Monday, February 1, 2021

REVIEW: The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (manga, vol. 2) by Ririko Tsujita, translated by Ray Yoshimoto

The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko is a school manga with romance elements (although so far nothing conclusive involving the main character). It was originally licensed by Tokyopop and is now out of print. I believe I bought my copy brand new.

This review includes slight spoilers.


Once again, this series is pretty episodic. In the first chapter, Kanoko has transferred to a new school where a "cutesy" girl and an "all-natural" girl appear to be engaged in a battle over Minami, one of the guys in their class. In the second chapter, Kanoko has transferred to yet another new school. This time her attention is caught by a pair of guys - one sees himself as the class star while the other is just as good at a lot of the same things but refuses to even try to steal the spotlight. In the third chapter, Kanoko opts to be on the sidelines of a movie set - someone on set appears to be trying to hurt one or more of the actresses, and Kanoko is intrigued by the mystery. In the fourth chapter, Kanoko has transferred to another new school, where she watches the drama unfold between a girl who lives in her own romantic fantasy world and a cranky guy who lives in his older brother's shadow.

The volume ends with Tsujita's debut story, "The Moon to the East, the Sun to the West." Yoko is naturally expressionless, which leads a lot of people to misunderstand her - everyone except her childhood friend and boyfriend, Daikichi. He's loved Yoko for years, and Yoko has become accustomed to having him around, so it surprises her when he stops by one evening to tell her that he'll be moving away soon and wants to break up. Why was he crying when he said that, and how does Yoko really feel about this situation?

Huh. According to Wikipedia, although this series is 3 volumes long, it somehow spawned an 11-volume spinoff. I don't really get it, because it already feels like the author is running out of ideas.

The first couple chapters were pretty good, albeit more of the same sort of thing the first volume offered. I liked the way the first chapter subverted reader expectations, and after so many chapters featuring various kinds of "mean girls," I liked that the second chapter focused on male classmates. Their teacher was fun too, even though her manipulative behavior felt kind of wrong (even if it did have a positive result).

Unfortunately, the third chapter didn't feel like it fit in at all. As usual, Kanoko was people watching, but it was like she'd wandered out of her own series and onto one of the sets in Skip Beat. The explanation for why she was allowed to continue being on set was extremely weak, and the story itself was kind of confusing, definitely the weakest part of the series thus far.

The final Kanoko-related chapter in the volume tried to return to the "school drama" stories of the rest of the series, but it didn't work very well. Yumemi's commitment to living in her own fantasy world was too over-the-top for me, even though I sympathized with her motivation.

The bonus story was surprisingly decent, even though I don't normally like it when manga volumes include authors' debut one-shots. Yoko, like Kanoko, was an unconventional heroine, someone whose face was constantly impassive no matter how she really felt (granted, her emotions didn't seem to be very intense). Meanwhile, her boyfriend wore his heart on his sleeve. Their relationship didn't exactly give me warm fuzzy feelings, but I did like the way things worked out in the end.

This series really would have worked fine as a one-shot. In fact, Tsujita did such a good job with the first and last chapters in volume 1 that it made this one feel unfocused. Also, it was kind of odd that the only friend of Kanoko's from the first volume who showed up in this one was Tsubaki (who was baffled and maybe a little annoyed that Kanoko was completely uninterested in him and not at all embarrassed about sharing a hotel room with him).


Four-panel comics after a few of the chapters, an author sidebar, and a 2-page afterword by the author.

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