Karakuri Odette Volume 2 by Julietta Suzuki
I tend to follow a two volume rule when evaluating a manga series. I’ve often found that I ended up enjoying a series after reading the second volume even if I had vaguely lukewarm feelings about the first. I think that sometimes due to the way manga publishing works authors often don’t know that they’ve been picked up for a full series until after they’ve produced four or five chapters. I can’t point to specific examples, but I remember reading plenty of author notes in second volumes that refer to this situation. On the other hand, sometimes I’ll pick up a second volume with a little bit of trepidation because I’m afraid it won’t live up to the potential of the first volume. All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I enjoyed the first volume of Karakuri Odette so much, I was afraid that the second volume wouldn’t be as good. Fortunately my fears were unrealized.
I love the small defining character moments in this series. Although Odette is a newly born android she has a strong personality, which she will express in unexpected ways like telling her professor that she wants to take a specific backup battery with her to school because she put a bear sticker on it yesterday. I enjoy the episodic nature of this manga. The stories are little vignettes that serve to illustrate the subtle ways Odette is learning about human behavior. In the first story a new classmate is smitten by Odette but is warned off by the school bully Asao, who knows Odette’s secret and acts as her protector. The assassin android Chris Seven is remade by the professor, so Odette has a friend who is just like her. Odette’s personality is more fully developed. She’s able to decide what she likes and dislikes, while Chris is confused at how she can so quickly make a decision when they go shopping for clothes.
Chris decides to accompany Odette to school too, and he’s introduced as Odette’s cousin who hasn’t fully recovered from a serious illness. All the girls want to talk to Chris, but the only person he seems to like is Odette. In the meantime, Odette explores the meaning of “tasty” as she struggles to put together a bento box for Asao. An android-android-human love triangle seems to be the way this manga might be heading, but since the stories focus on small moments like playing a board game at a sleepover or Odette’s fascination with nail polish, romance definitely takes a backseat to the main theme of a quirky android slowly discovering her humanity. Odette’s facial expressions have become more emotional, and the reintroduction of Chris provides a contrast since he’s more of a blank slate.
For me, this series is now firmly in the category of “feel good manga.” Odette’s personality is naive in the best way, because she doesn’t make assumptions about people or the world around her. Seeing her slowly discover how to act human and her delight in learning how to relate to people makes for a reading experience that is very satisfying. I put down this volume in a better mood than I was when I picked it up, and I don’t think there’s much more you need to ask for from your manga than that.