Genres: adventure, drama, science fiction
Plot Summary: In a world rife with deadly creatures called “Yoma”, there stands only the Claymore to stop them. Yet, since being a Claymore is itself a curse, how much more so when it is willingly asked for? We follow the tale of Clare the 47th Claymore as she searches for vengeance. All while trying not to become the very thing she abhors…
Story – 4.2
Our first glimpse into the world of Claymore’s begins in a small town in Japan where a young man named Raki is saved by a cold faced Claymore named Clare. Claymore are humans who have been forced into something made from the same Yoma that devour humankind in this world. Kind of like “out of the ashes of your enemy is your savior”, it’s a weird topic which has a few parallels towards our modern society. Now, since Yoma’s can transform themselves into humans (who they eat the innards), many of the humans in the story cannot stand the presence of a Claymore, because besides being half-monster they have those strange silver eyes. Silver witches some might say. In a way, this set the tone for the series well, as it was not going to be your happy-go-lucky story and ended up proving itself superb in many ways. Claymore is a special show.
But first, the Moral Category: Language is colorful for this series, not so much at first, but there are plenty of B words to go around, as well as a few F words used somewhere around half the series. While arguably the latter is extreme, the circumstance used is somewhat understandable, and I felt that overall the series should enact no more than a warning to its potential viewer here.
However, turning to the nudity used in the show, that is entirely a different subject. I want to point out, aside from the few backside peeks at Clare (at understandable points, I’ll argue), past the half-way point in the series, we have these unfortunate characters who morph into giant beings called the Awakened Ones… And in their morph they are exposed. Yes, I understand the trap of using nudity to prevent the audience from having real empathy towards the character, but it’s always unnecessary and as we see here is totally distracting.
In fact, the viewer will note that Clare never was humiliated this way, to point out what I see…. Or try NOT to see… What I hate most of all is right before the end of the two characters is a bit of empathy is given towards these two and conveniently the artist pretends you never saw anything by ending the exposure. Fornication/Adultery is little more than what Ecchi/Hentai aims at, and drops a bomb on the rating of the show. Also, since I’m obligated to warn the reader, the latter character’s exposure was far worse, and in fact leans is the definition of lewd in the way it is drawn.
Such extremely sexual exposure is only countered somewhat by how much the ending itself was a breach from the manga and understandably was so weak that the director foolishly thought lewdness would gain him “brownie points” with the majority of viewers…
Now on the story: Raki being saved by Clare has him deciding to follow Clare, and since I’m a sucker for anything romantic, I immediately liked the premise. Will Raki be important to Clare and how? You definitely get the hint that he will, but since he’s just a mere human this proves a little difficult. The roles, then appear to have been switched… But honestly, that’s not exactly true. Rake (thankfully) wants to be more than an emotional stabilizer and properly vows he will become stronger so he can protect Clare. Sure, it may be a bit naive for Raki, but for the show Claymore these kinds of self-evident truths were all over the place, and helped the story avoid the cliché of feminism.
Since we are on the subject, Claymore presents a unique discussion on the inherent problem of power. In the show, only the women are deemed able to handle the Yuki power of a Yoma. While this is sort of getting ahead of ourselves, I honestly don’t mind that men aren’t able to handle the power as it actually is a fair assessment of sorts, even though as we shall see that the dilemma perhaps need never be. Yes, some people may see this as just being more liberal rot gut against manhood and stuff, but I heartily disagree. For one thing, Raki isn’t just an ornament, but a key figure in the story… He has some real merit to the show.
Frankly, men and women aren’t the same… So expecting that for every brave woman you need another brave man to equalize the situation is itself fantasy as much as it is bad writing. It is imperative that each of the characters is able to fit in their respective gender differences as well as the themes the overall story wishes to discuss. Men ought to be men and women ought to be women… And in Claymore you feel this is so. We all are capable of doing great things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those great things are the same or for the same reasons.
Actually, on the subject of differentiation, Claymore really does celebrate the differences of the sexes. So what if men can’t be “successful” Claymore… It’s descriptive that men’s inherent role as a defender (hence why war is mainly between men) is itself their downfall to being one. Plus, it’s not like being a Claymore was a kindness, as we find out most Claymore aren’t willingly made into them (and maybe part of the problem). Men aren’t described as dominating sexual freaks who just pray on the “weaker” sex or whatever silliness liberalism often attempts to portray them. And I for one thought this refreshing.
