The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (Warau Kanoko-sama, meaning "Smiling Lady Kanoko") tells the story of Kanoko Naedoko and her episodic misadventures.
Kanoko Naedoko constantly changes schools but she never makes friends and doesn't get along with people very well... which is more than okay with her... as she considers herself a perfect observer.
Her hobby is observing the students in all of the different schools she is transferred to, indeed her notes are journals of the most colorful classroom drama.
Warau Kanoko-sama was serialized in the LaLa DX magazine from 2007 to 2009 and later compiled into three volumes. Tokyopop licensed it in the US, but only released two of the volumes until its shutdown.
It also has a sequel named "Koi Dano Ai Dano" (lit Love and Like and), which features Kanoko and her friends in high-school. Kanoko has entered Takara no Tani High School with Tsubaki. Planning to live a normal high school life as a "refreshing girl", nevertheless Kanoko got dragged into the competition between the school's cultural cubs, and she was forced to join the on-the-verge-of-disbanding Newspaper Club. This sequel was serialized in the same magazine from 2010 to 2016, and compiled into twelve volumes.
And so join our heroine in her brilliant yet mischievous endeavors!
There is also a collection of side-stories, mainly focusing on minor characters around Kanoko and Tsubaki, titled Koi Nashi Ai Nashi.
This manga provides examples of:
- The Ace: Tsubaki. He admitted to never having any difficulties in anything he does until he falls in love with Kanoko.
- Art Evolution: The sequel series has notably better art than the original.
- Ascended Extra:
- Yumemi who only appeared once in the prequel becomes a schoolmate of Kanoko and Tsubaki.
- Yamada is basically a background character who have around one page of interaction with Kanoko in the first chapter of the prequel. In the sequel, he joined Kanoko's group of middle school friends and acts as the Only Sane Man in the group.
- Kakitsubata. Like Yamada, she has one chapter of focus in the prequel, but joined Kanoko's group of friends in the sequel.
- Beautiful All Along: Kanoko. She is actually decent looking, but she really doesn't think of herself as attractive. Several people, especially Momoko, have noticed that it is really holding her back.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Tsubaki. He never studies yet manages to get in the top test ranks, and hates doing anything bothersome.
- Brutal Honesty: Kanoko is not one to mince words. She tends to say whatever's on her mind regardless of the circumstances. However, she's not oblivious to her rudeness like many examples, she just doesn't care.
- The Cameo: Kohaku Manaka, the idol Kanoko and Tsubaki met in Warau Kanoko-sama, got namedropped regularly by background characters and appear in several background posters in Koi Dano Ai Dano.
- Character Development:
- Tsubaki deliberately antagonises Natsukusa in the first chapter of the prequel (because of the Love Triangle between them and Hanai). Kanoko's entrance into his life seems to take Tsubaki's attention away from being a deliberate Jerkass and he tolerates Natsukusa's presence thereafter. That being said, Hanai's attention being drawn to Kanoko also contributes.
- In the sequel, Momoka invokes this about Tsubaki. She thinks that Tsubaki was "cooler" in middle school, but that she would much rather be friends with the Tsubaki now.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Yumemi, to an amazing degree. There doesn't seem to be a single waking moment of her life where she isn't getting swept up in (usually very strange and nonsensical) romantic delusions about what's going on around her.
- Cool Kid-and-Loser Friendship: Kanoko is a plain-looking, glasses wearing girl who has no interest in romance, while her friends are the most popular students in the school.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Tsubaki and Naedoko (initially) have a platonic relationship. It doesn't stop Tsubaki from acting like a wild dog with a bone to people or situations who/which take Naedoko away from him, however temporary. Momoka calls him out on this as delicately as she can.
- Deadpan Snarker: Much of the humor in the series comes from Naedoko dishing out some delicious snark. Tsubaki has some pretty good lines too, usually at Naedoko's expense.
- The Ditz: Momoka and Okyou-sempai. In the latter's case, the Newspaper Club leader had printed out explicit instructions knowing that she would be the incumbent leader when he had to leave.
- Easily Forgiven: Kakitsubata's (successful) attempt to force Momoka into the beauty contest and (unsuccessful) attempt to rig the contest and beat her are never publicly exposed, and she is never shown receiving her comeuppance for it. She even becomes part of Momoka's group of friends, attending her birthday party.
