By Yuu Kamiya, Tsubaki Himana, and Kuro. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Shonen Sirius. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Daniel Komen.
I came into this series knowing next to nothing about it, except that, judging by the cover, it seemed to be sci-fi of some sort. It’s based on a series of novels co-created by the guy who writes No Game No Life, but thankfully seems to mostly lack the overly perverse aspects of that series. The premise is that a young, bullied teenager who lives on his own in a decaying apartment is actually an engineer savant, able to fix anything provided he can “hear” where the problem is. This is made easier by the fact that things in this world run on gears and clockwork (hence the title), though the aesthetic seems to be more Blade Runner than steampunk. The story starts when a broken robot girl comes crashing into his apartment, and after he fixes her takes over much of his life. Oh yes, and everyone in the city is about to be destroyed by an evil conspiracy.
The manga adaptation of the series is mostly functional, but there are several very nice pictures of the city itself and its gears, showing that the artist is quite capable when she sets her mind to it. The male lead is OK, I guess, suffering at the moment from being a bullied kid who sort of assumes he’s a loser, as he has no idea how rare his engineering talent is. The main reason to get this series, though, is the robot girl, Ryuzu, who is amazingly rude in regards to humanity as a whole and says so frequently. Once she discovers what Naoto is capable of, she’s prepared to do anything for him, leading to the funniest scene in the book, as she tries to get him to have a wonderful school life without bothering to take into account the other students around her at all. Every time you turn the page you can expect her to say new horrible things, and it’s a major selling point.
I was less enthused by the other main characters, who are introduced halfway through. Marie is an engineering prodigy from a well-known family, already with a doctorate despite still being a teenager. She’s also rude, but in a typical “I am arrogant and don’t have time for you” way, so it’s not as amusing. Admittedly, it isn’t supposed to be – it quickly becomes apparent that Marie and her bodyguard are dealing with the evil conspiracy I mentioned above, which is the sort of evil conspiracy that deems 20 million lives as acceptable losses. I think this simply suffers from being less interesting than the first half rather than any major character faults, and I think I will like Marie better when she interacts with other people, but it does leave the book a bit unbalanced.
But overall, a very good start. I want to see more of the world itself, and flesh out Marie and her bodyguard, but I definitely want to keep reading more. And I definitely want to hear more of Ryuzu’s sharp-tongued dialogue, which is the main selling point of this series so far.