Strobe Edge, Vol 3

Strobe Edge is the manga equivalent of comfort food and I find myself liking it more and more with each volume. The third volume explores the emerging love triangle between Ninako, reformed womanizer Ando, and unavailable but perfect Ren. Ninako is struggling a bit with wanting to be friends with Ren after being rejected previously, and things become even more emotionally traumatic when it seems like Ren is deliberately acting cold to her. Ren actually being a good guy, he is attempting to protect Ninako from the attentions of the Rejected by Ren Girl Squad, who have targeted Ninako with their bullying ways. This gets cleared up relatively quickly, but more complications are on the way as Ando’s feelings towards Ninako grow and deepen. The two guys in love with a slightly oblivious girl is a well-word shoujo plot device, but Ninako is oblivious and friendly that it is difficult to get annoyed with her. Sakisaka does a good job portraying the subtle ways that Ren and Ninako continue to be drawn towards each other. They have a random conversation about sweets and Ren reveals that he doesn’t think that his girlfriend even knows that fact about himself because he pretends to dislike them around her because she’s always watching her figure. Ren’s general protectiveness towards Ninako is unusual given is general indifference towards other girls. Ren’s actions like helping Ninako out at a school festival and providing extra math tutoring seem to go a bit beyond the limits of normal guy niceness.

Ando has plenty of feelings for Ninako but seems to be holding back both due to his awareness of her feelings for Ren and his realization that she probably couldn’t handle it. He hints around about his feelings and even confronts Ninako about her feelings for Ren, saying “You can’t love someone forever…without getting something back from them.” Ando’s brash personality is a big contrast to Ren’s more quiet thoughtfulness, but it is clear that he does actually care about Ninako and isn’t trifling with the idea of having a relationship with her.

I feel like Sakisaka’s art has grown a bit after three volumes. While the first volume focused a bit too much on Ninako’s blushing naivete, there are more comedic moments in this volume, mostly at Ando’s expense as he gets crushed in a subway car while Ren protects Ninako. When Ninako, Ren, and Ando all start a part-time job in a cafe, Ren and Ando are portrayed as the ultimate desirable waiters, smoothly taking care of everything, while Ninako’s enthusiasm almost makes up for her clumsiness. It is easy to see how well Strobe Edge fits into the Shojo Beat line and with so many series ending or about to end, I’m glad to have a newer series to follow.

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