by Julietta Suzuki; adapted by Peter Ahlstrom
published by Tokyopop; $10.99 US
Now that the premise — girl robot who attends school to find out about being human — and supporting cast — boy robot Chris and boy friend Asao — have been established, the series can settle down to just telling stories with its characters.
In the first, short story, Odette tries to find a girl’s missing cat in a tale with plenty of excuses to tug heartstrings. The thin linework is perfectly suited to thoughtful or emotional moments, as when she climbs a tower so she can gaze off towards the horizon. She’s looking for the pet, but she’s also symbolizing her separation from a society she desires to be part of, as well as the abilities that make her superior to humans and yet inspirational for them in her caring.
That may be too much to read into entertaining little snippets of the life of a girl Pinocchio, but the series does reach for a bit more in its metaphors. It’s pretty to look at, kind of dreamy at times, and even has a bigger conflict underneath. Odette’s search puts her in conflict with her guardian, the professor, who wants her to fit in, go to school, and not put others’ needs first. She’s expressing her independence in a non-self-centered way, as prologue to her tackling the biggest challenge of any teen’s life: love.
The next, longer story starts out fluffier, as some of her schoolmates teach Odette about having crushes and little rituals kids use to try and swing fate their way. A boy likes her, and his attempts to ask her out, complicated by Chris’ presence, provide for gentle comedy. Odette’s quiet innocence underlines a typical shojo story with a light, bittersweet air, since she doesn’t understand what means so much to everyone else, and it’s not clear that she ever will.
She does, however, share one thing with her classmates, and every adolescent: the fear that when someone comes to know the real you, the secret you protect, that they’ll refuse you. That she’s a robot is a more obvious fact to hide, but everyone has that one thing at their core that will devastate them if rejected.
As events progress, misunderstandings occur, and everything is so terribly painful, as first love often is. Asao tries to help Odette, since he knows her secret, but the girl who has a crush on him mistakes his assistance as something else, as does the boy who likes Odette without knowing she’s a robot. It’s all very comfortable, even predictable, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable to read. (The publisher provided a review copy.)