One of the coolest things about reading manga is how an entirely unique series pops up out of nowhere and is delivered in a lengthy, volume-sized format. Manga offers the ability to impart a lot of serial storytelling in one unique package. I really enjoyed Clockwork Planet Vol. 1 and with Vol. 2 out this month I had to check it out!
Story by: Yuu Kamiya and Tsubaki Himana
Manga by: Kuro
Character design by: Sino
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
So what’s it about? The official summary reads:
GEARS IN MOTION Naoto and RyuZU have a tense encounter with Marie Bell Breguet and her bodyguard, Vainney Halter, but they form a shaky alliance with the shared goal of fixing the Core Tower in Kyoto. With the city’s most important structure in disrepair, Kyoto’s entire population is at risk, but Naoto believes he can save it before the city undergoes a Purge. This unstoppable team of renegades may be able to save millions of lives, but acting against government orders may spark a dangerous conflict. Is Naoto’s group ready to face the consequences of disrupting the order of the world itself?
Why does this book matter?
With a cool science fiction world you’ve never seen before–it’s made of clocks now due to environmental destruction–and a group of dynamic characters, this manga is a lot of fun. It’s also got a government-centric villain who would willingly kill an entire city, so our heroes must go rogue to save the day. A rogue band of heroes learning about each other’s abilities? Sounds cool to me.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Opening where we left off, Marie Bell is aghast to find Ryuzu (a super powerful robot) in the ownership of Naoto (a common kid) when this robot was not only broken, but in her care previously. She wants the robot back, but unfortunately, Naoto is now her master. It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship and based on a tease in volume 1 that they’re going to be working together against the government, this volume focuses on bringing this group together. While that’s happening, this volume focuses on saving the city that’s meant to be cleansed of its inhabitants. Due to the mutual goal of saving the day, these heroes must not only figure out how to work together, but what abilities they have to offer. That makes the overall work feel efficient with every page mattering.
Science fiction fanatics should enjoy some of the cool ideas which include a new power of Ryuzu that changes the game. By the end of this volume it’s quite clear she’s nearly indestructible and with Naoto and Marie Bell by her side even if she breaks she can be fixed. On top of that, a new sister robot is introduced too. Speaking of Ryuzu, the addition of Vainney–a robot that’s more of a soldier–helps to put Ryuzu’s abilities into perspective. Vainney is a no nonsense robot with incredible abilities, but even he’s surprised by what she can do. He also offers another robot’s perspective on the wonders Marie Bell and Naoto can accomplish.
Besides saving the city, this volume also resets things in the closing chapter, effectively flipping a lot of the dynamics on their heads. Naoto and Marie Bell already had an interesting butting heads sort of relationship and their new relationship at the end will make for much more drama. There’s also the added wrinkle of Marie Bell changing her entire life because she sees the potential in her compatriots, which is a nice touch.
The art of this volume continues to be incredibly strong. The character designs are on point and Ryuzu’s incredible powers are rendered in such a simplistic way they seem sharp and impossibly fast. As far as layouts, this manga takes a lot of chances and tries out new things which makes for a more exciting read. One example involves time freezing and two double page spreads showcasing absolutely nothing happening with a third double page spread showing a huge explosion. This effectively slows down time for the reader which enhances the drama, but also allows you to focus on the time freezing going on. In another example, a sound effect slashes down the page splitting panels to the right and left which conveys the chaos and loudness in a car chase sequence. There’s many more, but it’s fun to see new ways of telling a story. And that’s coming from a reviewer who has read a lot of books!
Dang, she’s fast.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Some dramatic beats don’t work, or feel forced. Take a moment where Marie Bell quits her craft. She really doesn’t need to do this, at least not in this moment, and it ends up feeling like an artificial dramatic turn. In another moment later on in the manga, Ryuzu professes love to Naoto, which does further distinguish their relationship beyond it just being a master and a slave. That said, this seems to be stuffed in at a strange time and doesn’t flow with the action and tension building scenes around it.
The manga also appears to be abandoning, or at least cutting back on, Naoto’s dislike for people. It does come up in this volume, but it’s laid on less thickly and isn’t much of a factor in the grand scheme of things. He’s also rather well adjusted with the other characters, whereas in the last volume he was much more of an outsider with social anxiety.
Is It Good?
This is an excellent manga series due to its unique science fiction premise and wildly fun and dynamic characters. Visually it’s clean and quite exciting too. It’s a manga for any fan of character drama mixed with action and science fiction.