Manga-ka: Io Sakisaka
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: November 2012
Synopsis: “What is love, anyway? Ninako Kinoshita’s friends tell her it’s one thing, but Ninako wonders what this mysterious feeling really is. When she meets Ren Ichinose, a handsome, enigmatic guy who all the girls worship, her life takes an unexpected turn. With just a few words and a smile, he changes her world…”
Strobe Edge isn’t the kind of series I would usually pick up without considerable cause. The synopsis sounds like fairly average school life romance drama, and the artwork is okay but nothing that stands out. Yet in this instance it was these benign features that made me go out and purchase volume one in light of the excitement many seemed to have when Viz Media announced it. Is there an extra special something hidden beneath this average surface? So far, no.
Strobe Edge wasn’t an unpleasant read but there wasn’t anything about it that stood out from many other shoujo stories I’ve read before. The plot follows a girl named Ninako Kinoshita who has never been in love. Her friends keep trying to convince her that she’s actually in love with her childhood friend, Daiki, which she pretty much believes on just being told. Daiki, of course, is actually very much in love with Ninako and is working up the courage to ask her out. Enter the school’s most popular boy, Ren, who all the girls have crushes on. He’s attractive, cool and quiet. Does he have a girlfriend? Will he look this way today? Does he ever smile!? So many ever important schoolgirl questions. While Ninako initially seems to like Ren out of herd-mentality with her classmates, soon she finds herself falling for him legitimately.
To the series credit, Ren is actually a nice guy. He’s not the kind of stereotypical cool-guy-who-is-actually-nice-deep-down nice either. He seems genuinely kind and caring, his aloofness actually being just shyness and indifference. Too often we get these romances where the actual nice guy gets completely shafted in favour of the cool, aloof ‘I-can-totally-change-him’ type, but it’s good to see that Ninako begins falling for Ren for entirely understandable, and healthy, reasons. It’s sad this feels unique in a story set up like it was, but I’ll take the pleasant change. It was sweet watching her fall for him, and seeing that Ren is just a nice guy being idolized by the school and expected by stereotype to perhaps be more of a rough-and-tumble-cool-guy than he is.
But, wait, what’s the catch? We already get that feeling of the inevitable that Daiki is going to get left to rot, which sucks as an unfortunate trope of most romances, but there must be more to it than that for a series lasting ten volumes, right? It turns out that Ren already has a girlfriend. I won’t spoil who it is but it’s someone who could easily make for the drama. So what now then? Volume one ends with me not knowing where it’s going. We haven’t actually gotten to see said-girlfriend yet, so we don’t know what she’s like. Will this turn into a current-girlfriend-is-awful-so-it’s-okay-to-pull-boyfriend-away story? Will it be a coping-with-a-one-sided-love story? I’m sort of fearful to find out, not really a fan of the demonizing characters to create clear ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ when it comes to who wins the guy. The triangle has already been set in this first volume, with more complication no doubt coming in the second.
Romance stories can be written in an interesting way. You can be made to root for characters against seemingly impossible, or at least sympathetic, odds and get completely caught up in their drama. We love drama and passion, that’s a big part of why romance is such an everything staple of the world. Strobe Edge unfortunately doesn’t seem to have any hook yet past someone’s feelings are probably going to get hurt. Daiki and Ren both seem like nice guys, and Ninako seems like a nice girl who just suffers from too much naivete in believing whatever her friends tell her about her own feelings. Others’ anticipation for the title prompted me to look at volume one, but it’ll take some more outside insight and more than what I’ve seen here to make me consider volume two. Strobe Edge isn’t bad, but it also isn’t very interesting either.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures