It’s time to look at a romance manga. Naturally that will cause some alarm bells to ring off and with good reason since it’s rare for romance to be handled well and especially when it’s the main focus of a whole series. However, you could make the case that because romance is the main plot of this series it may be given more attention and the author will do a better job of depicting it. Unfortunately, this isn’t true, but the manga does tackle some fairly interesting themes.
The manga follows a kid named Ninako who begins to like the most popular kid in the school, Ren. The problem is that he is already taken by a famous celebrity and they have been together for a very long time. This celebrity is the sister of Ninako’s childhood friend Daiki who liked Ninako, but she turned him down. Ninako decides that it wouldn’t be right to try and get Ren and Mayuka to break up just so she can get together with him so she tries to hide her feelings. Unfortunately this begins to take a bigger and bigger strain on her so should she forget about the moral side of this and just go for it? She has some tough decisions to make.
That’s the big topic that the manga spends time with. It’s a complicated issue that has a very simple answer. Yes, if the person that you like is taken then you shouldn’t make a move. That person should be considered out of limits and you have to completely lose those feelings before you get into trouble. It’s so incredibly selfish to sabotage a relationship just so that you can insert yourself into the empty spot. Yeah, it’s pretty tragic for Ninako here, but she’s just got to live with it. She gets advice from her friends on both sides. One suggests that if the relationship is so weak that it can be broken then it should be broken. That sounds like pretty bad advice if you ask me. It’s all just trying to justify this action. Ninako does a good job of showing restraint for a while, but unfortunately she does begin to break down by the end. I’ll still give her a thumbs up since it was Mayuka who forced her hand by breaking up with Ren, but that was also iffy.
Basically, Mayuka seemed to only break up with Ren because she figured he’d be happier with Ninako. So, now that she isn’t an option Ren is okay with being with her, but that should still make Ninako feel guilty the whole time. Ren and Mayuka would have likely been happy if not for her meddling. Mayuka also shouldn’t have conceded defeat so quickly. Then we’ve got a lot of other rebounding occurring at the school. After Daiki was rejected by Ninako he was accepted by one of her friends and they got together. Considering the short time span in between these two, it definitely doesn’t feel as genuine as it could be. Same with Ando going after Ninako and after getting rejected he quickly got together with someone else. It’s like the characters instantly move on to their second pick after getting rejected. Don’t the characters mind being the second pick?
There is definitely a lot of unrequited love in this series. It’s definitely an interesting theme for sure, but it didn’t have the right conclusion. What should have happened was Ninako realizing that she and Ren could never be together and deciding to instead just be friends. That way they would still hang out and she could enjoy their time again. The series would have had a bittersweet ending that way, but it would have been much better. Sometimes the friend zone is actually the best place to be since friendship is magic after all.
So yeah, Ninako is a solid Protagonist. She tends to have the right idea about how to handle the situations she’s in. Unfortunately, she is highly susceptible to peer pressure though and her friends often give her poor advice. She is also put into a lot of tough situations that keep on lowering her will power. Ninako’s resolve is good though and at the very least she doesn’t make any real moves on Ren until after the break up. She handles rejection better than the rest of the cast and while the ending is iffy on a lot of levels, the majority of it isn’t really her fault. Ren is the one who is the main culprit.
It’s just impossible to like Ren and even harder to sympathize with him. For starters, his friendship being broken with Ando was his fault. Ren allowed Ando’s girlfriend to get the jump on him and pull some moves before he broke away. Naturally Ando witnessed this and quickly stopped hanging out with Ren. I don’t even blame him because no matter how many times you explain that you were shocked and couldn’t move I wouldn’t believe it. Then Ren was with Mayuka for a long time, but still fell for Ninako. He wasn’t nearly as good as she was at holding in his feelings or not making it obvious in public. Naturally this wasn’t good for Mayuka especially since she was in a stressful period of trying to get her fashion gigs up and running. When Mayuka dumped Ren so he could be with Ninako, he should have kept on persisting that this wouldn’t happen. Perhaps if a few weeks or months had passed and Ren hadn’t gotten together with anyone then Mayuka would see that he was serious. Instead, he basically tried going after Ninako immediately which completely proved her to be correct. Ren is definitely the kind of guy that seems to play the field and while the manga tries to portray him as a really nice guy who always tries to make the right call, I wasn’t buying it. He causes at least 90% of the issues in the series.
