by Io Sakisaka; adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Although it’s quiet, without any particular gimmick to set it apart, I enjoyed reading this tale of first love.
Ninako hasn’t ever been in love. One of her classmates, Daiki, is friendly towards her, so the girls tell her they should be together, but Ninako only gets those butterflies when she sees Ren, the aloof, popular, older boy everyone has a crush on. After a chance meeting on the train, Ninako gets to know Ren a little bit. There’s also Daiki’s estranged sister, who keeps getting surprise reveals around her.
The theme of the book is how Ninako learns to follow her own feelings instead of the crowd. Her friends mean well, trying to pair her up with Daiki. They believe, seeing them interact, that they do belong together, especially given Daiki’s feelings. They just aren’t subtle enough to pick up on Ninako’s hesitation. There’s some nice undercurrents here about different definitions of love and learning for yourself which feelings are important or even how you really feel. It’s also pretty funny, as Ninako thinks to herself, “How funny… if they hadn’t told me, I might not have even noticed that I’m in love.”
The art, with its emphasis on faces to carry the emotions, is easy to read, so it’s easy to concentrate on the events and feelings. Some of the panels are quite lovely, especially where Ninako stops to think. I also found it interesting that Ren brings out Ninako’s feminine side, not in an obvious or sledgehammer way, but it makes it clear how Ninako’s a little younger (in attitude, if not in age) than her classmates, who are confused by seeing that new piece of her. Ren’s got a good amount of “author-driven perfect guy”, always knowing the perfect thing to do, frequently coming to her rescue in small ways, and sometimes seeming to read minds. Strobe Edge reminds me of Kare First Love, although Ninako is more positive than Karin, the heroine of that series.
I’d recommend this for younger teens, since (so far) it’s quite comfortable, without exaggerated drama, and the narration, told in Ninako’s voice, is pretty obvious about how she’s feeling and what we should think about her. I also liked that I got more of a sense of the author through her notes, talking about her pet chinchillas. There were 10 volumes in Japan, and the next book promises to follow up on more of the conflicts introduced in the last chapter here. (The publisher provided a review copy.)