by Io Sakisaka; adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Strobe Edge Book 2 continues in the same vein as the first book, telling a quiet but appealing tale of young love in high school.
Ninako has confessed her feelings for Ren, but he already has a girlfriend, Mayuka, as Ninako knew. So in these three chapters of the story, Ninako struggles with how to maintain her previous friendship with Ren in spite of the change in their knowledge of each other and jealous classmates (who have formed an entire group of those rejected by Ren). We also meet Mayuka this time around, who, in spite of being a model, is a very nice girl, thoughtful and caring.
Many of the events here revolve around a new character, Ando, who’s quite outgoing and friendly to girls. (All girls.) He and Ren were previously classmates in middle school, so in spite of never seeing him in the first book, he’s suddenly hanging out with everyone. I was surprised to see Daiki almost disappear from the story so quickly. His role of third side of the triangle has been replaced by Ando, who is the more interesting character to read, I admit, with his outspoken, pushy ways.
All the characters are drawn so cutely! Big eyes, great hair, expressive faces, the exuberance of youth. I like when the kids gather around one or another to hear the latest relationship news, all in uniform but still distinct, and usually with lots of open mouths as they all comment at once (or express shock). Emotions are generally over-the-top, as is typical of adolescence, but that makes it all more enjoyable to read and remember. Ninako tends to hide in her hoodie when she’s upset, either shielding her face or drawing her hands up in the sleeves, a well-observed detail.
The book also has a bonus side story that shows how Mayuka and Ren met and started going out. It’s a good view of the younger boy as well as providing insight into what brought and keeps them together. It’s tough when you really like someone who’s already in a happy pairing. As Io Sakisaka says in one of her many author’s notes (and I really like how many of those there are and how lengthy they are), “the premise [of Strobe Edge] was that the guy the heroine falls in love with isn’t always available…. There’s no obvious ‘bad guy’ in this story. That’s what makes things so hard sometimes.”
For another view, told in funny style, check out this episode of Melinda Beasi’s video podcast My Week in Manga, where she goes from calling the series boring to talking about why she can’t wait for the next volume. (The publisher provided a review copy.)