“Don’t think about what’s normal and what’s weird. All that matter is how we feel.”
– Sakaki Arata
A Strobe in the Darkness is a light-hearted BL romance written by Hayakawa Nojiko that tells the story of two childhood friends, Sakaki Arata and Miyamoto Shoutarou, who fall in love with one another. It is one of those manga that carefully touches upon the topics of homosexuality and the fears one holds when one falls in love with their own gender.
The story is sweet, cute and emotionally engaging. It is not heavily inclined to drama but there is this sensitive touch of subtlety that adds to the depth of the story. Each chapter is well written showing the dilemmas regarding their relationship (from confession to being in the relationship) that the main characters have to face in a very realistic and cute manner.
You see, the story is as cliché as it can get but when it is executed well, it can become more precious. Hayakawa Nojiko simply amazed me with this one. Every work that I have read from her so far is very well written and well executed. In fact, Kurayami ni Strobe manages to enter my Top five BL manga of all times.
What made this more special though is its characters. For me, the characters are the primary factor that can affect me when I am reading BL manga. The plot simply follows. It is a romance manga after all so the characters need to be as engaging, interesting and realistic as they can be. Arata and Shoutarou manages to become just like that.
I really love how Nojiko established Arata’s character. He has always liked his childhood friend, Shoutarou, for a very long time but he decided to bottle up all of his feelings with the fear of what other people might think. He is not just protecting himself but also Shoutarou.
“To be very careful is one of the steps that should be strictly followed. Do not expose it to any light. If it comes to contact with the faintest of light, all of the pictures you have taken would be ruined.”
This one is something Arata’s father told him when he was young about developing a film. It pretty much established what Arata believes that he had to do regarding his feelings. With the fear of ruining everything, he locks himself up in the darkness.
Even after they have confessed with one another, he is still bugged by the thought of what other people might think about them. He is trapped with the “this is not normal, therefore it is not right” mindset. It was even reinforced when one of their friends avoided them after discovering their relationship.
“Isn’t the most important thing here is how you and Miyamoto feel for each other?”
Good thing they have a friend (Hase) who showed some sense to him. After that, everything went quite well on his side.
Now, if Arata is very careful in showing his feelings to his lover to the point that he is being dishonest about it, Shoutarou, on the other hand, is very straightforward in displaying his affection to Arata. Saying “I love you” even to the public (at school) and etc.
I am really enamoured by his character. He is super cute and doesn’t care about what others might think. He knows that what he feels is what really important. I’ve seen some characters with the same personality but unlike them, he is not the least bit annoying. His every action shows that he really loves Arata.
The two have a really good chemistry and they balance out one another. I’d love to read more from them.
The side characters, Sawa and Hase, also got some chapters of their own in the manga but I’m not going to talk about it now. All I can say is, they’re also very interesting characters and the story between them is just as sweet as the first couple.
I think the art is one of the biggest factors for the cuteness of the story. I really love her style. It is well incorporated with symbols and the use of backgrounds is well thought of. The character designs are also something to brag about her work. Their faces are so expressive especially their eyes. You can say just by their look alone what they feel in every scene.
Also, those faces that the character makes (during comedic scenes) are really cute and funny. I feel that her drawings are effortless but still so beautiful. The sketches, the simplicity… everything.
This is a really great manga. I had so much fun reading and re-reading the sweetness of the story. Since this is a shounen-ai, there’s no explicit scenes shown which can disappoint some yaoi fans. But I think what’s more important here is that, the story is told with great care and the relationship feels true.
I’d definitely recommend this to all of my readers, whether you’re old or new fan of this genre. You will definitely like this one!