Karakuri Odette Volume 5 by Julietta Suzuki
Once again Suzuki manages to come up with an absolutely adorable cover. I love the way Odette looks so surprised as she’s dancing with the Professor. The fifth volume contrasts old and new friendships as well as different levels of emotional development. Odette’s super strength has been exhibited at school before, and this time Odette overhears a student calling her “Gorilla Girl.” Shirayuki explains “Many men don’t like admitting that a woman is stronger than them. Some of them like the idea of protecting a fragile girl. If that’s what makes a girl cute in their eyes…then a strong girl like you Odette…might not get many cute points.” Odette is depressed about not being thought of as cute due to her strength. Later on she gets trapped with Asao in a storage shed. He’s fully aware of her robot abilities and asks her to break down the door for him. Odette sits with her hands folded in her lap and says it is impossible because she’s never lifted anything heavier than a pair of chopsticks. Asao has grown into the role of Odette’s mentor on being human. He asks her if she’s sitting trapped in a shed because it is something she wants to do, and points out that she isn’t weak. He challenges her, saying “Instead of worrying how people see you, isn’t how you see yourself more important?” Odette concludes that she’s better off using her skills and kicks the door down.
The rest of the volume focuses on two of Odette’s male robot counterparts and her reactions to them. Reformed assassin robot Chris is repaired and waiting to meet Odette again. A side story shows the mission of one of Chris’ brothers as he gets sent to assassinate a professor and instead finds himself forging a strong emotional connection with his target’s young daughter. While the Chris model might not outwardly show emotion very much, it is evident from his actions that he does have deep feelings. Odette encounters a new advanced robot named Travis. He’s arrogant and demanding, but obviously similar to Odette in his almost human-like mannerisms. Odette is so delighted to meet another robot, she doesn’t seem to notice Travis’ more sociopathic tendencies. Travis announces that he’s in Japan to look for a bride, but Odette is oblivious about the fact that she’s the only eligible teenage girl robot around.
Odette has mixed feelings about Chris coming back. He’s extremely popular at school, and her classmates make a big fuss about his return. Odette compares the blank-faced Chris with her new friend Travis and loses patience with him. While Odette has her moments of selfishness, they seem to be the type of emotions experienced by a toddler, which is probably how old Odette actually is. She’s very aware of her own feelings but not tuned in to the effect her words and actions have on others. Asao again serves as her conscience when she abandons Chris. When she tells Asao that Chris doesn’t understand her, he challenges her by yelling “So do you claim you understand him?” Asao’s opinion matters the most to Odette and she begins to realize the consequences of her actions.
Odette seems to seesaw between working through teenage issues like self-image and cuteness or the issues of a young child like selfishness and being able to empathize with others. It strikes me that when Odette is contrasted with Travis, the development of the human-like qualities in the robots is a direct reflection of their creators. Travis’ creator wants to find a bride for Travis only to further his dream of developing the ideal robot. When The Professor is asked to give up Odette he reacts with the same horror a loving parent would experience if asked to give up a human baby. Since this is the next to the last volume, I’m curious to see how Suzuki will conclude this series. Karakuri Odette has always been episodic in nature, but Odette has gradually grown more emotional as the series progressed. I don’t think I’m expecting a grand exciting conclusion, but it would be nice to see Odette find some sort of peace with her half- artificial/half-human nature.