Strobe Edge – Io Sakisaka: Series Review

This review happened in an ironically timely manner. I originally decided to re-review this series in order to try and promote its sales, so that maybe we could get Ao Haru Ride. But with a new short story coming out in Betsuma next issue and the live action movie to premier in Japan next week, it’s almost perfect timing to reassess this earlier series by Io Sakisaka.

Strobe Edge originally ran in Bessatsu Margaret shoujo manga magazine from 2007 to 2010. The 10 volume series was licensed by Viz Shojo Beat in 2012 and the last volume was released in May 2014. I did a review of the first three volumes of Strobe Edge in 2013. Looking back, it’s pretty spot on with only a few things I will add, since I have read the whole story and another series by Sakisaka now as well.


The Gist: Ninako Kinoshita unexpectedly falls for the quiet but popular boy Ren Ichinose. While she gets to know Ren a little at a time, she discovers that he already has a long time girlfriend, and she’s a very nice person. Resigned to unrequited love, Ninako must endure her feelings while admiring Ren from afar. Is the situation really as hopeless as Ninako believes? Seems Ren has some torn feelings of his own to sort out as well.

The Review: Strobe Edge is a strong candidate for your typical high school shoujo love drama. It’s a slice-of-life relationship story with no fantasy or supernatural aspects. So why is this series selling millions of copies in Japan and getting a movie? I think it’s riding on the coattails of Sakisaka’s popularity with Ao Haru Ride somewhat, but Strobe Edge in itself is a very emotional heart-rendering story that people, especially young people, can easily relate to.

The essence of Strobe Edge is a realistic take on what teen relationships are really like, and not just the lovey-dovey aspects. It evaluates the position of being in an unrequited love, and different ways to handle those feelings. It demonstrates being in a relationship with someone you really love, but time passes and priorities change, causing someone to fall out of love or move on. There’s also the aspect of someone loving you, and you not being able to return those feelings. All of these things happen daily in the lives of young people. It’s this realism that I believe really helps readers to relate and become attached to these characters that Sakisaka creates.

Of the stories I’ve read, Ninako is by far my favorite heroine that Sakisaka has drawn. She’s average for readers’ sake, but she’s got an infectious optimism that makes her endearing to her friends and the boys in the story. She’s not wishy washy about her feelings. She knows how she feels and she doesn’t take any substitutions for her love. She doesn’t mess with other people’s feelings either. She’s extremely genuine. This is why I really admire Ninako as a protagonist. There are two, wait, three love interests in the story for Ninako – Daiki, her childhood friend, Ren, the unavailable nice guy, and Ando, his playboy best friend. Using these three characters Sakisaka dissects those aspects of young love that I spoke of earlier.

The plot runs at a very good pace, with very little lag between events. Five volumes for Ren to decide his actions, and five more for Ninako to come to terms with her feelings. I thought the final volume felt kind of rushed, and most likely was- editors saying finish it, and there’s only so many pages. That’s probably why there’s an epilogue story coming out. However, the story doesn’t disappoint and Sakisaka gave readers a satisfying ending to the series.

Collagen lips and globular tears. Style marks for Sakisaka's works.

Collagen lips and globular tears. Style marks for Sakisaka’s works.

The Art: Sakisaka has a very distinct style, and it gives her characters some great leverage when it comes to expression. The funniest things I’ve heard comments about are the way she draws lips and tears. Her lips are toned in a way that they look like they’ve had collagen injections, and her tears are so globular they look unrealistic. I think those are just some of her style trademarks myself. She’s really fantastic at using chibis in the right places for optimal humor, and then the more realistic drawings for the emotional scenes. The paneling flows rather well, and the toning is minimal so that the drawings are defined well. I really love her colored pieces. Her talent with watercolors really astounds me. She uses minimal lines in her work, and allows the colors to create the lines themselves. It’s really fantastic to an artist like myself.


The Audience: Strobe Edge is perfect for the teen/tween audience it is aimed at. While it observes many aspects of romance and emotions it doesn’t go beyond the school room. The Young Adult Library Services of America chose it as one of the 2014 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens. It’s a wonderful slice of life high school drama that retains its innocence while satisfying romance fanatics of all ages and genders.

The Media: Strobe Edge is available in 10 volumes from Viz Media’s Shojo Beat imprint. In Japan the series has had a vomic (voice-over comic where the panels were read by seiyuu), two drama CDs, and now a live action movie on March 14, 2015.

Heart of Manga Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

I highly recommend this series for shoujo manga lovers. It’s a wonderful slice of life story with admirable characters and gorgeous art.

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Super mom and teacher until the kids go to bed, then romance manga addict and writer until the caffeine wears out! Specializes in the shoujo and josei genre of manga and anime.
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  • I read and reviewed the first four volumes and planed on buying volumes 5-10 when it all came out but never got around to it. What I read was really enjoyable as when it came out it felt like a change from the glut of supernatural romance series that had been released at the time.

    • Yes, it is a nice change from the supernatural romance. I’m all about promoting this series because I’d like to see more of these types of shoujo manga here. Highly recommend you finish it!

      • Yeah well that ship has sailed it’s one of those series I can put on my “pile of shame” as unfinished for me.

  • Awesome review! I’ve been really putting this off because the premise bothered me that the love interest already had a girlfriend. I understand because I have been in that situation where the person I like is in a relationship, but it feels wrong to try and involve yourself with that person.

    • Then you’d really relate with Ninako. Because she doesn’t try to interfere with his relationship. She really tries to support him and be nice to him. He ends up interacting with her because of events at school and at work. Nothing is ever intentional on their parts, it just ends up becoming circumstances.

      I know you like the supernatural stories, but this is one of the really good slice of life series Shojo Beat has to offer, along with Kimi ni Todoke and We Were There.

      • Hmm then I will have to check it out! 😀 I like supernatural, but it is a nice change to read a slice of life series every once in a while! Thanks again!!

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