Adventures at the Shopping Mall
I like “Karakuri Odette” far more than logic says I should. Yet another manga about an android in search of a soul…you would think that the genre would be totally played out by now. Apparently not, because author Julietta Suzuki has managed to put together a charming story on that very theme, one that actually has me flipping the pages in enjoyment rather than rolling my eyes at the clichés.
If anything volume two is actually an improvement over volume 1. It took awhile for Suzuki to hit her stride and find her voice for the series, but now it is all coming together. The art is still pretty minimalists, not a lot of backgrounds and an emphasis on facial expressions, but that is becoming a strength rather than a weakness.
In volume two, the assassin-droid Chris has been re-programmed by Professor Yoshizawa to be peaceful. Odette takes Chris under her wing, attempting to teach him what she has learned about emotions and desires. For a test of the re-programmed Chris, the Professor takes him shopping for new clothes, but Chris is unable to express a preference for any item, not understanding the terms of “like” or “dislike.” At the shopping mall, the Professor runs into an old schoolmate, Gabriel. Gabriel looks innocuous enough, but it soon becomes clear that Gabriel is tied up with Chris’s original inventor, the person who is still intent on killing the Professor for whatever reason.
Fearing danger, the Professor sends Chris and Odette to live with their classmate, the school bully Asao. Asao is one of the few people who know Odette’s true nature, and while the robot girl frustrates him, he also treats her with more kindness than he shows most human beings. Odette and Asao gradually grow closer, and Odette wishes to please Asao by making him a bento lunch box. Unfortunately, she has a difficult time distinguishing between food that is colorful and food that is “tasty,” and Asao is not one to lie about the results.
“Karakuri Odette” is at face-value a simple comic with a basic plot, and really it is all Julietta Suzuki’s stylistic approaches to the story that make it worthwhile. There is a dry wit to the series that is so different from the usual over-the-top antics one finds in this kind of series.
This addition of Chris to the cast works really well, positioning Odette as in the middle ground between human and robot. She has been “aware” longer and so has a bit more of a grasp on things than Chris. There are hints of a love story at work, although unlike most manga it is difficult to see where the finish line is. In volume one, Asao seemed to have a thing for Odette’s friend Yoko, but here he is moving closer to Odette. Chris also has imprinted on Odette, but isn’t able to comprehend his own motives in his actions towards her.
The only real complaint I have about the series is that Julietta Suzuki’s art style makes it almost impossible to tell the boys from the girls. When the Professor’s old classmate Gabriel appeared on the scene, I would have sworn it was a girl until the character profile listed Gabriel as a “he.” Many of her characters are similar facially, and it is only the hairstyles that set them apart.