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YALSA GGNT Top Ten Manga: Strobe Edge Volume 1-6

Ninako Kinoshita has no idea what love is. Her friends think they know, and they try to tell her it’s her feelings for Daiki, a boy she’s known since middle school. But it’s not until she talks to Ren Ichinose, the handsome, enigmatic guy that all the girls worship, that she starts to understand. Ren is already dating someone, so she becomes Ren’s friend, despite her increasing feelings. Ando, one of Ren’s friends, starts to have feeling for Ninako, and a strange love triangle develops around them, as relationships change and feelings grow.

YALSA GGNT Top Ten Manga: Strobe Edge Volume 1-6
By Io Sakisaka
Viz Media, Nov 2012-Sept 2013
ISBN: 978-1421550688, 978-1421550695, 978-1421550701, 978-1421552705, 978-1421553139, 978-1421553146
216 pgs., $9.99 USD

At the 2014 American Library Association Midwinter conventions, YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association announced their Great Graphic Novels list for 2014. Of the 78 titles listed, 10 of them were manga. Strobe Edge Volumes 1-6 were among them. It is a romance that asks the all important question: What is love? This manga is a realistic look at teenage relationships and how they evolve as people change and grow.

Strobe Edge is a romance that looks at love from a different perspective. Ninako has never thought about being in love before, so when the girls in her class mistake her friendship with Daiki for that feeling, it starts her on a road to discovering what being in love really means. She does discover it pretty quickly, in her chance meeting with Ren on the train going home. It starts out with what appears to be a love triangle between Ninako, Daiki, and Ren, but it doesn’t go that way. Instead one of Ren’s friends, Ando, is introduced, and he falls in love with Ninako. They become the central love triangle of the series.

Love triangles are fairly standard in romance, but the difference in this series is the way everyone decides to deal with their feelings. Ninako, after she is rejected by Ren, she doesn’t resent him. She knows her feelings are real, and they mean something to her. She doesn’t just give them up. She still wants to be friends with him, even if it means hurting when she sees him with his girlfriend or pushing her feelings down so he doesn’t see them.

Ando becomes interested in Ninako and tries to dissuade her from wanting to be with Ren. He offers to be her “rebound” boyfriend, to help her forget about Ren, and fall in love with him. Ando seems to have an ulterior motive at first, but he soon finds himself in the same boat as Ninako: in love with someone who loves someone else. But Ando isn’t above being ruthless and uses Ren’s feeling and guilt from a past incident against him. To Ninako’s credit, she remains true to her feelings for Ren, never even considering Ando’s offer, all the more because she knows exactly how he feels.

Ren is stuck in the middle, with no where to go. He is in a relationship with Mayuka, a girl a few years older than him who has become a successful model. Ren made a promise to Mayuka to never change, but both soon come to realize the promise is impossible to keep. Mayuka comes to the realization that their priorities have changed, and as unlikely as it seems, she is the one that takes the steps needed for them both to move forward. The moment when she reaches this realization is simple yet profound.

Surrounding Ren and Ninako are a great cast of supporting characters. Ninako has several friends in her class who understand her feelings and support her through the difficult time she has after being rejected by Ren publicly. One of her friends, Sayuri, has feelings for Daiki, and they stay friends after Ninako rejects him, and Sayuri starts going out with him. Ren has two really good friends too. Manabu is the happy-go-lucky type while Yu is the more responsible one. Both really care about Ren and want to see their friend be happy. Manabu sees how Ninako makes Ren happy, and wants them to be together, but Yu has to remind him that Ren has a girlfriend already. Both are great characters, and I enjoyed seeing two guys being just as worried about their friend as girls are usually shown.

Sakisaka’s art is very cute. The characters’ eyes are large and round, giving them an adorable look. Ninako isn’t designed to be too pretty or fashionable. She looks average and relatable. Even the guys who are supposed to be hot, Ren and Ando, don’t quite cross the line into the “beautiful boys” category. There is a lot of variety in the character designs, making it easy to tell them apart.

Strobe Edge is wonderful series with situations that teens can relate to. Finding that first love, being turned down, and understanding the difference between true love and a simple crush are all things teenages are going through. Showing them through the characters’ eyes is a great way for them to see all the angles. No feelings are spared, from the ugliness of petty jealousy to the spite of perceived betrayal to the doubts couples can feel about each other—it’s all shown on these pages, but without feeling preachy. Teens can appreciate this series for what it is: A fantastic story about finding and taking hold of love.

 Review copies provided by publisher

Lori Henderson About Lori Henderson

Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!

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