by Io Sakisaka; adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Strobe Edge is so cute! I’m caught up in the story of whether little Ninako will manage to finally be honest about her feelings for classmate and cool guy Ren, and whether he’ll reciprocate them.
In this book, author Io Sakisaka accomplishes something elegant: she manages to completely flip the series premise without it seeming artificial or drawn-out. In previous volumes, she’d widened the series focus by getting us caught up in the feelings of additional characters, a typical strategy. Here, though, the characters make great emotional strides forward, acknowledging their feelings and finally being honest to their friends… and the end result is Ninako being chased instead of chasing.
We start, though, with a rival. The new girl previously dated Ando, a friend of Ren’s, but she really wanted Ren, which drove a huge wedge between the two boys, once best friends. Now, they find the triangle repeated, with both Ren and Ando involved with Ninako… and when the new girl reappears, Ninako unfortunately is naive enough to fall prey to her manipulations without considering she might have ulterior motives. Ninako values honor over her own feelings, a noble but ultimately misguided choice, because it’s not honest.
You know, it’s harder to explain than to read, because while I’m following along with these kids visually, it all makes lots of sense and yet tugs at my heart for the confusion they have to deal with. Young love is no laughing matter, and yet, they’re all so good-hearted that I want happy endings for everyone. Except the new girl, who’s just mean.
There’s also a hilarious new character, a lead cheerleader who’s always yelling and calls Ninako “peanut”. His views on enthusiasm and his outgoing attitude contrast amusingly with the way Ninako keeps crying around him. By being friendly without being involved with all the other players, he makes an excellent sounding board. Plus, seeing Ninako trying to lead cheers and messing up is an excellent example of her personality — she’s enthusiastic and good-hearted but not always as skilled as she’d like to be. It also makes for good visuals.
Although lacking a gimmick or high concept to stand out in a crowded market, Strobe Edge is an excellent, enjoyable shojo manga focused around the basics of the genre: love and emotion. Fans will also find it interesting that Sakisaka explains the thinking behind the title in one of the author’s notes included. (The publisher provided a review copy.)