October 24, 2011
Julietta Suzuki – Tokyopop – 2011 – 6 volumes
I really enjoyed the laid-back and character-driven plots all the way through this series, but I was wondering how it was going to resolve itself and end. In truth, I was a little disappointed, since some of the character issues I was most interested in (okay, yes, the romance) were left unresolved. Still, it’s really hard not to like Karakuri Odette, and the last volume proves that by being completely unlike the others, yet still very much worth reading.
The story about Odette and Travis getting married is carried all the way through here. Again, Suzuki has a knack for finding touching moments in the ordinary, so some of the themes here were absolutely heartbreaking. My favorite part of the story was that Grace was just like Chris in that she has a robot that supercedes her in terms of AI, and yet Chris is embraced as another member of the Yoshizawa family, while Grace is forgotten. It’s a sad story, made even sadder by the selfish actions of her creator and Travis, her robot brother that she looks up to. Watching Grace get tossed aside again and again was really what made this book worth reading for me.
And somehow, that depressing theme didn’t wreck it. I didn’t really like the plot about Odette marrying Travis, so I was dreading this as an ending for the series, but it still wound up being pretty sweet. That’s mostly thanks to the doting Professor Yoshizawa, who works well as an overprotective parent and an amazing scientist that can somehow one-up everybody. Professor Yoshizawa is probably the secret to what makes this series amazing. Asao also steps in to save the day towards the end, and while nothing concrete happens, we do get the gift of several fine Odette and Yoshizawa scenes. They melt even my frosty heart.
Again, this isn’t the type of series where I can point to one thing and tell you why you should read it. But you should anyway. Even if it doesn’t sound good. I didn’t think I’d like a series about a robot girl going to school either, but Julietta Suzuki is amazing with characters and writing relationships between them (family, friendship, romantic), and all of that shines really well in Karakuri Odette. I still prefer Kamisama Kiss, but Karakuri Odette was still definitely worth the read. Track it down while you still can!
September 12, 2011
Julietta Suzuki – Tokyopop – 2011 – 6 volumes
Every chapter is still mostly adorable one-shots. Going through this volume, I became increasingly sad. There’s a plot that starts in this volume that makes it it obvious the series is drawing to a close, but rather than getting excited about the conclusion (one of the best things about manga, in my opinion, even if they’re often terrible), it just means I couldn’t read any more stories like the first one here.
The first story has all the things I like about the series in it. Someone says something offhandedly about Odette being a gorilla girl. When Odette realizes she’s being compared to something so not cute, she decides to stop using her strength. She’s accidentally locked in a shed with Asao, and when he begs her to break through the door, she refuses, saying that strength makes her not cute. In a semi-romantic moment, Asao convinces her that her strength makes her super-cool, and they escape. Meanwhile, Professor Yoshizawa is melting down like the doting father he is when Odette is late coming home.
It’s funny, it’s sweet, it’s a little romantic, it develops the characters and brings to light their best qualities. There’s not a whole lot of drama, just happiness. It’s great.
Also in this volume, there’s a side story about one of the other assassin robots like Odette’s brother, another story where Odette meets another advanced android that doesn’t believe Odette is a robot (here’s where the plot leading to the finale starts), more about Chris and the terrorist robots with a lot of humor thrown in to balance out the seriousness. That story is very Professor Yoshizawa-centric, and any story with a lot of him in it is bound to be at least a little silly. Plus, he’s such a proud parent. And the last chapter is a two-part story where Odette begins to get fed up with Chris, who is unable to understand her more human-like thought processes. Travis, the more advanced android that Odette meets earlier in the book, is in a similar situation, and the two meet up, but at the same time, Odette sends Chris away and completely disregards his feelings. It’s one of the few times that Odette has truly been in the wrong about something, and it’s definitely a hard story to read.
And yes, in addition to the cute stories, all the characters are what make this series worth reading. It’s not outstanding, and I can’t quite put my finger on why I like it so much, but… Julietta Suzuki just gets everything right. It’s an excellent read, despite not excelling at anything in particular. It’s just good shoujo manga. Not romance, not drama, not comedy, just… girly stuff with the best of everything mixed in.
August 31, 2011
Julietta Suzuki – Tokyopop – 2010 – 6 volumes
I won’t lie. I read this entire series in one sitting. I stopped writing reviews between the volumes after the first three. But it was that addictive. Odette makes for a great main character, and it’s fun to see her grow and catalog the changes around her.
In this volume, Odette gets a new friend named Shirayuki. Shirayuki is a rich young lady who grew up in seclusion, and doesn’t interact with the outside world very well. This problem is only made worse by the fact that she can “feel” what people are thinking by touching them, so she gets angry when people say nice things to her face and think different things. But her power doesn’t work on Odette, since Odette is a robot. She gets angry at first when she can tell Odette is lying (mainly just to cover up the fact she’s a robot), but when she learns the truth from Professor Yoshizawa, she decides she wants to be closer to Odette.
