Let me tell you how obsessed we are with skin these days. In manga, there is a simple technique where stuff is applied with different shades of gray, and give us an idea of what color something is within the medium’s grayscale trappings. It can be used—for instance—to imply that a character has a tan or brown skin color. Issaka Galadima made the decision for the main protagonist of Clock Striker to have one shade, giving her brown skin as a result. This one decision has turned the entire manga industry on its head. In true hypocritical fashion, it even earned the mangaka racial backlash. It doesn’t help that the main character’s skin has been the ONLY thing used by the publisher, Saturday AM, to promote it. However, it still looked like an excellent battle shounen. So, let’s see if I can discuss it like a human being in my review of its first volume (although by the time you’re reading this the initial controversy has probably died down).
In Clock Striker, a girl named Cast wants to be a Smith. However, everyone bullies her and tells her no (classic). Double however, she has an encounter with one such Smith, a woman named Philomena Clock. Naturally, after the first major battle in the series, Clock recruits Cast as her Striker, which is a Smith’s apprentice (title drop). The two go on adventures to dispose of the ancient superweapons that survived some war that probably doesn’t get touched on for a hundred-plus chapters.
So, in a way, we were being played for saps with this manga. Calm down! Spoilers, this post will be mostly positive. However, I must note that, despite the heavy emphasis on Cast’s race in Clock Striker‘s marketing, racism is in fact not a theme whatsoever, at least not in this volume. Sexism does seem to play a role, but right now, it’s a non-issue that feels like shock value. Again, this could change in the future.
They really didn’t need to play into sensitive social issues at all, because Clock Striker is off to a rocking start regardless. First off, the art is really good. In fact, it’s probably the best looking manga I’ve read from Saturday AM thus far. It’s not a particularly novel look, but Clock Striker conforms to classic shounen aesthetics really well. Characters are really memorable and expressive, and the fights are explosively cinematic.
It is also as creative as any battle shounen worth its salt should be. Cast’s superpower would fit really well in Dr. Stone; her prosthetic hand allows her to create chemical reactions, which she uses to blind her enemies with science. Clock, in addition to superhuman strength, has the ability to have tools spontaneously created by a 3D printer that gets beamed down via satellite. It is implied that Cast will have this ability added to her arsenal in time.
As for the story, it’s pretty standard shounen fare so far. Cast does have a goal to become the Pirate King Hokage of Smiths, which is probably where the issue of sexism will be touched in earnest, but for now, it’s all about cleaning up those superweapons. However, no episodic battle shounen is complete without detours! This time, the first distraction involves a kid named Klaus, a runaway from a royal family who has a handsome bounty on his head. The first people who come after him are the Demon Bandits, and like any bandits worth their salt, they rob a train.
Fortunately, Clock Striker is starting out VERY well-paced. It doesn’t feel rushed, yet this volume covers the manga’s first THREE arcs in full, at about 217 pages in total. It helps that it’s this tightly paced in a slower, independent magazine like Saturday AM; it forces Galadima to trim the fat and make every page really count. Although, with that being said, I’m pretty sure that this is at least three years’ of chapters in this volume alone. The next one might get us practically caught up with the publication!
Anyway, there are only three staple protagonists in Clock Striker thus far: Cast, Clock, and Klaus. Cast is a classic spunky protagonist; she doesn’t do anything novel (other than the one thing that people like her for), but follows in the footsteps of Jump heroes quite well. Clock is the Best Mom, though. Possibly Best Grandma, depending on her age. She’s all hoity-toity looking, but packs a punch, and never fails to put on a most formal attitude. This volume hints at her backstory, and knowing battle shounen, we won’t know anything about it for a hundred more chapters.
Klaus is the weakest link. He seems like a typical rich kid with snobby parents. However, the Demon Bandits who try to capture him are pretty cool. I hope they show up more in the future.
Current Verdict: 8.85/10
Clock Striker shows a lot of promise. In fact, it could very well become an equal to Jump‘s best, and maybe even surpass a few of them (especially the ones I don’t particularly like). At the rate it’s going, I’ll probably publish the full review in about ten years. I recommend it to any battle shounen junkie.
One thought on “Clock Striker (Volume 1): Saturday AM’s Biggest Gambit Yet”
Sounds like an interesting shonen work. I hope they do well with the story and the representation. Shame on those idiots with their racist backlash!
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