Clockwork Planet Episode 7
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Clockwork Planet ?
After last week's regrettable experimentation with a more dour and gritty tone, Clockwork Planet has returned to its usual track of delivering familiar anime fight scenes through an overwhelmingly mediocre story and cast. We do get an ever so slight improvement in artwork to help the extended action, which is always appreciated, but Clockwork Planet is generally making sure its bar is never raised too high. This isn't bad anime, per se, but it certainly isn't good either.
A big issue I have with this episode is how muddy the storytelling feels. We finally wrap around to the first episode's depiction of ostensible terrorists, but the movement of that storyline combined with the fight against AnchoR just comes across as listless. There's no energy to the plotting, no momentum to the development of any of these stories. The gang fights some soldiers/drones, then they fight AnchoR, AnchoR turns good, Naoto is happy about it, and roll credits. The story is chugging right along, which I'll admit is better than the previous episode's sloppy detour into pointless violence and unnecessary tonal shifts, but it isn't mustering an iota of excitement from me. If there is any anime this season that's almost obsessively determined not to stand out from the crowd in any way at all, it's Clockwork Planet.
The weak first act does eventually get us to RyuZU and AnchoR's big fight, which is perfectly functional but little more than that. The decision to pepper the fight with flashbacks explaining what's happening on screen is one of my all-time least favorite anime tropes, and it does end up killing much of the fight's momentum. I also wasn't a fan of the episode's use of the three-dimensional grid of white lines to represent how the two automatons are fighting beyond the boundaries of time and space. Such a mathematical representation of the space-time continuum might be appropriate for a science textbook, but it doesn't really work in the context of an action cartoon, at least not here. Instead of seeing two impossibly powerful machines bend the fabric of reality to their whims, I saw two anime girls fighting each other in what looked like a cyberized jungle gym. The only interesting aspect of this conflict was the fact that RyuZU was so willing to use Marie as a disposable piece of bait for her murderous sister. It isn't addressed again in the episode, and I have my doubts that it ever will be, but Clockwork Planet would do well to explore just how willing she is to shed innocent blood if it means keeping her master safe.
For all of my complaints about the first two thirds of the episode, the final bit introducing the “real” AnchoR was slightly better. "Newborn character treats protagonists like parents" is a pretty overused bit, but I can always appreciate an attempt to give the core cast more dynamics to work with. The infantilized characterization of AnchoR is also trite, but I'm not really expecting anything better of Clockwork Planet at this point, so my only real hope is that they make this walking cliché as interesting as they can.
That's all I can really hope for from this series in general, honestly. We're over halfway through, and pretty much every single episode has ranged from “kind of bad” to “thoroughly mediocre”. I like to be optimistic in a show's capability to surprise its audience and exceed their expectations, but Clockwork Planet has not struck me as the kind of show that cares much about surprising anyone. Until the series proves otherwise, I plan on spending the next month or so just praying that Clockwork Planet can maintain its run of middling quality, without descending into Handshakers-esque shlock.
Clockwork Planet is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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