by Rebecca Silverman,

Strobe Edge

GN 2 & 3

Strobe Edge GN 2 & 3
Ninako has confessed to Ren even though he has a girlfriend...and she's okay with that. As long as they can remain friends, she's happy to just love him from afar, and now that the situation with Daiki is resolved, things seem to be working out. Then she meets Ando, a classmate of Ren's from middle school, and he wants her to question her contentment with the status quo. Meeting Ren's girlfriend further complicates matters, as do Ren's own actions, all adding up to confusion for Ninako's heart.

Io Sakisaka began writing Strobe Edge with the goal of capturing the “sparkles of everyday life.” By this she means the standout moments in each day, when the light catches on a metaphoric edge and makes it something more than just an ordinary moment. While some of her “sparkles” are a bit removed from this goal – really, how many people bump into a hot guy when they're trying to say hi to a different heartthrob? - Sakisaka does do a consistently good job at keeping Ninako's life real and free of the melodrama that could easily have overtaken the story. Strobe Edge may have a lot in common with its shoujo romance brethren, but it still manages to carve out a place for itself where it can quietly shine.

One of the key factors that makes Strobe Edge stand out is the fact that it has no villain. This is something that Sakisaka said that she deliberately tried to do, and at this point she is succeeding. It is tempting to see Mayuka, Ren's girlfriend and Daiki's older sister, as the bad guy simply because we are reading mostly from heroine Ninako's perspective. She's sympathetic, she likes Ren, so as readers we are inclined to bill Mayuka as the villainous character. In a (successful) attempt to prevent that, Sakisaka provides us with a short story in the back of volume two about how Ren and Mayuka initially got together, showing us not the horrid bitch she would have been had the series come from the pen of Miwa Ueda, but rather a normal girl with insecurities who might have been the heroine if we saw things from another angle. In her story, Ninako's the man-stealing monster. The fact that we can sympathize with both potential love interests for the male lead is interesting in a shoujo manga and certainly gives Strobe Edge a fairly unique place in the genre.

This is not to say that these two volumes are devoid of clichés. Both Ren and Ando fit fairly comfortably into recognized roles - “nice guy” and “reformed womanizer” - and a part time job working at a cafe is hardly revolutionary. We also have the requisite school festival in this set, complete with class-sponsored booths and the prep work involved in putting such a thing on. Ninako's charming naiveté does a lot to make the more pat portions tolerable, if not actually enjoyable, however. She's an innocent character on a different level than the norm – not clueless so much as simply young. The closest comparison is Seyoung from the under-appreciated manhwa Narration of Love at Seventeen: a girl who is just starting to figure out this whole romance thing and while she wants it, she is also scared to death about what it means to have a relationship. This nicely sets her up as a foil to Mayuka, who on the opposite end of things fears what her life will be like without her boyfriend. Watching the two of them in the same scene helps to keep things interesting, highlighting their differences and giving the reader something to think about beyond who will get the guy.

Sakisaka's art holds up relatively well without being especially wonderful. Small details, such as Ren's habitual favorite pose and some facial expressions, continue to be well done, while other portions of the artwork don't quite hold up. Ando is sometimes difficult to distinguish from other shaggy white haired characters, and while hairstyles do a lot to tell Ninako's classmates apart, they all still have an air of sameness. Occasionally it can be difficult to determine which word bubble to read first, as they can be placed close to the edge of the previous panel, but overall the art is clean and easily followed with a nice balance of white, black, and gray spaces.

Strobe Edge continues to be a thoughtful manga about a girl discovering what it means to grow up. Featuring actual nice guys (at least so far), both a heroine and a rival who are sympathetic, and attention to detail, this is a series that romance fans and those borderline sick of romance should enjoy. In her quest to document the “sparkles” of everyday life, Io Sakisaka remembers one very important thing – all that glitters is not gold and even the brightest of sequins has an edge.

Production Info:
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B-

+ Lack of villain makes for thoughtful reading, Ninako is charming. Some nice details in both art and story.
Ando can be difficult to distinguish from one of Ren's other friends, some very clichéd turf is trod. A few reading in order issues.

Story & Art: Io Sakisaka

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Strobe Edge (manga)

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Strobe Edge (GN 3)

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