This month, the Manga Movable Feast is taking on a series that I personally consider to be one of the most enjoyable shoujo series I’ve read in the past few years. Along with the recent The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko, I consider Karakuri Odette a do-not-miss series for fans of shoujo manga who nevertheless crave something a little different from energetic, clueless girl is in love with jerky, but noble, guy.
Odette is a perfectly normal girl. She wants to make friends, she wants the people she cares about to be happy. She wants to be cute. She wants her battery pack to have a cute cover. The only difference between Odette and any other girl her age is that she was not created as an act of love between a man and a woman in bed, she was created as an act of research by a man in a lab. Odette is a robot, or android, if you prefer.
Odette’s story is not Pinocchio’s, however. While she definitely seeks to better understand the human experience, she does not desire to “become a real girl.” It would be a redundant wish because, as we see time and time again, she is already a real girl and the fact that she is an artificial/created intelligence changes nothing about that.
Karakuri Odette is not just a story about a robot girl being more human that the humans around her. (And even if it was, it would be delightful anyway.) By being so *real*, Odette actually does turn someone around her into a real person. Not Chris, her foster-cousin, another robot brought into the story as a weapon, but integrated into the family circle. Not Shirayuki, a self-ostracized girl who has never been able to relate to other people on account of the fact that she can hear their thoughts. No, the person Odette has the most profound effect upon and humanizes the most is her father, Yoshizawa-hakase.
To illustrate this, let me sum up a number of their conversations from various chapters into one whole conversation.
“Professor, I want to go to school.”
“Professor, I want to be able to eat.”
“Professor, I want to go to go shopping for cute clothes.”
“Professor, I want a cell phone.”
“Absolutely not. You don’t need one.”
Can I get some raised hands from people who had that conversation with their fathers? Anyone? I thought so.
In Volume 5, it all comes to a moment in which, after asking for a cell phone again, Odette says something viciously and the Professor responds with “how dare you say that to your father!” (I’m working from the Japanese version, so my apologies if this differs from the Tokyopop translation. I haven’t gotten that yet.)
While fellow androids, the emotionally stunted Grace and haughty Travis call their creator “Papa,” it is Professor Yoshizawa who declares loudly that he loves every last screw in Odette.
Odette is just a perfectly normal girl, who is fundamentally different from everyone else, but is allowed, encouraged and supported by the people around her to be exactly who she is.
In honor of this month’s MMF theme, and the inspiration Odette is to me and hopefully to a lot of “different” people, I declare today “Odette Day.” For today, we won’t care if there are jellybeans in our eggs. For today, we will treat everyone as if they don’t have bad intentions. For today, we will be okay with being not like the other kids. For today, we’ll cover our insulin pumps and asthma inhalers with a cute fleece cover. For today, it’ll be okay to be different.
Happy Odette day to you all.