Early on in the show, and after rocky has joined Clare on her journeys, Clare receives a black card from her friend Elena, who, as all Claymore will, ultimately reached her limit and turned into the same Yoma she slays. Obviously turning into a monster is the worst punishment, so Elena requests for Clare to come and slay her “while she still has a human mind.” I must say, the topic of awakening was well-fleshed out and impressed me. As Lord Acton, the historian and moralist wrote, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.” The tragedy unfolding before your eyes as even the organization who made them treats all the Claymore with contempt, it’s quite sad. Every one of the Claymore will eventually perish from their comrades or be turned into monsters and Clare must struggle to prevent that.
All this leads me into one of my favorite arcs from episode 3. You have this fierce Yoma which a particular town’s priest requests, quietly for Clare’s assistance. The twist is that the city therein has a ban on all things Claymore. So Clare and Raki must pretend to be normal people and the way it is done is pretty legit. Oh, and did I say Clare already goes beyond her limit fighting the brute? The show does itself proud in not being predictable and shocking the audience, as much as it was sweet with the way rookie proves useful to Clare when Clare begs to be slain.
The viewer can feel the energy at this point in the series, so the viewer is caught off guard that the next episode is not even about Raki. Perhaps that’s because Raki as a person isn’t delved into or that the show’s sudden change of scenery isn’t explained one bit, so there may be a slight resentment towards the sudden switch. But you know, looking back at it, I thought it wise for the author to tell you in advance Clare’s memory as there are significant parts to the story which “flashbacks” would only become annoying. As we all know, flashbacks are a convenient way of making up story lines, so the prequel stuff feels better and, ultimately, for the manga especially, is crucial for the ending of the show. Also, let me not forget this arc has one of best surprise moments in its genre with the way Clare’s friend and savior Teresa dies… There is no way you don’t shout “WHAT!?!?” with that moment. It’s some seriously great stuff.
Moving on from here towards the point of no return, Clare separates from Raki since she has to face a true Veracious Eater, or an Awakened One, and doesn’t wish for Raki to get in the way from the kind of monster is too crafty compared to the regular Yoma. Aside from the pleasant romancing going, I felt excited at the prospect of Raki agreeing to stay, but promising he will grow so he can become the protector of Clare that he wants and knows he ought to be. As Clare nears her mission, she finds three other Claymore and you quickly note as the characters do that this is almost a setup for their death. The Awakened One turns out to be a male, and unfortunately for the four, the reason the men were banned from being Claymore is they were a little too good at harnessing Yuki power. Naturally, the same Organization also keeps tabs on them via their Yuki powers being watched by a high-ranking and shrewd Claymore. Yet, our “four amigas” are able to win thanks to the awakened nature of Clare… And what? They all are themselves partially awakened…. WHAT!?! That was a twist I didn’t see coming. But again, Claymore doesn’t just sit with that feeling and further strengthens the show by how cool the four women prove to be.
You know, the idea that your employers just tried to bump you off since they feared you close to awakening is not cool… Especially since you know that you’re partially awakened. I liked the premise this brings and the foreboding issue of what to do with the Organization felt compelling; After the four split up to avoid suspicion for now, though each is warned about meeting the five greatest Claymore, Clare is sent on another doomed mission towards the North… And here is where the story gets grandiose… She is sent to stop the Abyssal One named Isely who is calling himself an army. Unfortunately, this also takes her dangerously close to where Priscilla is, and Clare’s lust for vengeance immediately comes out. There are many strange stuff that happens here, all equally potent and the show kepting soaring to new heights of awesome-hood.
Now, since Clare is gradually getting stronger, like in the shows Bleach and Naruto, I thought Claymore did a great job still separating itself by how Teresa, the Claymore which saved/inspired/motivates Clare to revenge, is in a way still with her… Although the series essentially becomes more like the Shōnen Jump it is by incorporating that Bleach feeling as Clare gets more powerful. Yes, part of this struggle to find more power to avenge her beloved Teresa involves getting some of her limbs torn off, but what’s a few sacrifices? Actually, the latter half of the series is quite graphic as well as fantastical with how Clare is given another arm via one of the old warriors who someone survived the ordeal of Teresa’s demise. Ultimately, the realism with Clare not being invincible helped overall the show develop into her tragic story believably.
