Clockwork Planet
Episode 11

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 11 of
Clockwork Planet ?

We're only one episode away from the end of Clockwork Planet, so you'd think the show wouldn't have too many curveballs left to throw at me, but then it decided to really pull out the big guns this week, and not in a good way. About half of this episode is par-for-the-course low-end Clockwork Planet material, which is what I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting was for the other half of the episode to contain the silliest and most nonsensical writing I've seen all season. That's saying a lot, given how inherently ridiculous Clockwork Planet's premise already was.

We'll get the dull stuff out of the way first, because there's almost nothing to say about it. We begin the episode with the commander of the Yatsukahagi rehashing his conversation with Naoto before killing his entire crew, Ozymandias style. Why does he do this? What are his real motivations for attacking Tokyo? How does he know Y, and how does Y factor into this series at all? None of these things have been addressed, and since we have very little time left to find out, I've essentially given up hope of any satisfying or reasonable answers to these questions.

We also get some scenes of our side characters gearing up to take on the enemy forces, which are all equally dull. The animation budget has really taken a nosedive, and every so-called “action” scene mostly consists of characters standing still while yellow streaks of ammunition flash in repeating patterns across the screen. This is the time in Clockwork Planet that most desperately demands some heightened suspense and a sense of stakes, but the visual drabness of everything on screen makes this one of the more listless end-of-the-world scenarios I've seen play out in a while. RyuZU and AnchoR get some bonding time throughout, and the show is really trying to pull at the heartstrings with AnchoR's willingness to become a machine of destruction and take on the enemy herself. It's all paper-thin stock writing, a predictable arc for a character whose defining traits are all centered on how cute and lovable Naoto finds her. She's not very compelling is what I'm getting at, and if she does end up blowing herself up for the good of mankind, I doubt it would leave much emotional impact.

None of these faults are new to Clockwork Planet, and I would almost be ready to end my review right here, if it weren't for the other ten minutes of the episode, where Naoto and Marie try to psych each other up following a devastating attack on the Pillar of Heaven. On paper, this should be an easy scene to get through, but Clockwork Planet turns it into something epically mystifying, a hurricane of gibberish dialogue and half-baked pseudo-philosophy that's as maddening as it is absurd.

From what I think I understand, Marie explains to Naoto that his power to hear busted gears isn't just a matter of super hearing, but a heightened understanding of the entire mechanism of the planet itself. Likewise, Marie's ability to build insane contraptions on the fly isn't just about her memorizing blueprints, it comes from her instinctual grasp of how technology fits together. So Naoto understands how the whole planet fits together, and Marie has the ability to reconstruct it. As Marie herself notes, they are opposites that complement each other's' skills perfectly.

This contrast between the two protagonists is fine in theory, but for some reason the show buried it under a veritable mountain of gobbledygook. I don't know if it's a matter of sloppy translation or rough adaptation from the source material, but this whole half of the episode barely managed to make any sense to me, even after watching it twice. Naoto and Marie make extended, needlessly obtuse analogies for gear maintenance that obscure their meaning, and they even both stop the conversation dead in its tracks so they can puzzle over what the other just said. At one point, Naoto just starts ranting, expressing his understanding of gears by vomiting up philosophical word salad. Here's just a small sample:

“Carefully listen to what I'm going to tell you now, then forget it. You don't have to memorize it, but don't forget it. Listen to everything and nothing. Think without thinking. Everything is right. Everything is wrong. Contradictions make sense. Right is left.”

That doesn't mean anything. I'm sure it's supposed to be some kind of convoluted way of telling Marie to “clear her mind”, and maybe it tracks better in Japanese, but none of that changes the fact that Clockwork Planet tried to squeeze an existential moment out of replacing a bunch of gears. It's silly. It's too silly, and it completely tanks an otherwise typical episode. That kind of needlessly cryptic and obtuse pontificating can be a bump in the road even when a show is good and written with relative clarity. Clockwork Planet simply doesn't have the skill or finesse to make this kind of “thoughtful” dialogue work at all.

I should be happy, because all of this leads the two to finally come to the same conclusion everyone else in the world came to in the show's first episode: a planet made of clockwork should not work. It doesn't do too much good when we're so close to the end, though. Any serious treatment of its premise, any legitimately interesting plot points or character beats, are either going to be crammed into a rushed finale or ignored completely. Next week, I guess we'll find out which of these equally underwhelming options Clockwork Planet chooses.

Rating: D+

Clockwork Planet is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

James is an English teacher who has loved anime his entire life, and he spends way too much time on Twitter and his blog.

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