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Strobe Edge, Vol. 1

One of the most maddening aspects of shojo manga is that it can take 100 or 200 pages for a character to realize what she’s feeling, and another 200 or 300 before she actually tells someone; only the British period drama wrings more tension from its characters’ inability to say what they’re thinking. Strobe Edge, the newest addition to VIZ’s Shojo Beat imprint, isn’t quite as drawn out as Parade’s End or The Remains of the Day, but there are enough meaningful glances, lip quivers, and moist eyes for an entire BBC mini-series.

Strobe Edge focuses on Ninako, a classic shojo everygirl: she’s cute but not gorgeous, bright but not brilliant, liked but not popular. Through a twist of fate, Ninako meets and befriends Ren, her school’s Designated Dreamboat. Ninako is initially happy to be Ren’s pal, but soon finds herself consumed with thoughts about  him: should she tell him how she feels and risk alienating him, or silently resign herself to being his friend?

Author Io Sakisaka certainly evokes the mixture of excitement and fear that grips anyone in the throes of a crush, but she’s less successful at expressing those ideas in a distinctive voice; Ninako is so utterly lacking in personality that everything she thinks and says sounds like a lyric from a Selena Gomez song. (“For some reason, my chest kinda aches,” she muses after one encounter with Ren.) That same blandly polished quality extends to the artwork. Though Sakisaka exercises restraint in her layouts, giving Ninako room to breathe and reflect, her character designs are too ordinary to make much of an impression; I swear I’ve seen this cover before.

Perhaps that’s the point — Sakisaka has created a story and heroine so generic that almost any young teenager could see parallels between her own life and Ninako’s. While that kind of reading experience can be enormously comforting at twelve or thirteen, it’s awfully dull for older readers who need a little more than thousand-mile stares and cryptic conversations to hold our attention; a little subtext or, frankly, context, would make all that angstful withholding more dramatically compelling.

Review copy provided by VIZ Media. Volume one will arrive in stores on November 6, 2012.


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  1. This has always been one of the problems with reviewing “genre” pieces for me after haveing read so much of a paticuler kind of work it becomes hard to difrintiate or see what makes it difrint from others or “good.”

    In compareson to something else also this is only the first volume so it could change drasticly I mean look at Honey and Clover or Fruits Basket started out light and kind “mehh” but by the end it built to something really good. Who knows this could happen with this title or it could be another Monkey High (Rember that one?LOL)

    • Katherine Dacey says:

      You’re right about reviewing popular genres, Aaron! After a while, it becomes increasingly difficult to approach the material with any sense of enthusiasm, as it feels like you’re reading the same story over and over again. I don’t know how Roger Ebert finds the energy or excitement to review movies every week; there’s only so much you can say about the latest bromance, cop flick, chick flick, or summer blockbuster.

      If I’d never read any shojo manga, or was just beginning to explore the literature, I would have liked Strobe Edge better. Since I’ve read 4,3276 manga* just like it, though, it didn’t make enough of an impression for me to stick with it.

      * Not an exact number.

  2. I only just got this from the library, I must agree, Ninako is just so boring and devoid of personality that I can’t honestly bring myself to care. And I don’t feel like any of the guys have enough personality to make up for inexplicably attracting themselves to the most boring girl in school. It reminds me of those harem manga where the main guy is a terrible person, yet has all these girls after him, except her sin is just being boring.

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