“What is the difference between me and humans?” asks Odette, android creation of Professor Yoshizawa, two weeks into her existence. It’s a question that continues to puzzle her and one day, after seeing some schoolgirls on TV, she stuns the professor by telling him she wants to go to high school. The principal takes some convincing, and Odette’s required to keep her true nature a secret from the other students, but her request is eventually granted. Karakuri Odette is a slice-of-life story about Odette’s experiences in school as she makes friends, attempts to be more like a human, and comes to develop an understanding of human feelings and attachments.
It’s not difficult to imagine a story like this taking the route of a madcap comedy, but in Julietta Suzuki’s hands, the result is positively charming. Odette’s curious about her surroundings, and is content to be more of an observer while she works to understand the significance and nuances of things going on around her. There’s definitely humor, but it’s more likely to be something brief like the professor’s reaction to Odette’s mosquito-extermination methods than any kind of prolonged zaniness brought on by her ignorance of human behavior.
Indeed, Odette’s ignorance makes for some poignant moments, particularly in the first chapter. On her first day at school, the other girls notice that she isn’t eating and tell her that she’s missing out on enjoying tasty food. When she comes home, she tells the professor that she wants to be able to eat, and when the reconfiguration’s complete, thinks, “Now I’m just like them.” The next day, however, the gym teacher won’t let Odette participate in a volleyball game, spurring Odette to request that her strength be downgraded to that of a normal human’s. “Now I’m the same as everyone else,” she thinks afterwards.
Eventually, though, Odette gives up on trying to physically be like a human, but surprisingly succeeds in feeling like one when she cries genuine tears of frustration that her reduced strength leaves her unable to help a friend in a medical emergency. As Odette’s comprehension grows, she begins to become sensitive to things that even other humans miss out on, like the feelings of a classmate who’s been dismissed as a thug, as well as how important the opinion of someone you care about can be. One gets the sense she’s transcending her original programming, particularly when another robot, Asia, arrives for a brief visit. Asia seems to develop a quicker rapport with the humans around her, making Odette feel insecure, but it soon becomes clear that she has no real feelings at all.
The art is a little bit on the plain side, with a professor that looks like a teen and bodies that are sometimes awkwardly posed. The paneling itself is good, though, and I really appreciate how facial expressions are used as punchlines of comedic moments. Also, Odette’s all-encompassing curiosity is evident throughout, even when she’s silent.
Considering that Karakuri Odette is Suzuki-sensei’s debut series, the end product is very impressive indeed. I’ll eagerly be awaiting the next installment!
Karakuri Odette is published in English by TOKYOPOP. Only one of a total of six volumes has been released so far.
Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.