Clockwork Planet Vol. 1 - Manga Review

On a planet made up entirely of clockwork, even a single malfunctioning cog could have devastating effects. Little does mechanic Naoto Miura know, he's about to become very directly involved in his world's machinery in more ways than one. 

The Lowdown

1,000 years ago, a genius clockwork master constructed a new earth to replace the old broken one, and made the entire planet out of clockwork. Naoto Miura lives on this planet, and is obsessed with robots and gears. Naoto spends his days reading about and tinkering with machines. Naoto isn't very sociable, and his obsession causes him to be considered a freak at school. However, his unique ability with clockwork suddenly becomes very useful when a broken robot suddenly crashes into his apartment, an event that leads to Naoto's direct involvement with the very foundations of his home. 

How Was It?

To be honest, I wasn't particularly thrilled with Clockwork Planet at the beginning of the book. No Game No Life author Yuu Kamiya is a co-author of the series, and much like No Game No Life feels at times, Clockwork Planet felt like its story was being buried by ecchi scenes. To my surprise (or maybe it might be better to say "sure enough") Clockwork Planet actually won me over by the end of the volume. It's difficult to say for certain how much I will enjoy the series long term, but there's potential.

The story centers around gearhead Naoto, a boy whose obsession with machines pairs with his seemingly incredible knack for diagnosing mechanical damage. This ability becomes quite apparent when he manages to fix Ryuzu, a robot who has been irreparable for centuries. It's this initial introduction that fell short for me. For one, Naoto himself doesn't really stick out particularly as a protagonist, and his fixing of a beautiful feminine robot seems like a classic wish fulfillment scenario. Additionally, there are multiple scenes where the fact that Ryuzu looks like a beautiful girl is very relevant. Naoto's thoughts, comments from other people, and Ryuzu herself like to point this fact out. Because Ryuzu decides to serve Naoto, there are several scenes that back up this initial impression. Ryuzu signs up to attend Naoto's school, tries to take him to a love hotel without realizing it, and forms a master-servant contract with saliva. 

As one might be able to imagine, this isn't exactly an appealing opening sequence unless the reader is looking for an ecchi series. However, that's the thing: it's the introduction. All of this occurs in the first half of the volume. And it's the second half that really makes me feel the potential appeal of the series. In the later portion of the volume, the story looks behind the scenes at the inner workings of clockwork Kyoto. There's an anomaly in the foundation of Kyoto, and the Meister Guild, an organization of genius clocksmiths, sends a group led by a girl named Marie Bell Breguet to fix it. This part of the story had a very serious conflict, a slightly more interesting leading character, and some fun world building. In short, it added the depth and suspense that the book needed. 

The immediate fear that the series would be about a boy and his attractive robot was assuaged. Instead, Kyoto is on the edge of a terrible calamity if its clockwork center breaks down, and shady power plays are preventing it from being fixed. While I wouldn't necessarily call Marie a particularly unique character yet, she's certainly a more dynamic one than Naoto is at the moment. She gets a surprising amount of development and background information through the story. The conflict between the Meister Guild and Armed Forces, as well as different politically powerful families, creates a multi-layered conflict. The book also plays on a common issue in modern technology, the inability of others to understand the creations of someone who is no longer able to pass on their own knowledge. The clockwork of the planet is incredibly complex, and the meisters and other clocksmiths are struggling to maintain it over time. All of this is a surprising and welcome transition from the earlier portions of the book. 

The volume also does a good job at laying the foundation for a larger story in more ways than one. The story seems to foreshadow intense developments down the road, but one of the most interesting future plot points is made clear through direct flash-forward. This, combined with the tension of the second half of the volume, builds a very strong anticipatory enthusiasm for the second volume. Also surprisingly, the illustrations and character designs are quite well done for a manga adaptation of a light novel series. The backgrounds are fairly empty and not particularly inspired, but the actual characters themselves are very dynamically drawn, even in minor panels. Despite his lack of appeal in the early part of the book, Naoto's character design offsets his minimal personality in a way. Overall, although I personally haven't read the light novels, the manga seems like a quality adaptation.

Final Thoughts

I wasn't sure what to expect from Clockwork Planet before reading it, and my initial impressions weren't particularly positive at first. However, it rebounded spectacularly in the second half, and now I am left looking forward to the second volume quite a bit. The series seems to be very similar to Yuu Kamiya's previous work in that it has some fan service-y elements that give way to a really engaging story. If anything, I feel like Clockwork Planet actually has less of this than No Game No Life, perhaps because Kamiya is only one half of the writing team. Regardless, the world of Clockwork Planet is both physically fascinating and potentially narratively unique. The series has a lot of promise, and I'll be keeping an eye on it. 


Clockwork Planet 1
By Yuu Kamiya, Kuro

Clockwork Planet is written by Yuu Kamiya and Tsubaki Himana and illustrated by Kuro. It is based off a light novel series of the same name. The series is published by Kodansha Comics USA in English and will be receiving an anime adaptation in the Spring 2017 anime season.

Verdict:

B-

Date of Publication: March 21st, 2017

Author: Yuu Kamiya and Tsubaki Himana (story) and Kuro (art)

Translator: Daniel Komen

Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA


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