Clockwork Fighters Vol. #3 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: D

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 200
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Clockwork Fighters

Clockwork Fighters Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     February 25, 2008
Release Date: February 05, 2008

Clockwork Fighters Vol. #3
© Bandai Entertainment

What They Say
It has been nearly eight years since feudal Japan was visited by the first black ships of the western world. An uneasy treaty has been forced between the United States and the Tokugawa Shogunate. Resentment grows amongst the populace and a new sentiment spreads: "Revere the Emperor and drive out the Westerners!" Spreading almost as quickly are a number of clockwork and steam-powered devices. Manipulating these devices is an evil organization bent on conquering the nation and forcing a new industrial era, the Wind Gang.

A young member of a tribe of machine people, Hiwou, has recently discovered the gift of his heritage in the form of an ancient and powerful clockwork doll known as Homura. It is up to Hiwou, piloting the giant Homura, to stop the Wind Gang and avert the tides of war. This clockwork doll might just be able to change a bit of history!

The Review!
The series draws to a close with the final eight episodes where once again everything seems to play out much like it has before.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its English language adaptation. It and the included Japanese language track are basic stereo mixes that don't have too much in the way of directionality to them. They're both very full sounding mixes that don't really work the forward soundstage all that much. There's maybe some mild placement for voices here and there but for the most part it's not all that noticeable. Both tracks sound good though and come across clean and clear without any noticeable dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing in 2000, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The transfer fro the show looks like it's in pretty good shape with no noticeable blemishes or other related problems but it's not free of issues. The nine episodes are split across two discs in a 5/4 format and there's nothing on the disc beyond the show but there is still a general level of fuzziness to a lot of the background scenes. When seated from a normal viewing distance and on sets at least 50" and under, this isn't too noticeable but once you get a bit closer it becomes much more visible. This is the only real problem though outside of some aliasing and it is free of cross coloration. Colors do maintain a mostly solid feel and blacks look good without much in the way of blocking going on in them.

The cover artwork for the second volume is once again murky looking considering that this is really a show aimed more at younger kids. The top portion with the logo looks fairly silly with the font used though I like the obscured gears in the background. The rest of the cover uses various shots from the show in a collage format which is very soft since it's using materials from the show itself. The back cover uses the same gear strip along the top while the rest of it is split in two. The left side has some better looking artwork of the main characters while the right side has the shows summary and a breakdown of the discs episodes and features. The listing that it's two DVDs or that there's 200 minutes worth of show is here is kept far too small since these are both key selling points. Like a number of Bandai's packages, it just seems like they either don't know the right way to sell a show or they're having issues getting it through approval.

The menu design for the show is very simple with a shot of the three lead kids riding along in their various clockwork vehicles set against a bright outdoor background. To the right of them, where the series logo and navigation strip is setup there are clips from the show playing in the background. The still parts of the menu, such as the character artwork and the text, all look a bit fuzzy and not as solid and clean as they should. A bit of the vocal piece from the show plays along in a decent length loop but otherwise this is a very straightforward menu. Access times are decent and submenus load quickly and the disc played according to our player presets, though the full English subtitles were the second set of English labeled subtitles.


Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Free at last, free at last. No longer must I be subjected to this show which has been one of the hardest things I've had to sit through in the last year. Clockwork Fighters finally finishes out its run after various delays with the last eight episodes of the series that takes us through various anti-Westerner skirmishes, muddied politics and awkward moments with children dealing in an adult world. Throw in some more weak material with the various clockwork applications and a dancing giant festival robot and you have a winning combination of having me check the countdown timer regularly.

Clockwork Fighters has had a few themes running through it and they're the main points once again for the final volume. The one that started all of this was the storyline that revolves around the kids finding their father which was a pure and honest goal that motivated them through thick and thin. Finding that their father had fallen in with the Wind Gang, seemingly on purpose, made it difficult to continue on but they felt they had to give him the benefit of the doubt and still try to save him. This storyline got a bit more interesting as we started to see more of his reasons for working with the Wind Gang, but it never really gelled all that well in how it came across on the screen. His motivations were minimal and the way he pushed away his kids just felt odd, even with an obsession with clockwork devices. The way that relationship ends with his kids was one of the better moments of the show, but like so many other good moments in the series it's just far too short and poorly executed.

While the family theme is pretty strong with the show, that of friendship is another one. The family members are all friends as well and they've gained a fair number of friends along the way in their journey to find their father. These friends tend to come back once in awhile, often in a new position of power, which then influences how they progress from their in either the search or in their attempts to stop the warring. What made this difficult to watch was that there are so many characters and so many that are similar looking in design that it's very hard to keep track of them all, especially with the general delays between volumes. After awhile, when combined with the various mini history lessons that are tossed in, it all starts to just wash right past you and doesn't make an impact. The various power plays, political moves and warring bits just start to blur.

Even when you have stand out characters it all starts to make less and less sense as it progresses. Arashi's father Kurogane is a prime example. His use of the Wind Gang in this war against the Westerners is little more than his attempt to establish himself and his ability as a builder across the nation. His method for doing so isn't all that unusual, but he ends up going a bit mad with it along the way. His attacks are seemingly random and without much strategic value and he doesn't seem to bring anyone over to his cause unless he's able to do so through coercion. Even worse is that his use of Arashi is something that undermines him in a predictable manner but also one that doesn't have the time to be explored because of the size of the cast and the fact that it's not considered important in the scheme of things.

And therein lies the main problem with the show. Just what is important here? After watching twenty six episodes of this series I'm left wondering what the point of it all was. There are many series that work well as a show about nothing, but Clockwork Fighters looked like it wanted to be more than something like a slice of life show that typically utilize such things. Following Hiwou on this journey and his realization of how the world works in comparison to how he wants it to work hasn't been all that interesting. The combination of having a big storyline involving the anti-Western movement and all the politics and conflict involved tied to a story dealing with a group of kids with a giant festival robot that gets caught up in it just didn't work. Add in some less than appealing animation and bland character designs and you have a show that just doesn't work.

In Summary:
Clockwork Fighters was released in a way that almost seems like it was doomed to fail, or was signaled to be something that couldn't sell. While it has the mighty BONES name tied to it, having a year between the first and second volume and then four months between the second and third just didn't help it. Bandai isn't a stranger to these double disc releases and they're something we're likely to see a bit more of because of market conditions, but the release of this series in this form back in 2006 was a sign that there were no expectations for it. I'm honestly surprised it got a dub at all considering the cost of it even on the cheap. Clockwork Fighters had little appeal for me right from the start and only got progressively worse and less enjoyable as it went along. There's really nothing to recommend here unless you're looking to see some early BONES work and to figure out just how far they've come since then.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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