Claymore starts with a family’s brutal murder in a vaguely medieval European village. The family is consumed by a shape shifting superhuman monster known as a yoma, sparing two brothers. The townspeople collect all of their money to hire a human/yoma hybrid warrior—derogatively called a Claymore— from the Organization (real name) to find and dispatch the creature. The first arc of the season is the development of the bond between the warrior Clare and the human boy—Raki—she rescued.
Unlike the traditional warrior woman meets lovely boy narrative: Clare is more concerned with keeping Raki alive until he can find a new human home vs being his friend and/or lover. It is as she gets to know him and opens herself to people that we see how innovative the character is from the usual stereotype.
The reasons for Clare’s stoicism, origin & motivations—she saves Raki three times before giving her name—are disclosed organically across the first eight episodes with the same deliberate and removed style as the protagonist. The introduction of Theresa of the Faint Smile that the series establishes the full stakes and arc of the series. The story of Clare, Theresa & their joint nemesis Priscilla was the focus of Clare’s orbit ante Raki. Priscilla herself is a refreshingly different ultimate antagonist.
The remainder of the series follows the shonen formula:
- meet new ally/allies
- fight new enemy type(s)
- gain new skill/ability
All This Has Come Before, All This Will Come Again
Claymore hits with subtle themes that have become common with the more interrogative manga and anime of the last decade. Notable examples are Code Geass & Attack on Titan that hold the Amuro Ray sociopathic pilot trope to full account. The order following super powerful girl scout is deconstructed beautifully. Side Character Narrative hijacking happens with two characters. The greatest evil in the Claymore universe was clearly framed as being human. The clearest manifestation of that evil was the Organization. Nefarious “saviors of humanity” style shakedown artists are as old as the UC Federation. The Organization combines the Ottoman child levy with a super soldier program that crosses Super Sentai with Tekkaman, sprinkling a little bit of Sailor Moon. Clare’s opaque personality has elements of Sesshomaru’s air of mystery in the early episodes.
The Tekkaman analog is fitting as warriors that use too much of their yoma power can “awaken” and become much more powerful yoma themselves. Warriors are strong enough to dispatch groups of ordinary yoma individually with little effort. The only time that the Organization allows warriors to work together is to either kill warriors that have disobeyed the rules of the organization or have awakened.
Clare is unique in two ways: She volunteered to join the Organization & demanded that she be bonded with the flesh of her adopted sister, Theresa. This dual separation blocks the viewer from initially seeing how sinister the Organization is while locked into Clare’s POV. Clare sees the Organization as men using her body to their own advantage while she uses what little they provide her to seek vengeance.
Clare’s choice to become one with Theresa leaves her ¼ yoma: this makes her much weaker than other warriors in the series. The ability to awaken and return to human form grants a permanent increase in power. (with an increase in appetite) The lack of raw power forces Clare to continuously innovate in combat: The first episode utilizes a weapon throw diversion reminiscent of first episode of Demon Slayer. Clare is not the chosen warrior by birth, design nor genius: She becomes a sufficient warrior through practice and innovation. She sees and refines her skills throughout the series to become a warrior that can fight with the power of the awakened without becoming awakened.
Some Heroes Need a Big Cast
Clare is a female protagonist that is entirely interior. Most of her later dialogue is analysis on the current fight. Mr. Yagi created a compelling main character that in neither the anime nor manga gives anything away. The solution was a cut around. The supporting characters do the work of communicating the hero and world to the audience. And there was a lot of character and world.
Priscilla — a main antagonist of the fallen would be hero mold. She is introduced as a klutz powerhouse bound by honor and fair play. Her naive exterior hides a mentally shattered child. She is assigned the task of killing Theresa after she breaks the Organization’s cardinal rule: Never kill a human for any reason. Priscilla succeeds in this mission at the cost of awakening. It was her first mission. Her power is the result of being joined to the yoma that “imitated” her father and ate the rest of her family. The character is a dark reflection of Clare that even becomes more human after meeting Raki.
Theresa (of the Faint Smile, Generation 89, Rank 1/47)– Clare’s adopted sister & greatest war\rrior in the Organization’s history. Rescued Clare from a yoma that abused her after eating her family. Clare was rendered mute by the trauma. Clare broke her silence to comfort Theresa after Theresa’s rape by a bandit that knew of the Organization’s rule. Theresa names Clare after the twin goddess to Theresa’s namesake. She kills her rapist and his entire band after they attack Clare after Theresa leaves her in human care. Theresa is able to defeat all warriors sent against her without difficulty besides Priscilla. Theresa notes that Priscilla has the potential to surpass her in power, but Priscilla lacks the refinement to overcome her Faint Smile technique. This is a classic shonen trope that is inverted by Priscilla resorting to deception and awakening to kill Theresa. (the irony is that she had one chance to kill Theresa at the beginning of the fight and refused as it would not be honorable) Theresa reveals that the Organization buys girls against their will and sends waves of yoma to destroy towns that do not pay to use their warriors.
Miria — High ranked warrior (the Phantom, 127th generation, ranked 6/47) and friend of Clare (150th generation, ranked 47/47). Befriends Clare after a fight against an awakened male warrior (Generation 1, Rank 6/?) convinces her that they were all sent to die for a different reason that she suspected. Miria believed that the reasons Clare, the other warriors and herself were sent to die were attitude or performance related:
Clare was the weakest warrior
Deneve (Generation 135, Rank 15/47) was disliked by other Claymores
Helen (Generation 135, Rank 21/47) was disliked by human clients
Miria had become seditious after events antecedent to the series
Clare correctly infers from several pieces of evidence that they have all partially awakened. (the urge to eat human entrails when they looked at her human companion was hilarious with Clare’s flat delivery)
That Isn’t too Bad
There are over 20 Claymore in the series that each bring out a character facet to Clare or the key support characters. Only the three mentioned communicate their bond with Clare expressly.
What About the Art and Action
Action set pieces are detailed and intricate. The first half of the series involves several multiple phase fights against opponents that required sophisticated teamwork. The final fight degenerated into scream/power up/beat down.
The art is clean and detailed. The Clamores are mostly of similar body type: tall, blond, shining silver eyes and impossibly proportioned athletic build. Differentiation of Claymore is difficult. This also reinforces the distance that Claymore show to each other as all of their interactions are meant to revolve around their professional duties to the Organization..
Each awakened warrior is a uniquely designed reflection of their shadow personality. The Jungian tropes are also elements from Berserk.
The anime serves a better purpose as a pretty advertisement for the Manga than a good stand alone series. The ending was abrupt and undermined the tension built up over 20 episodes. The manga adds needed depth and world building that the anime was filled with. Example of subtle world building: Clare is the only person to choose to become a monster and that is only implicit from the Theresa flashback. The realization that the Organization is the true evil is clear when several key details are pieced together throughout the series. Many good viewers were not interested in "solving" the A plot of another character.
Production values were high. The music choice was metal and ok.
Claymore is a series that is dark, bloody and does not hold hands for simple characterization techniques. If you are ok with sexual violence, gore, and nudity in the vein of Berserk you have a series that can grip you.
Claymore: A Dark Fantasy Between Eras
Writing - 7/107/10
Plot - 10/1010/10
Character Development - 8/108/10
Production - 9/109/10
Music - 7/107/10
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