After a satisfying conclusion to the series Karakuri Odette—a quirky comedy manga about a robot who starts going to school and trying to learn about humanity—I began reading the manga-ka’s comments. One stuck out to me in particular: “My favorite guy character was Yukimura [a first year that has a crush on Odette], so I was excited about getting him together with Odette. But he wasn’t very popular with the readers, so I decided to give up on that idea. And ever since I’ve been afraid to give my lead character any kind of male love interest as another main character.” I was a bit thrown off, forget Yukimura, there was a romance in the series that played out great! Did she not write the manga I just finished reading? Did she completely forget about Odette’s interactions with Asao? Maybe it is one of those humble statements, but really she is selling her love piece of the story short.
At its core Karakuri Odette is not about romance, it is about human emotions. And even though this is a comedy fantasy, they still tackle that question about whether AI can learn to feel and grow. Odette is curious about everyone around her but of course possesses none of the usual fears that come along with human contact. Odette develops a range of emotions over the course of the story. Because she can be so honest, so true, she actually humanizes those around her. Few of her school friends know she is a robot by the end of the series, but you get the feeling that it wouldn’t matter.
Asao is the first person in Odette’s new life to discover she is a robot. Asao, a guy with a fiery temper, reacts first with shock and then apathy, he feels tricked into caring for a moment. It is classic fear, he wants to believe she is just a machine, but it doesn’t last long; how can he be so cold and be human when Odette is so warm and is a robot?
Odette comes to rely on and trust him as she does with many others, but she is always seeking out Asao whether to tell him something great that happened or to drag him along to help her or to bring him food she made for him.
At the center of much human interaction is love whether it is familial, friendly, or romantic. The idea of love VS. like, or as in Karakuri Odette like VS. LIKEIFYOUKNOWWHATIMEAN, is one of the most difficult for Odette to grasp.
Along with love comes another set of complex ideas like jealousy, insecurity, and rejection that are so foreign to Odette’s character. She may learn concepts from someone else, such as the idea of being “cute” or cooking food for someone special but she applies them often to her relationship with Asao. When she has to stay at a friend’s house, she goes to Asao’s; when she has to bring a guy on a double date, she seeks out Asao; or when her horoscope say she will meet her “destined partner,” she hopes it is Asao.
Asao finds himself at the center of lots of Odette’s adventures, but he doesn’t really mind. He reminds her of the important things like how you see yourself or actions speaking louder than words. He wants to make sure she is okay in this world. He says so himself, this is a girl “who knows how to waltz right into your heart.” At some point, he stops thinking of her as a machine. He doesn’t forget, it just doesn’t change anything. When confronted with the idea that Odette “is just a robot,” he straightforwardly replies that to him, she is a woman.
Is Asao in love with Odette? It is rather ambiguous, I like to think so, but Odette is most certainly in love with Asao. Sure she doesn’t understand it, sure she can’t put it into words fully, but it is obvious early on that she is quite fond of that blond delinquent.
Odette fell in love with Asao without even trying. Congratulations Odette, that is quite human indeed.