Clockwork Planet
Episodes 1-3

by James Beckett,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Clockwork Planet ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Clockwork Planet ?

How would you rate episode 3 of
Clockwork Planet ?

The first thing you need to understand about Clockwork Planet is that it has a deeply silly premise. Adapting Yuu Kamina's light novel and manga series of the same name, Clockwork Planet takes place a thousand years in the future, where the Planet Earth is literally made up of 100% gears, sprockets, and cogs after being destroyed once before. Even as a fantasy story, that entire conceit is ridiculous to the point of sounding like a parody, but Clockwork Planet takes its idea of a clockwork planet very seriously in tone—just not seriously enough to address the innumerable laws of science that are being broken by the existence of a clockwork planet.

If you're already tired of me saying clockwork, then you might want to hop off this wagon right now, because this show takes its fetishization of mechanization to such a degree that it would make for a hilarious spoof on the steampunk aesthetic, if everyone wasn't taking it so seriously. This show is about a world made of clockwork, filled with buildings made of clockwork, populated by people who seem singularly obsessed with clockwork. Their chocolate bars are even called “Clock Chocolate”, for goodness sake.

Our protagonist Naoto is a bona fide clockwork otaku, whose wildest dreams come true when a comatose automata maiden, whose insides are made entirely of gears, literally falls out of the sky and into his lap. Conveniently enough, his superhuman hearing makes him the only one who can repair the single faulty part that keeps her slumbering. Her name is RyuZU, and she's a busty superpowered robot who registers herself as Naoto's lifelong servant by suggestively sucking on his finger, because that's exactly what kind of show this is.

If you can get past all of the above ridiculousness, then you'll find yourself watching a surprisingly tolerable anime. It's not great, mind you, not even good, but it's by no means the trainwreck it could have been.

It helps that Clockwork Planet has established a somewhat interesting cast of characters and story over these first three episodes. While Naoto and RyuZU's shtick can get old after a while, Clockwork Planet also dedicates its runtime to two other characters, Marie and Halter. Marie is a meister, someone in charge of keeping the trillions of parts now running the Earth in order, and Halter is her steadfast bodyguard. Though their disconnected stories initially felt like two separate anime being unceremoniously smashed together, the third episode of the series has brought this team of four together in a way that made the overall package much more compelling.

While Naoto and RyuZU just deal with fanservice hijinks in the first two episodes, Marie and Halter find themselves embroiled in a government conspiracy that threatens to cover up an oncoming “purge” of Kyoto, a failure in the planet's inner workings that could lead to the deaths of millions of people. The show even has a recurring warning that pops up throughout the episodes, reminding the viewers that the team only has so many hours left to solve this crisis. With Naoto's super-hearing and his time-altering robot girlfriend contributing to the hero effort by the third episode, everything comes together to give the show a more interesting plot than “vaguely-action-themed-nerdy-wish-fulfilment.”

All of this is to say that the characters have grown on me a bit. Naoto comes on too strong sometimes, but he really does seem like a decent guy, and his relationship with RyuZU thankfully becomes less creepy and more cute as the series progresses. Marie and Halter are more serious action hero types, but even they develop a rapport that is, if not supremely engaging, at least entertaining enough to pass the time. Surprisingly enough, RyuZU herself has been the standout character so far, vacillating between sweet obedience and haughty contempt for seemingly all other life without ever breaking her calm demeanor. It's a familiar kind of characterization done well; RyuZU has some of the funniest lines in the show so far, and her personality goes a long way toward making up for her tired “Bound to Serve and Love the Protagonist” role.

Honestly, my biggest complains have to do with the show's artistry and setting. Put plainly, this is not a pretty show. The character designs are generic, the art direction is bland and over-reliant on a flat color palette, and the animation ranges from mediocre to ugly. I can tolerate middling artistic qualities if the script works well enough, but many people will understandably be put off by the show's downright lazy visuals.

Equally lazy is the show's treatment of the clockwork planet itself. Outside of the unfortunate architectural decision to slap gears on literally everything, several scenes throughout these episodes struggle to feel like anything other than a moderately futuristic take on modern-day Japan. This is a planet made entirely of gears, a thousand years into the future—for so much of it feel so ordinary and cliché is practically a crime. If you took any mid-range sci-fi anime of the past five years and stuck a bunch of gears onto the artwork and the script, it would be impossible to differentiate from this series about a planet that is also a clock. It's already a little absurd that this series even exists, but the fact that it's completely wasting its own ludicrous concept is just criminal.

Is Clockwork Planet terrible? So far, no. It has a decent story and a reasonably likable cast, which is all I need to at least give a show a chance. It's definitely on the ugly side for anime, and it could stand to be more creative with its premise, but there's still potential here. We'll just have to see how much of that potential is actually met.

Rating: C+

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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