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unrequited-love

MANGA REVIEW:  Strobe Edge volume 1 by Io Sakisaka

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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REVIEW:  Lord Gray’s List by Maggie Robinson

REVIEW: Lord Gray’s List by Maggie Robinson

Dear Ms. Robinson:

I haven’t read such an adorable hero in a long time. I was just sad he was matched up with Evie.

There was an inequality to the characters that set me on edge and I never quite felt balanced in the end. Evie Ramsay took over a printer’s shop that her father won gambling. She created a scandal sheet called The London List. Her favorite target was Benton Gray. She reported his every exploit until he became, as his mother put it, a “byword of loose morals and louche behavior.” After Ben buys the printing shop from her addled father, paying handsomely for it so that Evie would want for nothing, she prints a goodbye edition accusing him of engaging in lying and robbery to obtain the paper. Residents of London who love The List rise up against him.

Lord Gray's List Maggie RobinsonIn amongst this, Evie and Ben are carrying on a hate/hate lust relationship where Evie proclaims to hate Ben, insults him at every turn, and then proceeds to have sex with him. I can’t say that I like this when the roles are reversed and it isn’t made more palatable because Evie is the one ripping into Ben.

Did he deserve it? Not that I saw. As he said to her “What have I ever done to make you hold me in such contempt. I admit I didn’t know what I was doing with you when I was twenty, but surely you cannot hold me responsible for failing to satisfy you all those years ago.” What Ben doesn’t quite grasp is that Evie loved him and his propensity for gambling curdled that love into disdain due to her own experiences with her father, a feckless gambler who drug her all over the countryside. Ben actually thinks this may be part of the problem but feels that no one could base a lifetime of hatred on it.

Evie’s excuse is that “every time she had written about Ben or some other rakehell, she had hoped to shame them into reform and responsibility.” Evie imputes her father’s sins on Ben and turns her paper into somewhat of a crusade. She believes that she is performing a vital service in this shaming along with the advertisements she runs that brings people together or helps individuals find jobs.  Evie’s character needs some redemption but there is no moment of realization that what she had done is possibly destructive to individuals.  She’s the paparazzi of the Regency, spying in windows and publicizing individuals’ foibles.

What saves this book and Evie is Ben. We never see his licentious behavior unless tupping his love in his library with her full agreement is licentious. But we are privy to his good nature, his ability to take a punch on the chin and keep going, his ineffable spirit. He is just so good natured and so in love with Evie, that, well, despite Evie’s poor behavior you want Ben to win her. Because that will make him happy.

The ending contained two instances which, while I understood their necessity, lacked believability. I wished that they had been better integrated into the overall storyline because as it was, the authorial manipulation was so obvious that it jarred me out of the book.

Ben  grows in the story realizing that there are a horde of people that could use his help and that his past life was a bit wasteful.  Evie is a hard worker and she does feel for those who are need of her assistance.  My animosity toward her faded over the course of the book, but had Ben not been such a decent character and had his desire for Evie not been as strong, I don’t know that I would have been won over in the end.  C+

Best regards,

Jane

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