Search This Blog

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Manga Review: Strobe Edge GN 10

Strobe Edge volume 10
Author: Io Sakisaka
Viz Media/Shojo Beat
184 pages
Ninako loves Ren, but seeing Ando get hurt while protecting her makes her feel sad and confused - to the point where she turns Ren down when he confesses his love for her! Has Ninako lost her chance with Ren? Or will they find a way to be together? (Source: Shojo Beat)
With this volume, the story of Strobe Edge comes to a close. What this story has been since the beginning is the relationship between Ninako and Ren, the evolution of it and the possibilities between them. And for many readers, it's been an enjoyable but slightly frustrating ride, watching them grow closer only to fall back and letting the cycle repeat several times. 
But the series finale puts to rest the indecision. You will walk away from this volume knowing their fate, no questions about it.

The thing about Strobe Edge's tenth volume and the bulk of it is an acknowledgment on manga-ka Io Sakisaka's behalf that what has driven the series is Ninako's love for Ren and Ren's eventual realization that he has feelings for Ninako. While Ando's courtship of Ninako and Ninako's own friends have factored into Strobe Edge, it's been the question of Ninako/Ren that the title has really been about. So this is what the manga's finale focuses on, mostly.
I love Ninako in this book. She has become a decisive force in her own life, and this shows in both her conversation with Ando and her confession to Ren about her true feelings. And while it isn't easy for her, and it's not exactly the way she wants it to go, she is open and candid about what she wants and how she feels, and that is not an easy feat in itself. So when Ren answers Ninako, it's a relief for everyone, the reader included, that Ninako's greatest efforts to date don't go without equal response.
Strobe Edge has had no qualms about marking Ninako and Ren as endgame. But it's been obvious since the beginning that, were that to take place, both people would have to open up completely to one another. So the conversation between them at the station is a welcome scene to read. It blows apart all the shojo-type obfuscation that has kept them from being honest in earlier volumes. It's hard to read it and still be frustrated about them.
I still feel for Ando, who is obviously still in love with Ninako. But he realizes the writing on the wall, and he is on his way to accepting it. He doesn't hold it against either Ninako or Ren. Plus, we have Ando's ex-girlfriend waiting in the wings, ready to make Ando realize her feelings for him. That would be an interesting relationship to unfold, but not in this series.
There is a super cute side story – the last side story in Strobe Edge! - about Manabu and his first great romance. He's so incredibly adorable in this short, I imagine this alone will gain him a few more fans in the eleventh hour. This is followed by a bonus chapter around Ninako and Ren's first date. First date! It manages to pack it some time honored shojo tropes while still remaining the quirky and open story Strobe Edge has been known for. I'm not gonna tell you if Ninako and Ren kiss, though. You'll have to find that out for yourself!
The art has always been consistently good for Strobe Edge, and the finally is no different in this respect. Io Sakisaka gives a lot of attention to characters' facial expressions as well as the emotional tone of each scene. She can flip between humor and drama easily, which is something that happens in this series a fair bit. She also knows when to drop the background and let the characters' actions be the focus, as in the train station confession scene.
Also, as a bonus, between chapters Io Sakisaka talks extensively about the process and bits in Strobe Edge that were actually foretelling future events. I loved reading about Ren's love squeezes and how Ninako's character came into being. She even apologizes about an error on Ando's profile page from several volumes back, which I had not noticed until she brought it up.

It's sad to see Strobe Edge go – it's been one of the most enjoyable titles that Shojo Beat has brought out recently – but I've been immensely satisfied by its finale, and I imagine most readers will too. For those who have been patiently following the romantic saga of Ninako and Ren for this long, prepare to fall in love with them all over again.