Strobe Edge, Vol. 4

Strobe Edge, Vol. 4 by Io Sakisaka

One nice thing about new series with several volumes waiting in the wings to be translated is being able to read the English volumes with only a few months between releases. It is easier to appreciate the changes in plotting and art that appear over time as the creator gets more and more comfortable with a series. I wouldn’t have predicted after I put down the first volume of Strobe Edge that I would be enjoying it as much as I am now. There’s much more subtly shown in the relationships between the characters and even when stereotypical shoujo plot devices pop up, I find myself not minding them at all just because of the great work Sakisaka has done with her character development.

Heroine Ninako was bordering on being annoyingly naive in the first volume, and while she’s still relentlessly innocent she is in tune with her own emotions and is able to sense when a situation might be wrong for her. When reformed womanizer Ando starts pressuring her to date him, saying she can use him to forget her feelings for Ren, Ninako replies “Your idea of love and my idea of love aren’t the same at all. And I could never use you to forget him! You know how much it hurts to love someone…who loves someone else.” Ando tells Ninako that she doesn’t have to answer right away and goes back to his usual light-hearted personality but she can tell that he’s putting on an act to make her feel at ease.

Ninako and Ren keep getting pushed together in various situations, and while he tends to keep a tight reign on his expressions it is easy for the reader to tell that he’s filled with turmoil. Ren’s determination to be a “nice guy” is resulting in his continuing a relationship with his high-strung girlfriend, even though he and Ninako seem to share a unique bond of understanding. Ninako and Ren’s non-relationship is contrasted with the more established supporting couple of Daiki and Sayuri, who deal with their problems and end up becoming stronger together. There’s a slowly building tension in this series, as Ren keeps struggling to do what he thinks of as the right thing even while it becomes more and more intolerable.

Sakisaka does a good job showing her characters’ reactions to the emotional scenes, as she contrasts facial expressions or shows Ren turning away in order not to display his emotions. I’m looking forward to the next few volumes, as I can sense some dramatic crying scenes and confrontations coming up when Mayuka starts to realize that Ren is only showing her one carefully crafted side of his personality.

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