- Eureka Moment: Naedoko has one when she realises why she is getting so much unwanted attention from 'troublesome' individuals. The reason: as a transfer student in middle school she never stayed in one place long enough for the 'troublesome' people to notice her.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Tsubaki. Yamada sure got in a good mood after seeing Tsubaki naked in the hot springs. According to him, everyone wanted to see him naked as well during the middle school trip.
- First-Name Basis: Hanai and Himeno are the only non-family members who call Naedoko by her first name — Kanoko — and with a 'chan' honorific. Although, Hanai often uses the shortened form 'Kano-chan'. Hijiri gets in on the act as well eventually.
- Friendless Background:
- Kanoko, who preferred being alone and observing people rather than socializing.
- Momoka, despite being popular with the boys, is actually a victim of bullying from the girls.
- Tsubaki realises in Chapter 31 of the sequel that, despite his popularity, he never had someone he could consider his closest friend until Kanoko.
- Girl of the Week: Often in the prequel, as Kanoko changed schools every new chapter. Sometimes mixed with Victim of the Week and Woobie of the Week
- I Let You Win: In the latest round of tests, Tsubaki deliberately lets his grades slip so Kanoko has a better chance of staying in the top 30 (if her grades go below the top 30, her mother won't let her live alone anymore). Kanoko is furious, since she was looking forward to competing against Tsubaki's scores and feels patronized.
- In-Series Nickname:
- Momoka calls her Kano-chan and Kanoko returns the favor with calling her Momo-chan.
- "Nina" for Ninagawa Mayumi.
- "Prince" for Ouji Mitsuki.
- Hitoyoshi-senpai, the president of the Newspaper Club is always called Leader.
- Shinonome Kyouko really wants to be called Okyou-senpai
- Otabe and his Kano-tan... She is clearly not happy about that one.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: While never outright stated, you can see that part of Kanoko's friendless background comes from this. In this case, she preferred it that way until the events of the prequel.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy:
- Why Tsubaki made Kanoko join the student council. Despite being a Crazy Jealous Guy, he realized Kanoko likes being with many friends, and wants her to interact with a lot of people. This is also what he wants to maintain with Kanoko, whether they are in a platonic relationship or romantic one.
- Hijiri wants Sayuri to be with a respectable man. This is while he is Oblivious to Love and unknowingly has requited feelings for her. In fact, a lot of things he does (as established in flashbacks) are with the intention of fulfiling her desires. This places his Magnificent Bastard acts in a more magnanimous light.
- Last-Name Basis:
- They are Tsubaki and Naedoko.
- Natsukusa's first name "Touta", is easily forgotten if you don't pay attention
- Meaningful Name: The author loves them:
- Kinokodani Sachiko (kinoko=mushroom) who is a gloomy girl.
- Kawai Nami, a cute(kawaii) girl.
- Subeyoshi Takeo, who is "good at everything as his name sujests".
- Yumemi Hitomi, a girl who loves to fantasize/dream. (Yumemi=dream seer + Hitomi=eyes).
- The Kaneari family, Kane=Money.
- Esupa Raidou, who claims he can see spirits(Esper), and Oka Ruto who loves the Occult, ghost stories, U.F.Os and such.
- Ouji Mitsuki is called "Prince" by his fangirls.
- Himeno Sayuri is a beautiful girl, "the school's princess".
- Mystical 108: The number of middle schools Kanoko has attended, the origin of which is referenced at least once. The significance is even referenced in the sequel.
- New Transfer Student: Naedoko's main shtick in the prequel because of her father's job. Eventually she begins to wish to stay at the same middle school as Tsubaki, Hanai and Natsukuksa and gets it granted in the final chapter. In the sequel she lives alone to deny this trope again although she gets threatened with fulfilling it if she falls below a certain school ranking.
- Not So Different:
- Jouran Hijiri thinks he has this kind of dynamic with Tsubaki, but that's only because he attributes Naedoko's actions to him. According to Hijiri's Childhood Friend Sayuri, they're actually complete opposites. In fact Sayuri and Tsubaki fit this trope better.
- An example from the side-story collection: Shingyouji thinks she has nothing in common with the Computer Club leader, Otabe-san. Unbeknownst to her, and revealed to the readers at the end of her A Day in the Limelight chapter, she has the same greed for money.
- Oblivious to Love:
- Kanoko. She can't even process the possibility of Tsubaki having feelings for her. For much of the sequel it's Played for Laughs but after Tsubaki's confession it's played more seriously.
