Thursday, September 2, 2010

Karakuri Odette Volume 4

By Julietta Suzuki. Released in Japan by Hakusensha, serialized in the magazine Hana to Yume. Released in North America by Tokyopop.

First off, I have to say how much I love Julietta Suzuki's cover for this volume. Not just because of the Utena/Rose of Versailles parody, but because of Odette's expression as she grips the rose between her teeth. Instead of a rakish grin, which is what one might expect from a cover like this, it's more like a 'wtf?'. It's awesome.

So we've been following the adventures of Odette and her friends, and while she does have a number of them, the only one that knows that she's a robot remains Asao. This is problematic, as he's the only one she can turn to in emergencies. (We see that here when she falls into the pool, and he has to take her shorted out body back to the professor. As an aside, his hurling Odette at the professor screaming "Make her waterproof!" is a comic highlight.) She really needs to meet someone else who can be in on the masquerade.

Enter Shiroyuki, a cloistered rich girl who lives in a mansion with her dolls and a stream of constantly changing maids. They're changing as Shiroyuki can read minds if she touches someone, and thus can tell when a maid is thinking nasty thoughts at her. Naturally, she's fascinated by Odette, whose mind she can't read. There's a number of misunderstandings and setbacks, but as the volume goes on these two get closer and closer, and we once again see from another person's eyes how far Odette as come as a person since the first volume.

In fact, most of this volume is about seeing Shiroyuki go through what Odette already has, dealing with the basic social interaction she's lacked all her life. This could be anything from learning that your friends do sometimes have OTHER friends they hang out with as well, or trying to scale a mountain just to show that you can. In the last chapter Shiroyuki goes with Odette and the others to see Yoko's family, and the loneliness and longing she feels from seeing their happy daily interaction is palpable.

Speaking of Odette, she's still the main character, and goes through a lot here. At times she seems more human than ever, even when doing things humans normally wouldn't. (Check out her expression with the wildlife animals surrounding her.) But she still tends to freeze up when she runs into an emotional experience she hasn't had herself. Of course, the balance to that is that once she gets the basic concept of what others are feeling, she's lightning quick to adapt. Coming home to a dark and empty home in the last chapter, she has a revelation about Shiroyuki's loneliness that she was completely oblivious to just an hour before. She's really pretty incredible.

The author also continues to throw in little things into the title, things that are just a bit weird but help to add character. At one point when Shiroyuki is getting ready to attend school for the first time, her butler offers her a bunch of fake classmates to be her fake friends. Despite being rich, Shiroyuki isn't stupid, and rejects them immediately. However, I found it very amusing that one of the girls, a princess-curled little moppet, hangs around anyway for the remainder of the volume, as her sort of de facto guardian and irritating clinging girl. I like the idea of taking a basic 1-panel gag and wondering what happens after.

This continues to be a terrific shoujo series, and at 6 volumes total it's not even that much of an investment. Also, since everyone's been talking about good manga for kids lately, I do think this series would be perfect for 12-13 year old girls looking for someone to identify with as they struggle with their own teenage daydreams.

2 comments:

  1. I completely agree. Odette was something I hadn't seen in years - a fun, silly, light-hearted, poignant shoujo story about a completely likable girl without bullying and sexual harassment.

    Odette makes me happy, and that's ultimately what I most want from shoujo manga.

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  2. Great review of the volume. Though I like the (slight) romantic subplot, what sets this series apart from a lot of other shojo titles, for me, is Suzuki's dedication to developing all of Odette's relationships.

    And, by linking Shiroyuki with Odette as like figures in this volume, she avoids so many of the usual, tiresome "android in search of humanity" tropes. Not only does Odette have a revelation about Shiroyuki's feelings, as you mentioned, but to me it's when she recognizes that her comment to Shiroyuki was insensitive and unkind, and wants to make up for it, that Odette takes the next step closer to humanity. Likewise, Shiroyuki becomes a more socially aware human when she still wishes Odette well, even after being emotionally rebuffed herself - very different from her attitude at the beginning of the volume!

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