Take one look at this all, and you can readily see why Claymore was successful. It has engaging characters, a dark story-line that rips at the edges of your conscience as Clare is slowly falling into the very thing she refuses to become… Rocky himself, albeit here somewhat useless to us, is nonetheless gathering his wits and finding ways to improve himself. Add the Abyssal Ones (great Yoma essentially) of the North and West raises a ruckus, and you have an excellent story. I can’t tell you how much those episodes were fun to watch as Clare saves a Number 9 ranked Claymore named Jean, and how the almost petty arguments of the Abyssal Ones cause panic in the Organization. Is there a hint that this is all quite unnecessary? Perhaps… Certainly from the vantage point that the Abyssal Ones only care about awakening Claymore. That kind of dark hint at the conflicting aims of the supposed saviors of humanity, the Organization, helped keep the viewer absorbed, and continued to pull them into what other shocking realization that was about to unfold.
There are a few points I felt needed to be mentioned before the ending is discussed. As Clare is heading north towards the slayer of her Teresa, an Awakened One named Priscilla, she meets some of the elite five she was warned about. Among the four we meet (as the show doesn’t finish) my favorite was the sociopath Ophelia. She is the reason Clare loses her arm and apparently has been killing humans for quite some time, which accounts for her blood lust. The tragic happening that Ophelia turns into that which she despised was solid poetic justice as much as it was cool seeing Clare defeat her. It was great stuff.
Still, one cannot mention this latter major arc without also mentioning the exposure that Ophelia has in the series. Yes, I know she turns into a monster, but is that an excuse to expose her like this? As with any show which does this, the exposure alone tells you she isn’t a character to have empathy with, but it becomes more distracting than it needs to be. Mostly what bothers me is the inconsistency… Towards the end, we see Clare emerging not only the Victor but also the heroine for salvation of the wretched Ophelia… And yet, sanity has arrived conveniently in that the moment we are supposed to be sympathetic to Ophelia the upper exposure suddenly is covered up… I know why they do it, I just think such obvious excuses for moral lapses are unfortunate and hurts the grading. I wish this was the only time this happens, but we”ll speak of it later.
Back to the reward of sending Clare on a suicide run to the Northern Abyssal One named Isely, supposedly there is a hint given to Clare that she may find herself being forgiven if she can succeed. Obviously it’s a trap, and when Clare meets up with the other three Claymore we met earlier, of course that means one thing. The ambition of this show seemed to climb higher and greater every episode, and aside from the note about Ophelia, nothing looked to be in its way. What would Isley be like? Did Raki know he met him in the snow? And now that they are so close, is that the same Priscilla with them!?! Will Priscilla meet Clare now? Such a desolate city being attacked by such deadly creatures will only cause our heroes to Awaken more… The viewer can feel the tension that arose in the air… It all felt so surreal and adventurous.
Naturally, Clare is having to duke it out with Rigaldo, Isley’s right hand man at the Northern Fortress to save everyone else. In the process of the fierce battle that occurs (which definitely felt impressive), Clare naturally is losing control, though her manner of slaying Rigaldo is legit (and according to Manga). However, Clare turns into an awakened one when our mysterious Priscilla smells her and herself forms into her monstrous atrocity. Since Clare is frothing mad over the death of Teresa, she follows the cold, and maybe bored, Priscilla up the mountains where they duke it out masterfully with Isley content to watch the action develop. Because Clare has turned into her final form, you know there is no going back to another pretense of her returning, and it takes all of her friends to stop the Priscilla… Unfortunately, that leaves the Awakened Clare in control and she is going to slay Priscilla and seal her own doom.
Now , about this point we feel a major twist in the show. You see, one of the problems of making Anime from a manga that is ongoing, is very often you catch up with the source material. Now normally there are three general directions you can take. 1) Simply delay the show, as Inuyasha: The Final Act did. 2) Add fillers to make up time hoping the next issue will come out. Bleach is infamous for this, though recent shows like Fairy Tail and One Piece have also done so. 3) Write the ending yourself. The best example of this is Full Metal Alchemist. However, this option when affecting substantial amounts of story often fails since it loses the spirit and brilliance of the original author. As we see here, option 3 was chosen… Boy, do I wish they hadn’t.
