March 31, 2011

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Karakuri Odette Volume 2

Written by Julietta Suzuki
Illustrated by Julietta Suzuki
Tokyopop

Odette is a little bit older but she still has so much to learn! Now a big sister to Chris, another android, she must try to help both of them fit into high school while barely knowing what it's like to be human herself. It's part comedy, part touching coming of age in the second volume of Karakuri Odette.

Sometimes books will suffer a softmore slump when they don't have an overarching plotline. Caught up in episodic ideas, they start to repeat themselves and get boring. Nothing could be further from the truth here in Karakuri Odette, which provides a second set of stories that is easily the equal of the first. Odette is still grappling with trying to be human, but now she is into more advanced concepts, like nail painting or making appealing food. She is no longer worrying about the basics, which is good for her and allows Suzuki to branch out into other areas. It also allows her to remind us that no matter how she tries, Odette will always have issues when trying to be normal. A simple dunk in a pond can easily kill her. Should she forget about her robotic nature too much, the results could be deadly. This, plus the remaining threat of those that wish to harm her creator, keep the sweetness of most of the manga tinged with just a bit of sour.

I also really like the addition of Chris, who can play many roles in the manga since he, too is wrestling with his place in the world. He is a source of danger, a brother, a foil for the quirks of humanity, and possibly a source of affection. Suzuki does a great job setting him up so that now he can drive a lot of episodic action without it seeming stale to the reader or needing a large influx of new characters.

Plot and story-wise, Karakuri Odette remains very good. As I mentioned, I love the balance of innocence and cynicism. Within each story we get a little bit of both, but it never feels forced. There are some neat touches, like when Odette saves Chris by pretending to be harmed or the time they play a variation on The Game of Life.

Emotionally, I think the high point is when Odette is trying to get Chris to understand the idea of liking things. That sequence shows this mamga in its best light, highlighting some funny lines and the drama of trying to be human. I think I re-read it at least three times!

I'm sure some people overlook this one because of the sterotype of girl robot mangas. This is not a fanservice manga, not even close (though I do like Suzuki's clean and clear art style). To lump it in with, say, Chobits is unfair to both. This is a story of living and experiencing life, much closer to Yotsuba!@ than anything remotely stinking of tentacles.

I love this manga to death and I hope you do too once you give it a try. I cannot wait to read more.