Friday, August 12, 2011

Karakuri Odette Volume 5

Written by Julietta Suzuki
Illustrated by Julietta Suzuki
Tokyopop

The journey of Odette, a young android girl trying to understand what it means to be human, continues, as she struggles with gender identity and the fact that she's not quite as unique as she's always thought. It seems there's a match for the professor's genius, and they're willing to pay any price to get their hands on Odette. But can you sell something that is like your own child, even if it is a robot? Is Odette about to learn some harsh lessons about life? Find out in the penultimate volume of Karakuri Odette.

I liked this volume a lot more than the one before it, because instead of linking Odette to one supporting character, we get a much wider range and introduce a late threat to her happiness that has more to do with her position as an android than as a young girl. We've gotten so used to thinking of Odette as being basically human that it was good here for Suzuki to remind us forcefully that she is anything but. I actually thought that the professor might give in, especially since Odette had been causing family strife. This situation with an amoral rival who won't take no for an answer is going to make for an extremely exciting final volume, I think, and almost makes me wish there were more than six volumes. (Of course, given Tokyopop went under shortly after the last volume came out, I'd have never seen a volume 7 legally anyway.)

The interesting thing to me was how Suzuki leads the reader to the crux of the volume (will Odettte be sold off?). We start with Odette rebelling like any other child her age, though given her unique situation and powers, the results are far stronger. She's beastly to Chris, she's disrespectful to the professor, and it's really the most self-centered we've seen her, as her thoughts turn to the romantic possibility of being with Travis. Unlike Chris, who is flawed, Travis is nearly as able to pass for human as Odette is, with only his attitude making for a difficult transition into the human world. In light of all these mistakes, in comes a chance for her to lose all she knows, and her actions come crashing right into her fears.

I really like how all of this catches Odette--and the reader--by surprise. The introduction of Professor Owen and a new set of robots is a great idea on its own. Placing it as a shock to Odette's system after all we've seen this volume is a really nice touch. I mean, when Asao is the one who dresses you down, you've definitely been bad.

While Odette is cast a bit more in a romantic role this time, it doesn't come off as being the typical, somewhat sexist typical storyline that's all to common in comics, Western or Eastern. Yes, Odette thinks about the "need" to be a weak female, but she firmly and vehemently denies that paradigm. Her interactions with Travis do not show her to be his inferior, despite his attempts to force that on her. Suzuki wants more for her character than that. Odette must find her own way, not one determined for her by society. It's quiet, non-preachy feminism that provides young female readers with a positive role model. Odette makes mistakes, sure, but she's still her own woman, even if she's a robot.

The interlude with one of the Chris units was a great standalone story. I love the way it's shown that robots given sufficient intelligence will act in unpredictable ways. This was a classic tragedy, crafted perfectly and executed neatly in one chapter. I never for a minute felt like it distracted from the main plot, because it showed the range the robots in this world have, and gives more proof that Chris could overcome his original programming. Of course, I'm also sentimental as hell, and that one was a tear-jerker.

I'll be sad to see Karakuri Odette go when I finish up the last volume sometime next week. But it's been an awesome series that probably won't get a rescue because it didn't sell well enough. People prefer their female robots to be creepy sexual instead of examining the human condition. More's the pity. Go find this series if you can, and enjoy!

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