In the previous volume, Ando freaked Ninako out by suddenly kissing her. This volume starts where the last one left off. Ren, without knowing the full situation, helps Ninako hide from Ando and regain her composure. However, he's still trying to keep his distance from her so that other girls at their school will stop bullying her, so he makes her leave him alone by telling her she annoys him.
Ninako soon figures out this was a lie, and their relationship goes back to the way it was: Ninako continues to be friends with Ren while also nursing unrequited love for him, while Ren continues to be friends with Ninako while also still dating his girlfriend.
Ando is very much part of the mix now, though, and he's determined not to stand by and watch as Ninako and Ren's relationship potentially becomes something more. He has realized that he's in love with Ninako and wants her to feel the same way about him. His first step is to make sure he spends at least as much time around Ninako as Ren does, so when Ninako and Ren get a job at a cafe, he makes sure to get a job at the same cafe.
The first volume of this series was so-so, but the second was fabulous. Sadly, this one took the series back to so-so.
My biggest problem with this series is that Ninako and Ren, the series' main couple (unless Sakisaka decides to do something completely shocking and pair Ninako up with Ando), don't really excite me. Sakisaka thankfully abandoned the first volume's set-up, which had Ninako believing absolutely everything anyone told her, but, even so, Ninako still isn't the brightest crayon in the box. She adjusts to new information really easily, but this volume featured a couple misunderstandings on her part that should have been easy to avoid.
Ren continues to be a mystery. He's been shown to be excellent at reading people, and yet he seems to be incapable to examining his own feelings, or he'd have realized what everyone else already knows, that he probably likes Ninako as more than just a friend. At some point, he's going to have to have some kind of an epiphany and make a decision. Either that, or Ninako will have to choose to move on and stop pining over him.
It's frustrating that, so far, readers have gotten a better look at what's going on in Ando's head than in Ren's. I need more than that in order to root for Ninako and Ren and, three volumes in, Sakisaka still hasn't given me much. I'm still rooting more for Ando than I am for Ren, if only because I feel like I know Ando better. This volume even gave Ando a few more points in his favor, because it showed him making a conscious decision to abandon his playboy ways in order to devote himself more to catching Ninako's eye.
I'm not really sure how well Sakisaka has planned things out. Not only is Ando more interesting than Ren, Daiki has become almost unnecessary. He got maybe a couple scenes in this entire volume, only one of which had any purpose as far as furthering the story went – he mentioned to his girlfriend that his dad might get remarried, which will likely lead to bumpy emotional times for Mayuka, Ren's girlfriend. I can just see it now: Mayuka's dad tells her he's getting remarried just as Ren realizes he loves Ninako. Because Ren is so very nice, he won't want to break up with Mayuka while she's going through such a rough time. At some point she'll be forced to tell him that it's okay for him to go be with Ninako, because she likes him, wants him to be happy, and can see how much he likes Ninako.
Since I plan to continue reading this series, I suppose I'll get to see if I'm right. I can't seem to stop myself from hoping that Ninako and Ando end up together, though.
More author freetalks: this time, Sakisaka writes in detail about her workflow. She also writes about a few random other things, and mentions her chinchillas in her comments at the very end of the volume.
Read-alikes and Watch-alikes:
- Kimi ni Todoke: From Me to You (manga) by Karuho Shiina; Kimi ni Todoke - From Me to You (anime TV series) - If you'd like another good, complicated school romance with a really likable heroine, you might want to try this. I've written about the first three volumes of the manga and both seasons of the anime.
- High School Debut (manga) by Kazune Kawahara - Something about Ninako reminds me of Haruna, the heroine of this series. Haruna is a cheerful and athletic girl who, now that she's in high school, would finally like a boyfriend. Unfortunately, she doesn't have a clue how to get one. She ends up enlisting the help of a cool-looking guy named Yoh, who agrees to help her on the condition she not fall in love with him. Well, of course that doesn't last long. Yoh, like Ren, is quiet and doesn't smile often, but he turns out to be pretty nice. I've written about the first four volumes.
- Skip Beat! (manga) by Yoshiki Nakamura; Skip Beat! (anime TV series) - I don't think this is quite as appropriate a read-alike as the other two, but those who'd like another romance starring a really likable and sometimes dense heroine who's not afraid to do things that are painful or tough for her may want to try this. I've written about both the anime and lots of the manga volumes.
- Alice 19th (manga) by Yuu Watase - I don't know that this is the best read-alike - it's more of a fantasy story than a school story, and there's quite a bit of supernatural action and danger. Also, one of the heroine's big problems is that she is too shy to really say what's on her mind, whereas the thing that everyone likes about Ninako is that she's so open and honest. However, as in Strobe Edge, there's a very painful love triangle - Alice has a huge crush on her older sister's boyfriend. Alice learns that she's a "Lotus Master," someone whose words have power. Unfortunately, she gets into an argument with her sister and must then save her from the dark forces that threaten to swallow her up. Her feelings for her sister's boyfriend complicate things.