Then we’ve got Daiki, the childhood friend. It’s a little sad for him at the start since the whole cast seems to think that he and Ninako are basically together. It’s what everyone expects and Ninako never really says anything to the contrary. As a result, when she rejects him it may seem kind of sudden, but that’s why you should never assume relationships. Of course, Daiki rebounded almost immediately so there went any possible sympathy you may have had for him. He’s also not a trust worthy friend to have as he admits to everyone that Mayuka is a celebrity and about her break up even though he was supposed to keep it under wraps. As a result, the full cast learned about this pretty quickly. Nah, Daiki’s not a quality character.
See, I would say that Ando is a good character since he’s certainly more fun than the others, but he has a lot of Captain Kirk tendencies. He gets around and has been with most of the girls at the school. He even has a reputation for that at school so if anyone wants a quick rebound they just meet up at his apartment. He tries to go away from that to be a more serious person, but completely regresses towards the middle when he’s in a slump. While he eventually gets out of that, you can’t help but wonder if he can stick to his resolve. He also goes for an instant rebound after Ninako dumps him and gets beat up in his only actual fight. Ando is very persistent, but overdoes it as Ninako really wants nothing to do with him.
Mayuka is a celebrity and Daiki’s sister so she plays a pretty big role in the series. However, while she is a solid character for a while, I don’t agree with how the plot ended. It seems to me like she ended up rejecting Ren just so he could end up with Ninako. I don’t really buy into the reasoning that her job got to be more important than him and that’s why she broke it off. She just felt like Ren was forcing himself to hang out with her which was unfortunately true. I guess it’s good to break up if you know that the person you’re with isn’t really into you and I should probably agree since I’m always against the rebound. Still, you should fight to stay with the person you like if that’s an option.
Sayuri is one of Ninako’s friends, but I’m not sure about how her plot line ended. See, it goes back to the rebound thing again as she’s going after the guy who liked Ninako but was rejected. Naturally they’re happy together now, but it’s just one of those things that I can’t get behind. She’s a nice enough person, but the romance probably should have been cut from the series and it would have benefited from it considerably. They could have kept the friend dynamic in place and it would have still worked. The series does try to pair up all of the big characters by the end, but that’s typically not a good thing.
Mao was probably the final main character to be introduced in the series. She does feel a little like a rather late inclusion to the series, but I guess she’s an okay character. Naturally she was shady in the past as she used Ando and basically made him become the isolated guy that he is today. She also managed to damage the bond between him and Ren for many years. There are some twists to this whole thing, but her betrayal does stand. Her redemption arc is decent I guess as she is certainly sincere but if you put yourself in Ando’s shoes it is really hard to just forgive and forget in this case. She’s not really my kind of character.
Most of the characters really weren’t all that good. They all were willing to go for quick rebounds so I have to blame both parties for that. I think that the only characters who didn’t go for a rebound were Ninako and Mayuka. They each picked just one person and stuck to that. I can’t be 100% about Mayuka in case there was a time skip at the end that I’m forgetting, but at the very least Ninako didn’t make that mistake. While she may have entertained the thought at times, she always knew that it would be the wrong decision and explained her correct reasoning on it. Rebounding just isn’t a good option at any time. Now you may wonder what the time frame is for the next relationship to not be a rebound, but it’s really hard to say. I’d say that it has to be at least a year or so, but that’s a very rough approximation.
The art is fairly good in the series. It’s less convoluted than some Shojo series, but isn’t nearly as crystal clear and colorful as others. I do think the author does a good job of not reusing too many panels the way that some slice of life/comedy titles tend to do. The chapters are easy to read and I’d give the art a pass. It’s not amazing, but it certainly isn’t bad either. It works well enough which is what counts. Strobe Edge’s atmosphere of light comedy which transitions to more serious drama works fairly well. At the very least, the manga never tries to get quite too serious and while sad, it doesn’t rub it in your face too much. With better writing or a different plot, this series probably could have went somewhere.
Overall, Strobe Edge is a romance series that tackles some important themes, but gives us the wrong answer to them. It’s like that movie about the two people who wanted to try and just be friends, but at the end lost and turned the whole message of the film upside down. The manga practically justifies all of the rebounds at the end and suggests that if your love is unrequited you either move on to someone else right away or sabotage the person that is in your way. Either way, it’s not exactly the answer I was looking for. It’s a pleasant enough series so it’s not hard to read or anything, but the romance isn’t good and since that’s the whole point of the series, its score was never going to be too high. If you don’t mind the romance or think you like this direction than you can probably add a few more stars to the series and check it out. At least the pacing is solid and it’s certainly better than some other romance titles like Vampire Knight, but you’re better off reading a more fun Shojo title like Sailor Moon.