Shoujo – Romance, slice-of-life, drama
10 Volumes (complete)
Ninako is an ordinary girl who just doesn’t quite understand love. However, after the most popular boy in school, Ren, accidentally destroys her cell phone strap and replaces it, she starts to develop feelings for him. But Ren already has a girlfriend…
Sometimes one of the worst ways to ruin a series is to hear a lot of praise for it. If so many people like it and give it positive reviews, it feels like you may be setting yourself up to be disappointed. This series was on many people’s wish list when it was unlicensed and seems quite popular. Hetalia Axis Powers lived up to its hype, but this one I just did not get even after rereading it.
I will say the manga’s biggest strength is that the characters. It’s a normal romance, but I do not mean that in a bad way. These are characters who could easily be your next-door neighbors telling you about how they met. They’re all likable, which is rather amazing for any manga, let alone shoujo. So many manga involving relationships have a habit of making a potential or former love interest a horrible manipulator in order to stir up trouble between the main couple. Even Ninako, who if you list all her characteristics would normally be put in the “annoying shoujo protagonist” category, actually spends time thinking about her actions and considers others’ feelings instead of falling into the trap of being “overly optimistic cheerful glutton”. Cheers to Ren for not being a tsundere, especially not a jerky tsundere.
The downside is that there is no “wow” moment. The story is steady but never reaches a climatic moment; there’s progress but no major turn of events. I am not saying I was hoping Strobe Edge would be drama-heavy, but there really isn’t any scene that stands out. It’s like a chick flick or light comedy: it might be entertaining but unlikely to become a personal favorite or leave a long-lasting impression. I sympathized with Ninako, Ren, and the others, but I was not emotionally invested in them. I had no doubt as to how the story would end, especially when an ex was brought into the picture.
The manga does end at a nice spot. There is one epilogue after the couple gets together and that’s it. I am sure some people would like to continue to see their adventures, but in a series where the focus is on getting together, I actually prefer the way the author gracefully lets their story end instead of trying to keep the drama going. No long storylines about first experiences or new characters trying to force breakups.
Despite being rated T for teen, Strobe Edge is tame. Little to no foul language (none that I can recall off the top of my head) and only a few frames of suggestive themes. That combined with the text’s adaptation (see below) might make Strobe Edge a good choice for younger readers, especially those relatively unfamiliar with shoujo manga.
The art is pretty much typical shoujo style. Big eyes, big lips, and pretty faces. Sakisaka’s style is stable over the series and characters are distinguishable from each other. Ninako looks younger than her age but she is supposed to have a baby-face.
The translation is more…Americanized than average. No honorifics are used. This includes shortened nicknames (“Sayu-chan” is just “Sayuri”). Almost everyone calls each other by their first names. For instance, Ren also calls Ninako by her first name, despite referring to her as “Kinoshita-san” in the original. I was almost at the end of the series before I realized the guy named Yu was actually named Yutaro. Besides names, the text itself is also more loosely adapted. Ren is referred to in Japanese as the school’s idol, a common trope in shoujo manga. Viz’s adaptation says he’s the school’s pop star. Yes, America doesn’t really have the jack-of-all-trades that are Japanese idols, and we often use the word “idol” for “hero”. But who ever heard of a pop star that doesn’t sing? I also found mistakes like “Shin Sakuta” suddenly became “Shin Sakuda”.
A nice read, but I would not include it as one of my favorites or even a must-read. I would recommend borrowing from a friend or library if interested. I just did not find anything — a scene, character, something — that jumped out and grabbed my attention to make me say, “This is really good!” Strobe Edge is a nice manga but that’s it: nice.
I’m surprised Ao Haru Ride hasn’t been licensed yet, but I’m sure it’s one of Viz’s priorities since it just ended.