Kanoko Naedoko, a third-year student in junior high, doesn’t want to make friends and keeps to herself. Which is fine by her because then she can be the ideal “objective observer.” Steamy love triangles, school gossip and courtyard politics only mean more data for Lady Kanoko! Bus when she befriends some of her classmates, what will happen to Kanoko? Will she become more than just an observer?
The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko is another new title from Tokyopop, but there is no doubt about it potential. It is filled with great characters and good stories, with a touch of something almost magical about Kanoko. But the fact that she isn’t just makes the title that much more fun.
Kanoko Naedoko is the protagonist, and one of the best shoujo leads I’ve ever read. She is self-assured, speaks her mind, and doesn’t care what others think of her. She’s cute, but not overly pretty and wears glasses. She thinks of herself as “perfect objective observer.” She watches everyone in her class, taking notes about them. She likes the drama of all the relationships she sees around her; supposed friends who snipe nicely at each other, or couples that might be hiding something from each other. She doesn’t have any friends and eats alone, because she doesn’t want to get involved in any dramas herself. She just wants to watch.
But she does get involved, in the first chapter. She is drawn into the triangle between Natsukasa, Hanai and Tsubaki, the most popular kids in her grade. Even though she tries to stay the “objective observer,” she ends up becoming friends with all three, changing them as well as herself, (some what), though she says it’s “just this once. But it doesn’t end up to be “just this once,” at least not the non-involvement.
The stories in this title are mostly serial in nature. Most every chapter has Kanoko transferring to a new school so that she can observe a new group of kids. Every time she picks a new subject, she ends up helping them in some way, whether it’s to help expose a liar, or stand up to some boys who are planning to embarrass another girl, Kanoko’s rule of non-involvement is shattered. While this constant changing of schools is a plot device that’s not very believable, it gives Kanoko an almost magical feeling, like in Mushishi, or Hell Girl. She appears at the school, gets involved with someone with a problem, helps them with it and then is gone. What I really like about this is that there isn’t really anything magical about Kanoko. It’s her knowledge and observations about people that solve the problems, not anything magical or supernatural. You could say she’s a sort of detective, but I didn’t really feel that connection.
There aren’t very many recurring characters in this title. The friends she makes in the first chapter become the only other recurring characters in the series beside Kanoko’s family, especially Tsubaki. He always seems to have a reason to be near Kanoko’s new school, whether it’s a basketball game or a relative’s funeral. And he always gets roped in to helping her. I really liked Tsubaki. He started out seeming very aloof and uninterested in Kanoko, until she told him off. Her disinterest in him seems to have intrigued him. I definitely want to see more of Tsubaki.
I really enjoyed The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko. The stories were well written, and there was a good variety of characters to keep it interesting. The stories themselves ran the risk of becoming too episodic, but Tsubaki’s appearances kept that from happening. This first volume had more comedy than romance, though there does seem to be potential for Kanoko and Tsubaki. This volume was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait for the next!