Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Ninako is a first year in high school and a little naïve about the world – if someone tells her something, she believes them with no reservations. This doesn't bother her too much until her friends at school pull her into their love talk. Everyone is crushing on Ren, the strong silent type from another class, and Ninako, while she agrees that he's cute, doesn't quite understand. Besides, her friends tell her that she and her buddy Daiki would make a great couple, and who is she to disagree...?
Io Sakisaka would like you to read Strobe Edge with an open mind. While that doesn't mean that the book is edgier than most shoujo romances or as controversial as the statement would imply, it does let us know that Sakisaka is going to be taking a slightly different tack than most “ordinary girl meets hot boy” stories, and that, if it doesn't precisely merit the authorial plea, is true. Strobe Edge's first volume introduces us to Ninako Kinoshita, your basic shoujo heroine who is cute but not pretty, sweet but not cloying, and more naïve than we typically see while lacking the hardness of characters like My Little Monster's Shizuku or the obvious internal strength of Stepping on Roses' Sumi, or even the tragic backstory so prevalent in high school romance protagonists. Io's a first year in high school, has a group of girl friends, and her best friend is a boy named Daiki, a guy she's been pals with for a while now. Most of her friends enjoy gazing at Ren Ichinose, a boy from another class who has the “tall, dark, and handsome” thing down pat, and Ninako joins them without really understanding what the allure is. After all, she thinks, most of these girls have boyfriends, so why are they doing this? When she voices these thoughts, the girls are quick to inform her that she has Daiki. Ninako is startled – aren't they just friends?
This, along with a metaphor involving an apple and the loss of innocence (in the Snow White sense rather than the Garden of Eden sense), sets the stage for Ninako to begin to think about things she never has before. Does Daiki like her? Should they be a couple? What are her feelings? These barely started revelations are cut short when Ninako realizes that Ren rides the same train she does. Circumstances conspire to introduce them to each other, and before she knows it, Ninako thinks she might have a crush on Ren. The girls may not notice, but Daiki certainly does, and the results force Ninako to think about the nature of friendship, the emotions of love, and just how she ought to be feeling and for whom.
Sakisaka says in the beginning of the book that she wants “to draw the sensation you feel in the window of time between one event and another.” (It is worth mentioning that this lengthy and clunky translation style is limited to the freetalks.) This indicates that Ninako's thoughts may be of greater import than her actions, something that certainly holds true in the first three of the volume's four chapters. The story moves fairly slowly, looking at the small moments that eventually build into larger ones, and for those first chapters it works to pull us in and give the story a tone that feels like the calm before the storm. Chapter four, on the other hand, changes the game very abruptly with confessions piling up and plot “twists” that readers of shoujo romances will have seen coming. Sakisaka still has a deft hand and does the genre conventions well, but after the thoughtful pace of the first three chapters, this feels a bit hackneyed and like a drop in story quality.
Artistically this is very basic shoujo fare and looks similar to other series published in the same magazine, Bessatsu Maragaret. Eyes are round, bodies are slim, and mouths are often pursed in the manga equivalent of duckface. Sakisaka does pay attention to details, however, and doesn't over tone, so this is an easy book to look at. The prevalence of sharp edges is also worth noting, as it not only references the title, but makes for a nice thematic element when dealing with the pains of young love.
While Strobe Edge's first volume may not end on a promising note, or at least not one that fits with the rest of the book, this is still a thoughtful addition to the catalog of shoujo romances available in English. It's slow pace may lack urgency, but Ninako is a likeable heroine who is just learning that she has her own thoughts and opinions, and watching her transform from a girl into a woman (emotionally speaking) may make it all worth it. If you're not a fan of shoujo romance, this may not pull you in, but if you like the genre and want something just a little different while still maintaining a comfortable familiarity, give Strobe Edge a try.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B-
+ Story takes a quieter path than many other romances, Ninako's growing maturity is easily seen. Nice attention to detail in the art.