Out this week from Kodansha Comics is a new manga that mixes nerdom, machines, and science fiction together. Arriving in anime form in Japan this April, it’s a series that’s primed to blow up in the states once manga fans get a taste. We review to determine whether that taste is sweet, or salty!
Clockwork Planet Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics)
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
Naoto’s a high school dropout and brilliant amateur tinkerer. He lives in a world that has been so over-exploited that the entire surface has become one vast machine. When a box crashes into his home containing a female automaton, it’s a harbinger of change that will rock the entire globe, and give Naoto his chance to be a hero.
Why does this book matter?
The story is by the same writer behind the hit No Game, No Life, Yuu Kamiya, with an art style that’s incredibly clean by Kuro. Together, the two creators bring a manga that should have fans of science fiction interested and those with a proclivity for manga with some sexual undertones on the radar as well.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The life of a nerd.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this manga, but was taken aback on the very first page. Opening in full color, Kamiya and Tsubaki Himana explain what has happened to the Earth and where we’re at 1,000 years later. Humans destroyed the planet and now it’s made entirely of gears from the bottom up. It’s a wild concept and is visually explained quite clearly. It’s a surprise something like this could even work and surprises is why this first volume is so great. The book quickly introduces its protagonist Naoto Miura who is an expert tinkerer with an ear that can find any problem. He’s bullied but pays no mind to it as he’s much more focused on building his own automaton from spare parts he can find. Just as you start to gather what this book is about, something literally falls on Naoto’s house and his life is changed forever. An automaton like no other (displayed on the cover) falls into his lap. It’s broken, but Naoto fixes it with ease and soon he discovers she’s a master at everything only he’s the master of her since he turned her on. With a mysterious past and a proclivity to do whatever Naoto wants (think high schooler fantasy) the plot gets more complex and intriguing from there.
As if the creative team wasn’t sure if folks would want to keep reading–we do–the manga switches gears entirely and shows you the future for Naoto and his automaton which shakes things up so much you’ll be dying to know how they got where they do. The remaining pages develop a master engineer known as a maesters, detail the conflicts they must navigate with city police, and an impending threat that could kill millions of lives.
The dialogue is actually quite clever too. There are times it surprises in ways you don’t see coming (see below). That does well to characterize the characters via their attitudes and it’s also good for a laugh.
Outside of the compelling plot, the creative team have done a good job developing Naoto so he’s not a cliche, but still relatable for those familiar with manga or new to the format. The dynamic between he and the automaton has some sexual undertones–the automaton is incredibly beautiful so as to allow the art team to draw some scantily clad legs and positions for sure–but it’s played up with a puppy love charm. The main maester character named Marie is female and her form is certainly drawn to play to a male audience, but not in a gross or overt way.
Speaking of the art, the lines by Kuro are fantastic throughout this volume. The intricate gears and complicated architecture of the city are quite gorgeous and there isn’t a panel that looks rushed or unfinished. Maester Marie is particularly well drawn, with a complicated layer of clothes and a unique look to her hair. She’s cute as a button, but also strong and the facial expressions help convey her absolute resolve. The automaton’s clothes are also intricate as if they’re made of metal and they give the impression of sharp edges as she shouldn’t be reckoned with.
Note the intricate detail in the clothing.
It can’t be perfect can it?
At this stage, the characters are introduced well, although the villain is quite vague and only gets a brief scene later in the manga. Since this volume really only introduces the characters and world, you’re not quite clear where the conflict is going outside of the immediate threat.
Clockwork Planet is filled with clever characters in a compelling science fiction world that’s hard to put down. The visuals are clean in a highly entertaining read. After this first volume I’m hooked and I’m desperate to see what happens next.