by Io Sakisaka; adapted by Ysabet MacFarlane
published by Viz; $9.99 US
The appeal of Strobe Edge, for me, is how Io Sakisaka takes everyday encounters and conversations and imbues them with such meaning and importance. It’s a welcome reminder of how much everything *feels* for the young and how the simplest moments can be so significant.
For example, early in this volume (following up on the previous book), Ninako is on her way to the train home. She sees Toda, and she wants to thank him for his cheerleading help. Ren, who just realized his feelings for her, prevents her from talking to the other guy, since he’s jealous. This basic sequence of watching who’s on the train and who’s on the platform and who’s aware of whose presence doesn’t sound like much when I describe it, but the silent moments of action, as Ren reaches out for Ninako, who’s facing away from him until she’s surprised by his grasp, are impressive. Sakisaka has portrayed something most people wouldn’t give a second thought with deep symbolism and suspense.
Ren is trying to tell Ninako he likes her, but although she hopes for it, she won’t believe it. He can’t quite come out and say it, and she brushes aside the implications. It’s too important to her to be wrong about it, so she won’t accept his feelings until he states them specifically. Yet that doesn’t happen, because they’re interrupted. This is a teen soap opera, after all, which becomes obvious later in the book. I admit, the particular reversal at that point struck me as artificial and stagy, but Sakisaka has to do whatever she can to keep the characters from the happy ending while the series is still running.
Plot-wise, we get to see the school sports festival. Lots of kids in t-shirts are running and cheering and rooting for each other. The other story thread involves Ando, another rival for Ninako’s feelings, having to run a relay with his ex-girlfriend. The teamwork and encouragement of the race signal a rapprochement between the two, which allows for a later coming clean of what really happened between them.
Ninako has come quite a way from the young girl she was when we first met her. Then, she felt immature compared to her friends, since she didn’t know what love was. Now, in contrast, there’s a three-page sequence that opens Book 9 where she nicely appreciates having a group of friends to talk to. More significantly, they aren’t sure they understand what she’s trying to tell them, but she’s comfortable with that. She’s gained a better understanding of herself just talking to them, and that’s what matters.
There are lots of monologues of advice, whether one character reminiscing with another or someone simply verbalizing their thoughts. The overall message is along the lines of “the heart wants what it wants”, that your feelings will be there regardless of what you think they should be. As one character puts it, “If I don’t take care of my feelings, no one’s going to do it for me.” It’s a rather indulgent take on the world, but as we’re reminded by a shocking dose of reality (one character has to quit school to go to work to feed his family), for most of these kids, this is the only time they’ll get to make such decisions without real-world factors coming into play. That’s why I like reading it: It’s a window into a simpler time, with characters I root for to be happy. (The publisher provided a review copy.)