Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko Volume 2

By Ririko Tsujita. Released in Japan as "Warau Kanoko-sama" by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine LaLa DX. Released in North America by Tokyopop.

This volume didn't wow me quite as much as the first one, but that's more because I now know the characters and the basic themes. It's still a lot of fun, and as always the main reason for reading this series seems to be watching Kanoko snark at people, and Tsubaki stalk her.

The first chapter was probably the weakest, dealing with two rival girls each trying to get the attention of a guy. I liked the mention of putting on a 'fake personality', and how everyone does this a little bit and that it's not always bad. On the whole though, this part didn't gel for me. It was followed by a second chapter that was excellent, dealing with a boy who can't escape the shadow of his classmate... or rather, doesn't really want to. Discussing playing it safe versus taking a chance is always great, and is why this is a great series for teenagers - it seems to give desperately needed life lessons naturally. The chapter also gave us an overly perky teacher who turns out to be far more than what she seems. It's nice to see Kanoko actually impressed.

The longest chapter in the book is also the best, mostly as it gets out of the school classroom. They're filming a movie near Kanoko's current home (which is, I think, the first indication I got that her parents are actually constantly moving, as opposed to her just transferring all over the country for the hell of it.) Of course, rival actresses have a whole different set of issues from rival students, and Kanoko is glorying in playing her observation card. Naturally, Tsubaki is there as well, on a vacation (funny how that always works out - Kanoko is incredibly clueless about herself as always), and things actually take a turn for the serious here, as someone is trying to kill one of the actresses. Kanoko gets to play detective here, and ends up being pretty good at it. The best part, though, is seeing her talk Tsubaki into their sharing a room together so she can keep investigating, and his noting that it means "she isn't interested in me as a man". Given he's walking around the bedroom shirtless, it truly does boggle the mind.

The last Kanoko chapter of the book involves a boy who can't get out of the shadow of his older brother, and an overly optimistic girl who enjoys "making up fantasies" about people to cheer them up (well, more accurately, to cheer herself up.) That's her on the cover, horrifying Kanoko and Tsubaki with her re-imagining the series as a reverse harem. Fantastic cover, by the way. Yumemi actually turns out to be the star of this chapter, and manages to save the day with a little help from Kanoko. And once again we find Kanoko having her own advice turned back on herself, as she keeps trying to convince herself that she's an outside observer.

There's a short story at the end of this that is unrelated, but proved better than I'd expected. It was Tsujita's debut comic for LaLa DX, and has a girl who has difficulty showing her emotions trying to figure out why her boyfriend, who wears his heart on his sleeve, broke up with her. Understated and cute, it's easy to see from this why she was picked up as a regular artist.

Sadly, this is likely it for Kanoko. We're not sure if Tokyopop's titles will be license rescued or what happens to them, but I'm going to assume we won't see the last volume of this until told otherwise. I have the 3rd volume in Japanese, and from what I can gather it gets into what the heck her parents do that has them moving so often, and somewhat resolves her relationship with Tsubaki and her other two friends from his school. It's somewhat open-ended, but that's OK, as we now have the ongoing adventures of Kanoko and Tsubaki in high school (along with a few of the one-shot characters from Kanoko-sama, including Yumemi from this volume), Koi Dano Ai Dano, which is currently running in LaLa DX. It's a shame this was cancelled, as it's a fantastic series for young teens, even with the overly busy art that's typical of Hakusensha.

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