and the manga they read together. At the end of this first volume, Ichinoi faces the intense crowds of a comiket-like event. The last time she was here was when the building was built, some 30 or 40 years ago. She refused to ride the “world’s fasted elevator” here with her husband, saying that she didn’t want to wait for the line. Time caught up to both of them, and the “someday” she promised him slipped before her eyes.

It’ll be moments like this that make the manga worth reading. At face value, yes, the mutual fangirling is lots of fun, and it will keep me all warm and fuzzy until the final page. But, I hope BL Metamorphosis continues to reflect on Ichinoi’s life like this. Naturally, there’s a lot in this manga that you’ll want to pluck off the page and tuck away in your pocket for safekeeping.

In For a Penny . . .

So far, BL Metamorphosis is just as cute and endearing as everyone was telling me it’d be! I love Ichinoi so much, and I’m excited to see her catch her “second wind” in life with BL. ❤

While I’m hoping that subsequent volumes don’t go down the ~sad~ lane (if you know, you know), I do look forward to further exploring how this newfound friendship changes Ichinoi and Urara for the better. They’re like two peas in a pod, wandering souls in need of a friend like the other. I’m so glad they met.

Yes, I will be picking up all of this manga. And YES, you should read it! You don’t even have to necessarily like yaoi manga to appreciate the story that Kaori Tsurutani is trying to tell—though, a dash of BL and bittersweetness certainly makes the experience all the more exciting!


“Urara-san . . . Let’s get in that line!”

Ichinoi


Afterword

So yeah, read BL Metamorphosis. It’s a lovely manga. Thank you to all those who recommended this manga to me—I’m enjoying it immensely, and I hope to pick up the rest of it in my next Seven Seas haul and binge it in one sitting. Oh! That reminds me, I probably need to make sure I add them to my cart!

I’ll try to get out an update post here in a couple days. Same for more manga posts. School’s been slowly killing me, but hey, only one month left! Thanks for reading, and ‘til next time!

– Takuto