Ando confesses his feelings to Ninako and tells her she should use him to get over Ren. Ninako refuses, because she doesn't think it's right to date one guy while she still loves another. Ando warns her that, eventually, she'll start to want more from Ren than he'll be able to give. It will hurt, he tells her, but Ninako refuses to believe him.
Ren has started to clue in to his own feelings, but that's not necessarily a good thing, because he's still dating Mayuka. Because he's a nice guy, his realization that he likes Ninako makes him miserable. The things he feels when he's around Ninako feel like a betrayal of Mayuka, which leaves him with two choices: either spend as little time around Ninako as possible, or break up with Mayuka.
Meanwhile, Daiki's relationship with Sayuri is going pretty well, until sudden news puts him in the position of choosing between his father and Sayuri.
Ren finally realized he likes Ninako, which was great. Honestly, I'm amazed it took him this long. There were several nice moments of him noticing her as a girl he has feelings for, rather than just as a girl he is friends with. He couldn't really say much about what he was thinking and feeling, not without feeling even worse. Part of me is hoping that he'll reach a point when he won't be able to keep it in anymore and will finally have to vocalize it all. Part of me is dreading that moment, because it'll be upsetting for everyone involved.
Daiki and Sayuri had some nice moments in this volume, as they came to a crossroads in their relationship. At first, Daiki did the stereotypical thing, basically making a decision for the both of them while telling himself that he was thinking of her and what would be best for her. I liked that Ninako told him off for this and that Daiki and Sayuri got another opportunity to sit down and talk.
But here's the thing. Daiki and Sayuri aren't the couple I read this series for, and most of the stuff that was going on in the Mayuka/Ren/Ninako/Ando love polygon was pretty predictable. I mean, I predicted some of the things that happened in this volume in my review of volume 3, and there's still room for the rest of what I predicted to come true.
The one thing that caught me by surprise was Ando and his behavior. I had expected him to try to spend as much time with Ninako as possible and do his best to win her over. Instead, he forced himself to behave the same as usual around her. His primary strategy involved pushing Ren away by convincing Ren than he and Ninako were becoming closer than they really were. I wasn't entirely happy with this, because it seemed to emphasize his worst aspects. He's not as nice as Ren, and he doesn't mind playing dirty. As a character, I still prefer him over Ren, but the things that make him interesting also give Ninako reasons to eventually choose Ren over him. Poor Ando.
All in all, this volume was okay, and I plan to continue reading the series. However, I hope that Sakisaka shakes things up soon. Yes, the ending of a romantic manga series is often predictable, Character A will end up with Character B, but the journey to get there shouldn't be, and so far that's not the case with Strobe Edge.
A few notes from the author about random things, like some of the fan mail she's received and the fact that she doesn't listen to music when she's trying to plot a story.
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. However, fans of Strobe Edge might enjoy this series' love triangle (Alice, the main character, is in love with her sister's boyfriend). Also, Ren and Alice have a lot in common: neither one of them finds it easy to say what they're really thinking and feeling, which lands them both in a lot of trouble.