- She even mistakes Otabe's obvious obsession with her (she fulfills his fetishes to a "T") as him figuring out her real role in the Newspaper Club and trying to freak her out to put her off-balance.
- Momoka isn't aware of the fact that Natsukusa likes her.
- Hijiri fails to realise that Sayuri likes him romantically... In fact he starts to think that maybe she is interested in Tsubaki. He gets better eventually.
- Oh, Crap!:
- In the first chapter of the prequel, Kanoko uses the P.A. system to threaten her class-mates who are bullying Hanai. She yells that she knows all their secrets before she is cut off by a teacher. The students don't take her at all seriously, but their expressions change upon hearing:Yamada: "Why does she know I created a copy of the studio's key?"
- In the first chapter of the prequel, Kanoko uses the P.A. system to threaten her class-mates who are bullying Hanai. She yells that she knows all their secrets before she is cut off by a teacher. The students don't take her at all seriously, but their expressions change upon hearing:
- One Head Taller: Tsubaki is of taller than average height and Naedoko is just so much shorter than the rest of the high school cast that she only reaches his shoulder at best.
- Operation: Jealousy:
- Himeno resorts to this in order to gain the right attention from Hijiri. She tries to rope Tsubaki into the scheme because they both have unrequited loves (at least as far as she knows).
- Notably, Tsubaki rejects the idea of trying this on Kanoko, stating that it's a rather cruel way to treat the person you love, and she probably wouldn't get it anyways.
- Out of Focus: The Newspaper Club gets pushed aside once Kanoko and Tsubaki join the Student Council.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship:
- Momoka and Kanoko eventually. Since both of them never had REAL friends before, their friendship is quite cute and amusing.
- It's occasionally ventured into the Ho Yay territory. Even Tsubaki gets insecure over their friendship, and thinks to himself,"Good thing Hanai isn't a guy...I'm saved." THIS after Momo's very suggestive line about, well, wanting to become a guy. One can't help but draw conclusions as to why after reading her next exchange.Kanoko: (referring to Tsubaki's affection) If you want something, you have to fight for it, get it?!Momoka: ...If...I were a guy, I'd surely fight...
Momoka: (smiles in exasperation and then takes Kanoko's hands) There's someone I like better than Tsubaki-kun, this one is true!
- Shipper on Deck:
- Yumemi is a proper fangirl of Kanoko & Tsubaki!
- Yamada ships Natsukusa and Momoka.
- Mizukami supports Yabuki and Kanoko
- Strong Family Resemblance:
- Teacher/Student Romance:
- While Marine was honestly in love with him, the teacher not so much.
- Kisen gains a crush for the female teacher. In an omake, he gets jealous when Subeyoshi goes to her for advice.
- Too Clever by Half: Kanoko falls into this sometimes. She's brilliant at playing the Manipulative Bastard, but can't seem to turn it off sometimes, so she ends up overanalyzing behavior or trying to find ulterior motives when there are none. For example, Kanoko stays in the Newspaper Club because she's trying to find out what possible motive Tsubaki could have for sticking around there as well, when he's simply there because he wants to be around her.
- Transfer Student Uniforms: Kanoko transfers to a new middle school every chapter but always wears the same uniform.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Kakitsubata's parents. Her father looks incredibly unremarkable compared to her mother.
- Wham Episode:
- In chapter 33, Tsubaki confesses to Naedoko in the closing pages and asks if he can be her boyfriend.
- In chapter 37, Naedoko rejects the confession on the first few pages. At the end of the chapter, after Tsubaki understands why, he repeats it and she accepts.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Kanoko developed a little crush on Natsukusa in the first chapter of Warau Kanoko-sama, which led to her first interaction with Tsubaki, and consequently with Momoka. The chapter ends with all four becoming friends, but Kanoko's crush is never brought up again afterwards.
- Uchiki Nako. Near the end of Warau Kanoko-sama, he, with fellow minor characters Yamada and Kakitsubata, are shown to celebrate Momoka's birthday together with Kanoko, Tsubaki and Natsukusa. While Yamada and Kakitsubata got to regularly appear in the sequel, Nako is nowhere to be found.
- Mibu Naoya, Yumemi's Love Interest in the prequel. Justified since he's one year younger and thus still in middle school when Koi Dano Ai Dano started. Still a bit jarring that Yumemi never mentioned him even once, considering her personality.note