4.0 out of 5 stars Young androids in Love
The premise for “Karakuri Odette” is somewhat of a cliché in Japanese comics. Can an artificial person learn to experience human emotions? I can’t count how many times this premise has been done, and was surprised to see it being done yet again.
The artificial person in this instance is named Odette (the “Karakuri” part of the name refers to the Karakuri Ningyo clockwork toys from popular in 18th century to 19th century Japan). Odette is the creation of the dashing young Professor Yoshizawa, who has arranged to send Odette to a local high school to see if his creation can pass as a normal human girl, ala Alan Turnin’s famous Turing Test used to determine the success of machine intelligence.
At first, Odette struggles in her new environment. She returns home and requests alterations from Professor Yoshizawa, noticing that the other girls have functions that she does not, such as being able to eat and cry. (If the premise sounds familiar, it is the exact same set-up as used in the fantastic Dr. Slump, but while that comic is played for comedy this one is a serious shojo manga. I don’t see Odette requesting the same “parts” from Yoshizawa that Akane requested from Dr. Norimaki!). Slowly, Odette integrates herself into school life, gaining friends and learning more about what it will take for her to be “human.”
The first two chapters were pretty dull, as I have read this kind of story too many times. I don’t mind it when an author does variations on a theme, but you need really strong characterization to pull that off, and the unemotional point-of-view of Odette makes for a slow-paced and boring story. Odette would go to school, muss about how different she was, then come home and request an alteration. Repeat.
However, slowly the characters grew on me, although more the supporting cast than Odette herself. The introduction of another android character, Asia (named and after actress Asia Argento, the author tells us), brings some much needed drama and comedy to the mix. A small boy Hisataro, who can only been seen by Odette, was also an interesting addition. Unfortunately, the boy positioned to be Odette’s love interest, Kurose, was a bit flat character-wise.
By the time I got to the end, I was really enjoying “Karakuri Odette” and I am looking forward to the next volume. The series does have promise. Hopefully author Julietta Suzuki (“Julietta” is just a pen-name, by the way. The author is Japanese.), will continue building out the story and focus less on Odette’s internal musings.
Suzuki’s art is nice, if not stunning. She seems to struggle with giving characters an identifiable personal appearance and style, and I found myself lost a few times on who was who. The translation seemed well-done, but I haven’t read the original so I don’t have much to compare it too. This is the first of Suzuki’s series to get an official English translation, and her other contributions to the shojo magazine “Hana to Yume” haven’t made the leap. This leads to an ironic back-cover, where Suzuki is listed as “The creator of “Akuma to Dolce”” even thought that series is only available in unauthorized fan-translations.