「終焉機動 (スティール・ウェイト)」 (Sutiiru Weito)
Well Clockwork Planet certainly pulled no surprises in its last big outing. The big giant robot (because that title never gets old) was soundly defeated and Gennai learned what happens when you make naughty with a loli, all the while still ranting about Y and his world twisting. Quite funny how we learned nothing further on Y or his relation to Naoto/Marie, but there’s enough hinting towards reincarnation or power transfer to keep me satisfied. No point getting hopes up too far.
The best part though was AnchoR who once again stole the show, fighting hard and actually showcasing some surprisingly serious pain and suffering. Sure we’ve already seen some serious consequences before, but ripping hands off of preteen girls definitely leaves a mark. At least AnchoR’s sacrifice was worth it once Marie finally reconciled to the fact AnchoR is her daughter and is not going anywhere. Obviously sucks for Naoto and his healthy delusions, but the kid benefits from Marie’s art of persuasion when RyuZU isn’t around to keep the peace. Plot irritations or not, the Naoto family life never gets boring. Plus we got Halter back in proper form and the sexbot along for the ride, cannot complain about that. With a happy(ish) ending and an opening for further adaptation if desired, cannot fault Clockwork’s way of wrapping things up.
Out of all “hyped” shows this season, I’d argue Clockwork Planet is the most disappointing. By this I do not mean the show is objectively terrible—far from it—but that it failed to live up to preseason expectations. With Clockwork being the brainchild of Kamiya Yuu, most people were probably anticipating something similar to NGNL. Not an exact copy obviously, but features such as a hilarious protagonist duo, a quirky premise, and a focus more on comedy than stark realism. Clockwork certainly hit on parts of these ideas during its run (particularly the character chemistry), but it never emphasized the components needed to raise it above typical light novel ware. Take the clockwork setting for example, by itself it’s incredibly interesting and far out from the normal settings, but the show arguably underutilized it. Beyond some well-researched science and plot-related functionality (ex. Naoto’s and Marie’s abilities) the steampunk was largely relegated to background scenery. We saw gears all over, were constantly told of their importance, but never saw the full impact. Why is Y so controversial? Why is the world fundamentally flawed? How does half this crap work without electromagnetism while functionally identical? Yuu had some fantastic conceptual ideas, but they were never elaborated on enough, whether due to the material adapted or the adaptation choices.
Now to be fair the aforementioned is a common problem of adaptations, particularly those with heavy world building, but it’s acutely felt in Clockwork because the story as presented does not make up for it. Undercurrents of conspiracy, political upheaval, and a world wrong at its core were barely espoused on, and the big bad in Gennai became more of a minor monster of the week than a true evil. The connections back to Gennai and his motivations were poorly handled, hints were few and far between, and any sense of understanding aggravatingly held off until the last moment. It’s flawed writing requiring one reads the source material for understanding, let alone closure—more than enough to turn the anime-only viewer off from both show and series. You need a coherent plot viewers can connect the dots in, something condensing focus and allowing the unfamiliar to quickly latch on with. Busou Shoujo with its simple, singular plot showed the possibilities, while last season’s Youjo Senki—even with all its cut material and arc rearrangements—indicated how well a tight story can carry an otherwise superficial premise. All Clockwork needed was to better tie its disparate plot pieces together to avoid the pitfalls that turned many viewers off initially.
What kept me committed to Clockwork though and saved it from being a net negative was its characters. I’ve discussed it lots over the weeks, but Naoto and RyuZU really saved the day here. Yeah their relationship was cliché, cheesy, and total wish fulfillment, but it was funny, honest, and quite endearing. Naoto slowly morphed from an utter dweeb into a staunch and loyal protagonist who, while never actually kissing RyuZU, did actually ask (voicelessly) for her hand in marriage. You do not see that all too often. Marie only helped round out the picture by filling those traits Naoto lacked, and by morphing herself out of a tsundere stand-in into strong-willed blondie. Both characters had personal flaws, and only through the assistance of each other could overcome them and find new strength—textbook character development. I’m quite sad we won’t get to see the fruits of their evolved relationship—especially with a concrete plot to now work with—but what we have here is enough to leave me satisfied. Not the best characters or development ever seen, but a fun, enjoyable experience worth the price of admission.
Considering all the above, is Clockwork really worth it? Depends on what one is looking for. If you want a well thought out science fiction story capable of capturing and keeping your attention I’d peruse elsewhere, but if quirky and fun character casts are your thing I’d consider giving it a go. Clockwork’s ridiculous Naoto family harem may not exactly save the show from serious criticism, but with the right mindset it’s enough to keep things amusing and patch over the more glaring faults. I may dislike a fair bit about Clockwork’s execution and setup, but I will say it never once failed to entertain. Considering how bad some light novel adaptations can be, it’s hard asking for more.