When I recently picked up and finished the officially translated version of Strobe Edge Volume 9, it left me in one of those really bad awkward cliffhanger moments… and usually I’m really good with those because I have enough patience to wait for the physical copy. However, I made a special exception to Strobe Edge because I knew its fan-translations were all finished and I REALLY wanted to know what happened. Needless to say, Strobe Edge has become my absolute favourite shojo series. Ever. Like. Ever. And despite all the other manga I’ve been experimenting with in the past two weeks, I haven’t been able to find anything suitable to replace it in my shojo heart.
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS – avoid if you’re not there yet. Please keep in mind that my rating is in context of comparing Strobe Edge as a shojo manga strictly to other series in the genre.
We know what Ren and Ninako become a couple in the end. We know it from the moment that Ninako confesses to Ren at the train station and he turns her down. From then on, Ninako’s witnessed Ren date Mayuka and then break up with Mayuka, Ninako’s fended off pursuits from Ando and somehow managed to find small bits of happiness in her unrequited love with Ren. Ren’s the quiet but sweet and devoted type. Once he has a girlfriend, he’ll stay with her no matter what and that’s ultimately what led to his break up with Mayuka. Both needed to take a big step away from each other because both of them had changed. Mayuka placed her career first when she realizes that Ren’s feelings had somewhat shifted. Ninako never even acknowledges Ren’s feelings for her as a possibility. After being rejected, I would imagine she’s deathly afraid of going anywhere near there so she’s content with keeping him at arms length as a friend as much as she wishes things were different.
MVPs of the series would have to be Ando. Despite having his girlfriend ditch him for Ren in the past, and his unrequited love for Ninako, he still urged Ninako to go after her true love after he found out that Ninako rejected Ren out of attention to Ren and Ando’s friendship.
Runner up MVPs on the side of supporting characters must be Tsukasa and Manebu. I LOVE them so much and I really feel like Ren and Ninako wouldn’t have wrapped things up as quickly as they did without the gentle but insistent push from both of them. Take the class trip, for instance, when Ren and Ninako’s group decides to start at Kita Kamakura, Manbu and Tsukasa (dragging Ando long with them) schedule a totally opposite route to give Ren and Ninako some privacy.
Character that I wish the story focused more on is definitely Yu. Although his back story wrapped up nicely, I wish he was given a bonus short on the side. Even Manebu got a love story spotlight! The moment when Yu realizes that his breakup with Sayuri was a mistake, when he breaks down in regret just before the flash back ends, my heart broke for him and it’s one of those rare moments amidst shojo fluff stories and plot that I will never forget…
Of course if we’re speaking of heart-wrenching and tear-jerking moments we have to look to Ren and Ninako’s confession moments. Io Sakisaka planned the story well in that Ninako was the one to make the decisive move on Ren. Despite Ren’s confession to Ninako after acknowledging his feelings for her, she’s totally stunned at what to do. She’s been functioning so long with her feelings for Ren locked in a box that she’s a little afraid to embrace the thought of a relationship. Unlike a large other handful of male protagonists, Ren isn’t pushy. He doesn’t use his looks or charm to sidle up to Ninako and pressure her into an answer. Although he’s indecisive about his feelings for Ninako after his breakup with Mayuka (which is understandable), he doesn’t hesitate to chase after her even knowing that he’ll end up competing with Ando again. Ninako’s confession is shining moment when she reconciles her internal struggle and musters up the courage to confess to Ren again. Her story inspires girls to patiently persevere even when it seems like your crush isn’t interested or available at the moment. There’s nothing wrong with having feelings for someone and you shouldn’t try to quash them for the sake of others because those feelings are precious to you; that’s what Ninako’s character ultimately represents and I feel that the story did a wonderful job of bringing that across as well as displaying both the importance of platonic love and romantic love.
One of the sweetest moments in the last chapter is when Ninako is chosen as one of the class cheer leaders and while she’s fumbling in her position and criticized by some jerks at the back of the class, Ren actually steps in and stands up for her… Sorry, that’s not the sweetest moment though. Did I mention that Ninako takes a wrong step on the chair and falls? Ren catches her in a full on hug and the class is just SHOCKED. I mean. SHOCKED. And I was shocked too. It was something of an accident that could have gone horribly wrong, turned into an immensely sweet moment.
Now that I’ve reached the end of my spiel, I encourage you to read Strobe Edge. Despite the story having a large cast, no one is underdeveloped as a character and all come to have well rounded personal stories without taking too much attention from the main cast. Some people have rated the art low but I think a fine blend of realism and shojo manga style emerges from the character’s eyes, the facial expressions and the landscape portrayal during dramatic moments of the story. Sakisaka has a really unique style that grows on you and makes each of the characters naturally distinguishable. I never found myself squinting to figure out who was talking to who.
To be honest, this isn’t really a story for boys or fans outside the genre of shojo. For readers who readily leap at shojo stories with all their typical romance elements but with a refreshing new twist in art style and dialogue, this is the one to go to. I mean, life is hard and finding a boyfriend or girlfriend can be harder, even when we have a significant other, life’s not that romantic… that’s why we read shojo. And it’s stories like Ninako and Ren or Sayuri and Daiki’s that make your inner fairytale loving romance dreaming fangirl glitter. If the guys out there are looking for something emotional to get in touch with their soft sides, go ahead and give this a try. You might find yourself empathizing with Ren, Ando, Yu or Manebu who’s stories reflect all four perspectives you could possibly get caught in.
Even though I’ve finished the series, I’m still waiting on the official copies to be released and I’ll happily pay for them because Strobe Edge is a really, really great series. Anyway, this is what I had to say about Strobe Edge and I hope you enjoyed this review/rant. Thank you so much for reading and I will talk to you all soon!
What are you pondering today?