Image source: アニメ クロックワーク・プラネット on Twitter

In the world of Clockwork Planet, the Earth, as the title implies, has been reconstructed using gears and cogs—just like the internal mechanisms of a clock. That in itself is an interesting fantasy setting, giving potential for all sorts of possible stories to be told. However, it also allows us to look some concepts at our own world from a different perspective—and wonder if it isn’t a metaphor for our modern society’s relationship with nature, and the human interactions within it.

The story is set in a future after the natural Earth has died and a mysterious being known only as “Y” has rebuilt it using gears. A young boy who is mad about cogs and intricate machinery, Naoto Miura, finds that a non-functioning young girl automaton has crashed through his roof and he proceeds to fix her using his know-how with machines and super-human hearing to spot the problem. Once operational, the girl introduces herself as RyuZU, a mechanical slave that names Naoto as her master, and proceeds to do his bidding.

Image source: アニメ クロックワーク・プラネット on Twitter

The setting of Clockwork Planet is one full of intriguing, nuanced imagery. Firstly, on the macro scale, we have the Earth as the titular “Clockwork Planet” itself. The visuals we see of the world viewed from space appear to show massive cogs and gears the size of continents, and as we delve deeper, we get ever more intricate interlocking pieces of machinery that appear to run the planet. In a broad sense, one could imagine that this serves as something of a metaphor for history repeating in a cycle, like the turning of gears. The intricate machinations of the overall plot, in which a corrupt army is plotting a purge of the system in the Kyoto sector, also fit well with the complex clockwork analogy.

There is also a theological level of interpretation to the world of Clockwork Planet. It is a world clearly made by a mysterious creator. However, it is also one that can crumble down at any minute due to the actions of the shady government types. This in turn brings to mind our own world, and the arguments of the complexities found in nature suggesting some omniscient creator, as well as the dangers of taking advantage of nature.

Sure enough, one of the most common arguments for the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient creator, or the Judeo-Christian God, is very much this teleological argument based on the very complexity of the natural world: the William Paley analogy of the watchmaker. That is to say, if you look at the inner workings of a clock or a watch you found on the beach, your instincts cannot help but conclude that such a complicated system could not have come from the sea like the shells surrounding it, but instead, could only have come about due to some smart design and careful engineering. Similarly, the complex eco-systems present in nature must therefore also be by design, but by a more intelligent being. Or at least, so the analogy goes.

In modern times it has been famously disputed, of course, by the likes of Richard Dawkins, but for the purposes of this particular anime, it harbors a religious overtone that is hard to ignore once you see it, especially when considering that the identity of “Y” is shrouded in mystery, almost to the point of deification.

Additionally, the imminent purge of the clockwork Kyoto brings to mind not only the delicate nature of the natural world through human intervention that we read about every day, but also its own volatility. From a Japanese perspective, living together with an environment that constantly threatens to snap into a disaster situation is a fact of life. Thus, the wheels turning and time ticking until a gear jumps a groove, resulting in a terrible tragedy, is a part of life for those who have made this place their home. It is a fate that people can neither escape nor control.

On the micro level, we then have the case of the clockwork slave, RyuZU: she is basically a robot made of gears and cogs, designed to do whatever her master wishes. But at the same time, she appears to also harbor some free will. We see this in episode three: When she turns down Naoto’s proposal for her hand in marriage (yeah, she’s definitely the one for him!), it seems odd because she is thus going against what he commands. But her logic process was that by being his wife, she would be on equal standing, and therefore no longer subservient.

The conclusion we take away then, is that she cannot stop being a slave.

But at the same time, Naoto notices that there is some leeway in what may seem like a restriction of her freedom. He asks her if it is her own will to like him. He then asks if she loves him, and furthermore, how much she loves him. All of the responses are positive… To which RyuZU adds the comment that Naoto is “a pervert who has exceeded the highest such levels of all humanity.”

Image source: アニメ クロックワーク・プラネット on Twitter

So here, again, we have a concept of fate on the individual level, as the clock inside her body means that RyuZU is destined to be simply a machine obeying orders. However, we have also seen that there are glimmers of hope. This is also comparable to our own makeup, our own destinies, and how we should be able to make our own decisions, as individuals, regardless of social status.

In Clockwork Planet, the microcosm of the main characters representing our free will, wishes, and desires against our own limitations as people is juxtaposed with the macrocosm of the surrounding world setting, where the complexities of the natural world give both a sense of a delicate planet we have to take care of, and a sense of respect for however it was that it came to be here.

Clockwork Planet is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

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