Strobe Edge Volume 1 by Io Sakisaka
I’m always curious when Shojo Beat announces a new title, and from the brief description I’d read of it Strobe Edge sounded appealing. While some of Shojo Beat’s recent offerings (Jiu Jiu and Devil and Her Love Song) have a bit of an edgy take on the genre, Strobe Edge is more of a straightforward high school love story.
Ninako is the heroine of Strobe Edge, and she is almost painfully naive. She blindly believes whatever salespeople tell her, and when she consults with her friends at school she allows their opinions to override her own feelings. She has a perpetually surprised look in the first chapter of the manga. As Ninako deals with her first romance, she begins to grow in awareness. All of Ninako’s friends expect that she’ll be going out with her childhood friend Daiki any day now. Daiki seems like a nice, boy-next door type who constantly finds excuses to check up on Ninako at school, unaware of the torrent of feminine gossip that he’ll unleash as soon as he disappears. Ninako cares for Daiki deeply, but she doesn’t even contemplate having any romantic feelings for Daiki until her friends tell her that she likes him. Ninako’s credulity is a bit hard to take, but Sakisaka manages to portray her personality as so fresh and innocent, I was willing to give it a pass in this first volume.
Ninako’s friend-determined destiny with Daiki is derailed when she keeps noticing the main crush object for all the girls, Ren Ichinose. Ren is cool and detached, so of course he’s the most popular boy in school. Ninako manages to have a conversation with Ren when he accidentally breaks her cellphone charm and then brings her a girly butterfly one as a replacement. She treasures it even though she’s not usually into super-feminine things. Daiki notices Ninako’s heightened interest in Ren and asks her if she’s a big fan of his, and she explains it by saying that she views him as if he was a model in a magazine, not someone she likes. But as Ninako keeps encountering Ren randomly on the subway back from school, she begins to see that he’s actually a very kind person instead of the aloof idol she envisioned. When she has a sprained ankle, he pretends to be asleep and deliberately misses his stop so he can walk her home. This is shoujo manga though, so of course there are plenty of additional complications for Ninako to deal with as she discovers her first love.
Sakisaka’s art is expressive and assured, and while I sometimes got a little tired of Ninako’s surprised face, she does certainly look like a sympathetic shoujo heroine. The character designes for the main and supporting cast are varied, making it easy to distinguish between all the characters. Sakisaka wrote at the begining of the volume that her goal in this manga was to capture “the sensation you feel in the window of time between one event and another,” and I think that Strobe Edge pulls it off. Ninako’s inner thoughts gradually become more self aware, and Sakisaka is very good at portraying the excitement and agony of accidentally sitting close to one’s crush object. One thing that I appreciated in Strobe Edge was that it was relatively angst free in terms of having evil protagonists. Daiki starts acting a bit erratic, but both he and Ren seem like basically good people. Even though Ninako’s friends have been pushing their own ideas of what her first relationship should be, when she makes a decision they are generally supportive. Reading a manga with basically nice characters just seems relaxing and refreshing at this point. Of course this is a 10 volume series, so I’m expecting an evil male model or an evil secret fiance to show up at some point. For now though, I’m going to be checking out this series with the hope that Ninako’s journey to self-awareness continues.
Review copy provided by the publisher.