Right around the time Raki meets Isley, the story immediately changes from the manga. First, Raki never finds out the Isley’s identity nor does he recognize Priscilla for the Awakened One that she is. I’m not bashing it just because it changed from the source… Obviously there was none at the time… But it just felt simplified.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times we have stupid flashbacks to previous events and how many reminders to the core reasoning of Clare and Raki… This is not how the series had dealt with this and was completely uncharacteristic to its former self. It just made you sick realizing this was the end. And what was more frustrating is with Priscilla coming back to her former Awakened self, the show exposes her. Sure, Priscilla is a monster, but she clearly is a woman still. Every character who is exposed in a story is typically meant for you to not really see them as deserving of sympathy. For a time, Priscilla falls into that category and yet the author decides suddenly to unfog her memory by some strange means, and turn Priscilla back into the scared Claymore she was long ago.
My biggest issue with this last part is why did the artists have to draw Priscilla’s breasts so well? If respect and empathy is the aim, then why the erotic feel? It was very distracting and insulting to the poor soul you intend on making us hope repents. Lust does not offer empathy, which is the only thing keeping Priscilla alive here. But does Priscilla have any kind of struggle with repentance? No. And ultimately, this latter point leads to the worst offense than all the rest. You see, Clare has gone past her limit and has transformed. Rocky manages to find her with Jean, and when Raki sees Clare about to slay the scared Priscilla, he jumps on her and begs her to stop this and transform back. Clare naturally thinks she cannot, and while Raki makes some great statements that moved the viewer a lot, he’s not the one to actually save Clare.
Why is that troubling? Because throughout the show Raki is always frustrated that he is useless to Clare and is striving to change that. So apparently all that was moot and we should just be content everyone has a Kumbaya moment. The only thing missing in the scene was a 60’s peace sign with a parchment offering a cease-fire. Ok, so I have to admit, Jean sacrificing her last strength to alter the Clare’s Yuki was nice… But hold on: Raki is just something that Clare forgot to pick up on her way? Even more annoying is that even though the King of the North, Isely, snatches Priscilla away with some words of encouragement to Raki, CLARE HAS COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN WHAT SHE HAS SPENT HER WHOLE EXISTENCE FIGHTING FOR. Clare is just gonna live like a normal human… How is that even feasible with war coming all around them, the Yoma still eating people, and the Organization out to get her? Didn’t the Organization just show how no one can truly hide from them?
Seriously, what kind of lame ending is this? I mean, at least have Clare forgive Priscilla or something! It’s a shallow ending at best. Although we see Raki’s and Clare’s reunion (which was very sweet), it just feels like every important note is left undiscovered! Whether it’s Elena’s status among the living, and her supposed killer’s purpose here (whom the director ignores after that), or the silly notion that Clare can somehow evade the Organization forever, it just all seems like amateurs wrote this stuff. As I said, mostly the lack of closure or logical sense in the ending destroys Raki’s embracement of Clare, since you know that nothing really has been settled and Clare’s simple-minded thought she can just grow old (something the show took time to explain can’t happen) is impossible… WHAT THE HECK!
Surely, a tragic ending for such a great series.
Emotional Draw – 4.6
Claymore isn’t known for its humor, and for good reason. Yes, there are some small humorous points throughout the series, and arguably more amusing than they are hilarious, but this is expected by the nature of the series. Related to humor, of course, is the ability to convey feelings and emotions: Of which Claymore is lacking. Perhaps the manga does the same, but why follow suit? Aside from fear and sadness, all of the characters look like stones trying to show emotions. If not for the Claymore herself being very limited to show emotions, this issue would have undoubtedly destroyed the show. Voice acting wise, (having watched the Funimation Dub) I can say that many of these hurdles were overcome by the sheer talent of voice actors and actresses. The ability to impress on your audience the feelings and wishes of the characters was very impressive and helped you get into the show, even if I didn’t care as much for the stone faces and limited expressions from all the humans.
Romances are fun, no? Claymore again sucks at the visual side of this (was that a kiss from two cardboard figures?), but story-wise it did very well. Clare and Raki were always meant to be, and you feel it the more you know about Clare. Raki means a lot to Clare, and at first that is just because they are both similar in origin. However, as time progresses Clare is finding herself a new emotion, one that is romantic in its origin. I liked that about the series. Sure, it’s not quite Darker Than Black status here, but it is well done. The departure scene where Clare asks Raki to leave her for now was very touching (outside the stiff emotions conveyed).
