Karakuri Odette Volume 1 by Julietta Suzuki
The cover of this manga immediately captured my attention. Who was this this girl plugged into a machine with a deadpan expression on her face? When I realized that Karikuri Odette was about an android attending high school, I was a little concerned because I tend to associate mechanical high school girls with excessive amounts of fan service. Fortunately Karakuri Odette ended up being a nice slice-of-life school story about a machine who just wants to become more human.
Odette and her creator Professor Yoshizawa meet with the school principal. Odette wants to know what the difference is between her and humans, so she expressed the desire to attend school two weeks after she was constructed. The Professor assures the principal that Odette is state-of-the art, with programming in place to ensure that she will never do anything to harm a human. A mosquito lands on the coffee table and Odette slaps it, splintering the table with her incredible strength. Despite her destructive tendencies towards furniture, Odette is allowed to attend school as a new transfer student. She sees her classmates eat lunch and wonders at the meaning of the word “tasty” so she asks the professor to give her the ability to eat. She also asks for her strength to be diminished to that of a normal human girl. Odette wonders at the meaning of tears when she sees her classmate Yoko crying over a boy. When Odette is trapped with Yoko and unable to save the situation she tells Yoko to look away and selflessly sacrifices herself by ripping out her circuits to trigger an alarm signal to the Professor. Odette wakes up with the Professor reassembling her. When he tells her she has friends waiting to see her, she says “What’s going on? I feel like my body should be jumping up and down.” The Professor replies “It means you’ve gotten ten steps closer to being human.”
The rest of the volume has some standalone episodes that show Odette gradually progressing with her understanding of humans and androids. An android assassin named Chris visits the house when the professor is out, and Odette thinks he is the answer to her Christmas wish of “someone to play with.” A delinquent named Kurose finds out Odette’s secret after she defends him from bullying and finds himself treating the android girl like a friend despite his knowledge that she isn’t human. Odette has an encounter with another android girl who seems a little too good to be true, and the collection concluded with an unexpectedly touching story about Odette encountering a ghostly little boy.
One of the things I liked most about Karakuri Odette was the lack of emphasis on romance. Odette will comment on her human friends’ pulse rate and body temperature as they gaze at their objects of affection, but a typical shoujo romance doesn’t seem to be in the cards for this series just yet. The art is clean and expressive, as Odette’s expressions gradually grow warmer and more human-like throughout the volume. There’s a bit of physical humor as Odette reacts to the human world and some of the poses she strikes are hilarious, like when she holds up tensed fingers to say that she’s capable of playing the piano.
At six volumes, this series seems like it would be a good length. Not too long to make someone panic about running out of space on their bookshelves, but long enough to explore several story arcs and hopefully wrap everything up with a nice conclusion. This is exactly the type of shoujo series that I hope to see more of from Tokyopop, and I’m looking forward to reading the further adventures of Odette.
Review copy provided by the publisher.