I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
I purchased this because I'd seen good reviews and the series was short, only three volumes long. Sadly, Tokyopop fell apart before releasing the entire series, so only the first two volumes are available in English.
The first and fifth stories were a perfect frame for this volume. The revealed Kanoko's hidden depths in ways that the other stories didn't. On the outside, she appeared perfectly happy about having to attend a new school every few weeks (the amount of time she spends at each school isn't stated, so this is a guess). She had a steady supply of new students to observe, and there was not even a hint of self-pity in her signature statement whenever she transferred to a new school: “I'm the only completely objective observer in this story. I enjoy the drama of love and hate from a safe vantage point, too far away to be scorched when things get too hot.”
However, would someone who was content to always be an outsider be reduced to tears at the knowledge that she now had friends who'd wait for her after she got in trouble at school, or worry that her friends had changed and left her behind? For the most part, this volume barely hinted at the emotional effects that constantly switching schools had on Kanoko, but those hints made for great glimpses under her “impartial observer” surface.
Aside from Kanoko, the only character who appeared in every story was Tsubaki, one of the first friends Kanoko ever made. I wasn't impressed with him, at first. He paid attention to and flirted with Hanai purely to poke at Natsukusa and didn't seem to care that he risked hurting Hanai in the process. However, I thought it was kind of nice that he was intrigued enough by Kanoko (and concerned enough about her?) to find reasons to visit her at every school she transferred to. It wouldn't surprise me if a future volume turned their relationship into a romance, although, personally, I hope their relationship remains at the level of friendship. As things stand, a sustained friendship is, on its own, a huge step for Kanoko.
The drawback to the series' premise was that there wasn't a whole lot of time to get to know anyone. Readers got a glimpse into various characters' school lives and a closer look at the things that made them interesting to Kanoko, but that was it. By the time Kanoko managed to dig a little below these characters' surfaces and maybe even make more friends, it was time for her to move on. Not even Kanoko was explored as deeply as I would have liked. She was always on the sidelines, and Tsujita rarely showed what her home life was like. I knew she had a mother who worried about her and an aggressively positive and oblivious older sister, but that was about it.
All in all, this was a decent read. I enjoyed the various stories and was even surprised by how some of them turned out. Also, reading something with a heroine (sort of) who had absolutely no interest in romance was kind of refreshing. Although I'm a little peeved that Tokyopop never got around to releasing the third and final volume, this is one of those series that one could easily stop reading after the first volume – the first and last chapters are that effective.
A few character profiles, four-panel comics between each chapter, and a two-page comic-style afterword from the author.
(Original review, with read-alikes and watch-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)