Karakuri Odette 1

August 17, 2011

Julietta Suzuki – Tokyopop – 2009 – 6 volumes

I liked Kamisama Kiss by Julietta Suzuki enough to rush out and get her other work available in English, Karakuri Odette, before the volumes became difficult to get. I felt immediately guilty, because I’m trying to cut back on the number of new series I buy. But I really, really liked Kamisama Kiss, in a very understated way, and I was hoping more of the magic would be represented here.

It was. I was very surprised by this after I learned that Karakuri Odette is Julietta Suzuki’s first series. It doesn’t seem like it.

The story is about Odette, a robot built by Professor Yoshizawa. Each chapter is more-or-less a self-contained story about Odette interacting with classmates at her school and finding out what it is to be human. It reminded me a lot of the themes in Astro Boy, actually, and had me lamenting the fact that all such series owe a debt to Astro Boy, even something as completely unlike it as this. But where Astro Boy tends to sermonize its lesson, Odette merely observes. She’s largely without emotions, and learns things by picking up habits from other students. She’s too strong, so she asks the professor to make her the same as a regular girl. She wants to know why her friend cries. She compares herself to the cheery, popular android girl that shows up later in the volume and wants the professor to make her just like her.

Mostly, Odette’s observations are all on human qualities that we take for granted. And Odette isn’t like a normal girl. She’s a very subdued observer, but by the end of the volume she’s accumulated many friends. One of my favorite stories is at the end of the volume, which illustrates what makes Odette more human than another robot.

There’s a snide comment made at the beginning about how Odette wants to be a “real girl,” but in that, this story’s a lot more like Pinocchio than Astro Boy (though Pinocchio was obviously an inspiration for the latter). Astro Boy examined what it would be like to have a robot working in society, and how people react to it. Odette is more about what a robot would think of society.

And it is subtle. There’s subtle friendships, subtle romance, just about everything is done with a soft touch. I love that about it. It’s the same type of storytelling that I admire in Kamisama Kiss. Which is why I’m surprised this was Suzuki’s first volume. The writing is quite mature.

I’m glad I picked it all up in one go. I’m going to have a lot of fun reading this.

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