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MANGA REVIEW: Strobe Edge volume 1 by Io Sakisaka

strobe-edge

Story & Art: Io Sakisaka
Publisher: Shueisha/Viz
Rated: T for teen
Volumes: 1/10

Dear readers,

In my ongoing quest to reacquaint myself with the shoujo genre, I stumbled across this new title from Viz. The series completed its run in Japan in 2010 but was just officially published in English this month. While straight up romance manga is typically not my thing, I decided to give this a go since I heard good things about it.

Ninako Kinoshita is a sweet girl, who unfortunately is very naïve. She tends to take people at their word, even when she shouldn’t. For example, she buys a sales pitch as absolute truth rather than realizing it was a marketing ploy. Normally, this character type annoys me but Ninako is just so nice. Disliking her is on par with kicking a puppy. I can’t do it.

It helps that her innocence is simultaneously charming and awkward. This is exemplified by her views on love. Ninako has never experienced love and has no idea how to identify it. She has a childhood friend, Daiki, who she spends a lot of time with and who is obviously interested in taking their relationship beyond the platonic. She likes him a great deal, and her circle of friends has been encouraging her to go out with him for a while. As a result, Ninako has half-convinced herself that she must be in love with Daiki.

Then one day she has a close encounter with the most popular boy in school, Ren Ichinose. Ren is basically the school idol. The girls all adore him but from afar. No one has a chance with him. But thanks to a series of events, Ninako crosses that invisible boundary and finds herself interacting with Ren. And the more she gets to know him, the more she realizes what love truly is.

This is the first volume of a ten volume series so as with most manga series, I consider this installment to be more of an introduction to the characters and set-up. That said, I thought it did a great job allowing the story to unfold at its own pace while also avoiding the long, dragged out plot devices used to heighten drama. For example, it’d be easy to set up a love triangle between Daiki and Ren but the manga doesn’t go there. Daiki is eliminated as a potential love interest early on, as Ninako decides to remain true to her love for Ren, even while knowing that he is unavailable.

It’s a decision that I consider to be very in-character for Ninako. As sweet and kind as she is, I can’t see her agreeing to date someone while being in love with someone else, even if that person is unavailable. She just wants to enjoy that love for what it is, for as long as it lasts. It’s a very pure and innocent look on love, and I think that’s part of this manga’s appeal.

Ren is also not the character I was expecting. Maybe I’ve been reading the wrong titles but I’m used to the popular boy being kind of a jerk and bad boy. With a heroine like Ninako, I was afraid we’d end up with an asshole hero who’d bully her. But Ren’s none of these things. He’s quiet and aloof. And through his interactions with Ninako, we also see that he’s kind and thoughtful. I liked this a lot.

Sweet is the best adjective to describe Strobe Edge. It doesn’t rely on melodrama or over the top hijinks to make a compelling story. Instead it follows the story of girl learning what it means to love someone, as well as what happens when your feelings are unrequited. The events that occur within the story are things that can happen in your everyday life. Don’t let the admittedly cliché premise fool you. This is a manga where execution matters and characterization makes a world of difference. Strobe Edge delivers on all fronts. B+

My regards,
Jia

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Jia is an avid reader who loves fantasy and young adult novels. She's also currently dipping her toes in the new adult genre but remains unconvinced by the prevalent need for traumatic pasts. Her favorite authors are Michelle West and Jacqueline Carey. YA authors whose works she's enjoyed include Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Ally Carter, and Megan Miranda. Jia's on a neverending quest for novels with diverse casts and multicultural settings. Feel free to email her with recommendations at jia@dearauthor.com!

5 Comments

  1. LG
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 10:06:33

    This came up on my radar not too long ago, but I wasn’t too clear on what it was about. I’ll have to see about trying it sometime.

    If you’d like another example with a popular boy who’s really sweet, you might take a look at Kimi ni Todoke, if you haven’t already. Whenever I stop and think about it, Kazehaya seems way too good to be true, but what I’ve read of the series has been so enjoyable I don’t really care.

    ReplyReply

  2. Nuha
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 15:13:31

    I read this through in one fell swoop a while ago, and I remember two things striking me right off the bat: one, how incredibly generous the narrative was wrt the characters, their foibles, and their insecurities; and two, Ren was an adorably awkward bastard, but Andou was the one who stole my heart, ripped it to pieces, then made a sparkly decoupaged centerpiece out of it because the evolution of Ando and Ren’s friendship was done so well.

    ReplyReply

  3. Jia
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 18:42:05

    @LG: I read several volumes of Kimi ni Todoke a few years ago but I fell behind. I just looked and wow, there are a lot of volumes now! That’s another sweet manga though I’d say Strobe Edge is sweeter (without being saccharine).

    ReplyReply

  4. Nicole
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 08:19:29

    Oh, I’m going to have to check this out. I’ve been wanting to read more manga.

    ReplyReply

  5. Estara Swanberg
    Nov 08, 2012 @ 13:41:39

    Yes, this! I totally adore that there are no villain characters in this book and when

    SPOILERS

    eventually Ren and Ninako do get together, they are not vilified for it, nor is Ren’s previous girlfriend. This manga doesn’t show just the development and discovery of new love it also shows that even with all your best intentions on all sides, sometimes love just moves on or goes out of focus. Like the song says “sometimes love just ain’t enough”

    SPOILER END

    And I do think her artwork, especially for the boys, gets prettier and prettier ^^. I’ll be buying it legally happily.

    Edited: for really bad word choice. I’m so glad we have a working edit function again.

    ReplyReply

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