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Monday, April 21, 2014

Manga Review: Strobe Edge GN 9

Strobe Edge volume 9
Author: Io Sakisaka
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
192 pages
Ren decides to tell Ninako his feelings for her after the Sports Festival, but he's afraid she may have already moved on! Meanwhile, Ando and his ex, Mao, keep crossing paths... How will Ando react when he hears her shocking revelation? (Source: Shojo Beat)
I'm taking solace in the fact that the ninth volume of Strobe Edge is the second to last, because I know everything will be resolved in the next and final book. I wanted more resolution in this volume, but it didn't happen! But it did set up the stage for a volatile but inevitable emotional confrontation between the series' main players - Ninako, Ren, and Ando. Which is good, because I think waiting for these kids to realize how they feel about each other and say it aloud is making me prematurely gray.

The ninth volume was a little frustrating to read, but I can't lie: it was a good frustration. It only heightens the sense of stress that the characters feel in their daily interactions, made complicated by emotions and relationship residue. And it made me realize how human and damaged these characters are, either by other people or by their own faults.
Ren is afraid to reveal his true feelings because he's been hurt by past relationships and also he thinks Ninako has moved on. Ninako can't tell Ren she still loves him because Ninako assumes her actions will permanently damage Ren and Ando's friendship. And Ando is left pining for a girl who doesn't feel the same way, falling back into old patterns when his heart is broken, and followed by an old flame who might be getting ready to hurt him all over again.
Ren/Ninako fans: this is not the volume you are looking for. This volume will leave you angry, bewildered, and wanting to throttle Ren until he passes out. Ando fans, you might not like this one either. But you will want to scoop your favorite boy up and hug him until he feels better. Daiki fans, I dunno. He's not really in this one? Toda fans, rejoice! Toda gets to do stuff and be more developed as a character!
Plus, this volume is yet another good one for Ninako and her friends. Strobe Edge continues to be a great title for female friendships, and it's obvious that Ninako's friends have her back. I only wish more shojo heroines had that kind of support during their romantic issues. And Ninako also has Toda, who gives her guidance during a critical time and serves as a person to look up to, someone who sends out positive vibes in moments of stress. And Ninako is still Toda's little peanut, which I find incredibly adorable.
What Strobe Edge does best is emotionally resonance, and this volume brings it in spades. The tension between Ninako and Ren is so palpable, it becomes painful, and the crucial night-time scene between Ninako and Ando will certainly destroy some people upon reading. The story is almost over, but it's not slowing down. Having said that, if the tenth and final book doesn't deliver on making matches and healing hearts, all this crucial build up might end up being for nothing.

The final volume of Strobe Edge will be released by Shojo Beat in early May of this year.