So, Shirayuki enters school. She has some of the same problems as Odette fitting in. Since she’s grown up apart from society, she sticks out like a sore thumb, and doesn’t know how to talk to people. I loved the parallels to Odette’s story, and how Shirayuki and Odette were the same, but different. There’s a story about how Shirayuki was surprised by how many friends Odette had at school, and how she had the idea that she and Odette would be all each other had. There’s another story about how Shirayuki has to do things for and by herself, or they don’t mean anything. There’s another story where both Odette and Shirayuki learn a lesson about being lonely when they go to the lively home of a classmate (complete with ugly dog) and then to their respective empty houses.
It’s rare to see a shoujo story emphasize friendship as much as this. The interaction between Shirayuki and Odette is quite touching, and I loved that aspects of any normal life could be highlighted and made interesting again in stories about both girls. It’s Suzuki’s gift as a storyteller that she can get the most out of her characters like this.
But having said that, I read shoujo manga for things like the Asao chapter here. Odette gets a romantic rival, and the two spend the chapter competing to see who can get Asao to eat their cooking. While Asao’s preferences are never stated outright, he does seem to be quite friendly towards Odette.
Actually, the relationship between Asao and Odette reminds me a lot of the relationship between Ponta and Mirai from Guru Guru Pon-chan, where Mirai falls in love anyway even though he knows he shouldn’t. Except Asao hasn’t fallen in love, and Karakuri Odette isn’t really a romance. And in Guru Guru Pon-chan, it’s creepy even though the story goes all out to make that not the case. But it’s still a fine manga.
I love Asao as a character, though. That Odette’s romantic interest is a punk-ish kid is amusing to me. His infrequent interaction with Professor Yoshizawa (usually only when Odette breaks at school and Asao has to take her home) is also always funny, and his ambiguous feelings for Odette are all kinds of adorable. The scene where he throws Odette at the Professor, crushing the Professor’s model plane, and then makes the Professor sign a paper that says Odette will never bother him at school again, is one of my favorites in the series. Asao is a good balance of romance and humor, and I’m a sucker for that.
Two volumes left! Both of them are good ones.
August 25, 2011
Julietta Suzuki – Tokyopop – 2010 – 6 volumes
So cute! Every volume gets more and more adorable. After a story about Odette finding a lost cat, the meat of the volume is about Yukimura and his efforts to woo Odette, Odette trying to figure out what that means, and people trying to lead Odette to the reason why Asao is the one she chooses again and again.
IT’S SO ADORABLE. I realize that’s not much of a critique. But it is. Odette and the others slowly feel their way through their feelings, and again, it’s handled with such subtle attention to the details of these things that it’s difficult not to fall completely in love with it.
Or at least for me it is. I am a complete shoujo addict, though. I live for this stuff.
The stories this time around include things like Odette dealing with a huge, ugly battery pack when her battery stops working, confronting people about their feelings (a new character is introduced that apparently has feelings for Asao), a chapter where she and Chris look all over the neighborhood for a little girl’s lost cat, and Odette putting Yukimura through all sorts of trials in order to do simple things like apologize to her, walk her home from school, or even have a conversation with her. In the last chapter, Odette’s friend goes on a double date to not-Disneyland, and Odette decides to take Asao. Both Odette and Asao seem to move a micron closer to each other.
I’ve read these first three volumes in a row. I’m just going to keep going, because I can’t get enough of this stuff. I’ll be more critical next time, but for now, really. This series is adorable. I’m sorry I didn’t pick it up sooner.
August 20, 2011
Julietta Suzuki – Tokyopop – 2010 – 6 volumes
There’s… vaguely a plot going on. Chris is re-introduced as a regular character this time around, so there are a lot of stories about evading men that are looking for Chris, Chris starting school, Chris learning about how to choose a favorite thing, and Odette’s new life with Chris. But the stories are just as much about Odette learning how to cook and the concept of “tasty,” learning how and why Chris may be more popular than her at school, and about the concept of “like.”
The “like” theme is fairly dominant in this volume, but anything “fairly dominant” in a Julietta Suzuki series seems to be treated with a fair amount of respect. The stories aren’t really about “like.” At the same time, it’s clear that Chris is in love with Odette, and Odette begins to get closer and closer to Asano, the delinquent at her school. What seems like an obvious match is complicated by the fact that Odette genuinely doesn’t seem to see Asano like that, despite the fact she wants to stay over at his house and do things like cook him Bento. Plus, Asano totally has a crush on her best friend, so it doesn’t work either way.
But still. If not Asano, then who? I do love the way the relationships are handled here. Maybe because I’ve read so many terrible romance manga, but I’m relieved to see the Professor stay in his role as harried guardian. There is a potential match at the end, with another delinquent, but again, the relationship is pretty subtle, and only works one way.
There’s only one solution to that: develop the characters and relationships more. Good thing Suzuki is so amazing at it.
And what are the stories really about? Making bento, shoe shopping, a sleepover, and delinquents at school. The topics are fairly simple. I love that there’s so much else going on, though. What a fun series.
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.