By Yuu Kamiya, Tsubaki Himana, and Sino. Released in Japan by Kodansha. Released in North America by J-Novel Club. Translated by fofi.
The first volume of Clockwork Planet felt very faithful to its genre. We’re introduced to the weirdo hero, identifiable to the core readers mostly due to his robot fetish, and much of the book is through his eyes. As such, Marie seemed to be the typical shonen heroine – romance aside, she was constantly yelling and hitting the hero while also secretly being impressed by him, which is the standard operating procedure for this type of heroine. So I was rather surprised in this second volume to see Marie get the bulk of the audience sympathy and POV. It doesn’t exactly shift to her – she did get a lot of attention in the first book as well. It’s just Naoto seems to be moving further away from us as the series goes on. This is lampshaded towards the end of the book, when it’s hinted he’s actually a reincarnation of something much bigger. Even his perversion seems more… messianic.
The plot of Book 2 is pretty much ‘deal with the fallout from Book 1’, as our heroes travel to the next clockwork town over only to find it disturbingly empty save for a horrible monster death machine deep in the basement. They also see AnchoR, who is the younger sister robot girl to our vicious robot heroine RyuZU, and is unfortunately being brainwashed at the moment, so that will have to be dealt with. (Actually, it’s dealt with pretty quickly and easily – for once, this sort of light novel sequence does buildup better than fight scenes.) Along the way we see how much of this is just the government trying to keep itself in power (a lot). I actually like how this is handled, with Marie being the one unable to immediately figure out everything right away. This is not because she’s stupid (as RyuZU implies) or oblivious to anything but robots (as Naoto is), it’s because she is a big shining ball of idealism who tries to pass herself off as a complete cynic, and has trouble imagining people being truly evil.
This is still written by Yuu Kamiya, author of No Game No Life, and as such you’re going to get a lot of tasteless service here as well. Mostly this is pointless or annoying (AnchoR seems to be a “little sister lolicon” robot purely for those reasons), but occasionally he hits a home run, such as the content of the secret “coded” message for Marie, which was so appallingly explicit I laughed out loud. I’m not certain what the original Japanese was, but you won’t see language like that in Sword Art Online, even if you did paste Chapter 16.5 into your book. And aside from Naoto, who remains mostly static because he’s becoming messianic, there was good character development here. It’s also impressive that I like Marie so much given how much of the book shows her yelling, screaming, or kicking people in the head. There are many times I wanted to do the same thing to everyone she was dealing with.
Clockwork Planet is not terrific, but I do have a lot of fun reading it, particularly Marie. It will be interesting to see if the series, like Marie, can keep going without looking the idealism that it seems to have. Honestly, judging from the cliffhanger, things aren’t looking good.