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by Melissa Harper,

R.I.P. - Requiem in Phonybrian

R.I.P. - Requiem in Phonybrian
Angel Transylvanian Rose is bored with peace and tranquility, so she escaped to Earth for a little bit of soul cleansing fun. While down there, she follows the sounds of singing, to find a handsome undertaker slitting his wrists. On a whim, she rips off one of her own wings, turning him into an angel. Undertaker, as she names him, isn't very happy about being made into an angel, and attempts to kill himself at every turn. But there is a job that only he can do: the cleansing of souls who committed suicide. No other angel can do it, but is there anyone who can cleanse his soul?
The back cover of R.I.P. calls the creator, Misukazu Mihara, “Goth Loli Queen,” and it seems that the whole point of this one shot story is to prove her artistic skill in that department. The whole thing feels like the framework for her to hang a lot of goth loli outfits and hairstyles on. The plot, characters, story, and everything else seem a bit secondary, which is a shame, because the idea of the story has a bit of merit. Unfortunately, that merit is hidden under angsty men and dresses with too many ribbons.

The story opens on a couple of angels sitting up in heaven, being bored. If you have religious sensibilities and they are easily offended, prepare yourself. The Japanese interpretation of Christian philosophy is always interesting, and this story takes it in a childlike direction. Here, there are sweet, gothic angels, who refer to a bishounen-ized Jesus as Papa, and lounge about in a palace of Greek pillars nestled in clouds. Seeing Jesus in any manga is rather creepy, but after the shock has worn off, the whole scenario is kind of sweet.

The characters are all interesting, if not flat out weird. Transylvanian Rose is no exception. She is about as attractive as her name implies. This is one ugly character. It's nice to see some variety in character designs, but she seriously looks like Gloria Swanson at her worst. She is also a fairly annoying character, very loud, self-centered and careless. There really isn't much to like about her, other than her fantastic wardrobe. She turns Phony Brian (another weird name) into an angel on a whim, because she supposedly takes a liking to him, but she is terribly inconsiderate of him through the entire story. The rest of the characters are attractive, and a little more likeable. Phony Brian, or Undertaker, is annoying with his repeated attempts at suicide, but is an otherwise agreeable character. The bit characters are all pretty and distinctive, which is about as much as you can ask for from bit characters in a one-shot story.

Looking good is about as far as those characters go, however. Undertaker gets an introduction to angeling through a few side stories where a restless soul must be cleansed. The problem with these chapters is that they are too rushed. They are just too short. Basically they see the soul, the soul tells its story, and Rose purifies it. It isn't climactic or dramatic at all. The stories are a little petty, also, like the lady who is stuck on earth because someone copied her shoe designs. It is a little difficult to sympathize with that, and she sounds more like a spoiled brat than a lost soul.

The main story is a bit more interesting, but it doesn't really pick up until the second half of the book. Undertaker obviously wants to die for a reason, but Rose doesn't care enough to find out what that reason is until halfway through. The mystery surrounding his death, and the death of his girlfriend, is the best portion of the story, and it is a shame that it is hidden in the back of the book.

The art in R.I.P. is gorgeously detailed on the characters. Each detail, from ringlets of hair to rows of ribbons is brought out and defined. They look consistently great, which is impressive considering that almost every character changes outfits every couple of pages. The clothes are fantastic; again, Mihara seems to have built the whole story around angels in gothic dresses. The backgrounds are not nearly so nice, however. Mihara takes advantage of the Heaven setting by filling all those scenes with fluffy cloud backgrounds, which is boring, and a bit of copout. The look for Earth was I think intended to be “dark and gritty,” but that really just applies to the inking job. The backgrounds on earth are so dark that they are mostly just globs of black ink floating behind the characters, and when they are discernable, the quality is truly poor. It isn't much of a problem, as backgrounds rarely show up at all, and when they do are limited to a church and graveyard that are frequently reused.

The quality of the release is standard for publisher Tokyopop. There are only a couple of disappointments. For one, the sound effects are left untranslated, which is always sad; if they don't need to be read, then why would the creator include them? The second is the lack of extras; in a story this short, no extras means a scandalously thin book. A few extras would have made the package a little more appealing.

Really, the whole package is just a container for the parts. It contains some very nice pictures of gothic angels in lolita dresses. The idea of Undertaker, the redeemed soul who purifies suicide victims, is interesting and could have been taken a bit farther than it was. While this manga is billed as a romance, don't look for too much romantic interaction between the main characters. There isn't any. The characters are too distant to connect with, and at the end you don't care about them any more than you did in the beginning. In the end, there are far better manga about bored Heaven dwellers that you could read instead.
Overall : B-
Story : C
Art : B+

+ Beautiful costumes and hairstyles
thin story and an unlikeable main character

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Story & Art: Mitsukazu Mihara

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R.I.P. - Requiem in Phonybrian (manga)

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