Thursday, October 08, 2009

Karakuri Odette, vol. 1

Created by Julietta Suzuki
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Robots who want emotion because of peer pressure

Karakuri Odette
like many other 'humanoid robots goes to high school' stories with a brilliant professor who sends his advanced robot to a high school who has various adventures. The title manages to avoid most of the obvious traps of that premise by keeping the stories small and focusing on slices of life. It also helps that the robot Odette actually does act detached from her emotions, unlike in other stories where robots insist on becoming more 'human' even though they already display a full range of human reactions. Though it is billed as a comedy it feels more like a drama since it is more about the characters rather than setting up weird situations and characters to be mined for humor.

A lot of manga suffer from something I call cast bloating, with many minor characters who readers still want to follow as over time a manga's cast gets larger. That happens when a creator introduces a new character to be bounced off the rest of the cast to create new and zany situations rather than utilizing the current cast. The problem is when these guest star characters may be so open-ended that they will end up sticking around to finish their story. If the guest character is ignored it will feel like the title has distracting dangling plotlines but if they are left onstage they take time and focus from the main characters. Karakuri Odette manages to avoid that by making the guest stars' stories feel complete with enough wiggle room that the guest stars could return but that they don't have to. It is a narrow line to walk, but it shows the care and craft that went into manga better than any story summary.

Karakuri Odette, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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