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