One of the impressive points about the show is in regards to Clare’s Yuki power and how she relates to other Claymore. Obviously, she’s a Claymore from choice, and yet despite this fact, she seems no better at restraining the pull from her Yoma side. Each time you see her push a little further beyond the limit, there is this serene feeling about the tragedy of it all… I wanted to shout many times for Clare to stop burdening herself, which just tells me the show was doing it right. And whenever Clare meets and defeats her opponents who were awakened ones, the show also did an excellent job of bringing enough empathy for the characters to make it believable. Like Clare’s uncontrollable power, it is a good sign when one can shout for Clare to redeem or defeat her foe, since something about those emotions are being done right.
Some of my favorite scenes include the entire arc of Clare’s past life. Teresa of the Faint Smile as we know saved Clare, and despite her attempts to stop the child from following her, Clare is just insistent on staying. More impressive was the answer that half the draw is because Clare wanted to comfort the sad Claymore who must everyday live in self-denial. Since Claymore’s cannot be responsible for human deaths, Teresa has to put up with the little one, and I liked how the show fleshed out Teresa’s feelings… Honestly, this is one of those times you use the word “cute” to describe their friendship blooming. It is tragic, you know from the beginning, but Claymore still manages to suck you in enough that you are shocked with how Teresa dies. I won’t spoil it since it is a very important point in the series, but suffice to say you can see why Claymore was popular in the Manga, the story is very compelling.
Another favorite scene has to be the episode the four awakened Claymore meet up. Without a doubt those women are awesome people, and you fell right along with their ambitious aims. Just seeing those four swords clash in unison is enough to make anyone shout, it was well done. It was exciting to see the four manage to slay the powerful male Claymore, and knowing that you would get to see them together again felt great. When the show sent us to the North, the lull before the battle was intense, and I liked how each of the women shared more stories, comforting and strengthening each other before they did battle for their lives. That kind of ugly calm mixed with the four characters you really like (aside from Raki) was spell-binding for Claymore.
A third favorite part has to be back at the church with that Veracious Eater. Raki has such a sweet and powerful scene where he is able to stop Clare from awakening the first time. I loved how Clare asks the broad knight standing before her to slay her, and how in desperation Raki steps in between the reluctant sword of the impressed soldier. Raki’s words were full of passion as he tells Clare how much she means to him, and I thought everything came full circle emotionally when Clare assumes control once again.
Naturally, I must speak about the ending. Obviously story-wise it was terrible. But I have to give the show some props for the way Jean sacrificed herself… Or even for Raki’s emotional plea with Clare transformed. Those were great elements in a fractured scene that didn’t belong, and I think that is what made the whole messy affair stink so much as potential went out the window. But don’t worry, despite being made in 2007, the manga did OK in sales and recently ended last year (June 2013). Mad-house may not be known for reboots, but they have been known to remake series years after the manga ended. Another potential to the show is the lack of emotion could very well be solved with a reboot, and would definitely slide the show into god-mode for the viewers. Still, this might be wishful thinking since I was so invested in the series until the last 5 episodes…
CHARACTERS – 4.65
Clare – 5.0
Upstanding performance by Stephanie Young. She nails almost every note that this tragic hero makes, and I must say I liked was even more impressed when I realized this was the same Robin from the One Piece series! Whether it’s making the audience feel the pain along with her as she fights against being Awakened, or triumphantly coming up top and still remaining her coy appeal, Stephanie certainly made you feel the same. Anyways, Clare is a strange Claymore in that she was willing to become one… To be fair, this fact alone is something the show never had a chance to develop, but rest assured it’s a nasty reason.
Raki – 4.2
Honestly the weakest of the actors in the series, nevertheless Todd Haberkorn does a solid job throughout the series. My only gripe was the beginning, where together with the lack of closure the acting wasn’t quite on par with the rest of the series. Raki himself is a human male who was saved by Clare, and yet is extremely appreciative towards the Claymore. He doesn’t see her as a monster, but as a noble savior, and dedicates his life to be her cook. But mostly, what Raki wants is to be there for Clare and have the strength to protect her. A likable character if not for the fact he doesn’t get to prove himself even vaguely useful once the arc changed from the Manga. Completely destroyed him as Jean ends up being the one who saves Clare… WHAT THE HECK…
Priscilla – 4.6
The arch-nemesis of our beloved Clare, she is played in the English Dub by Brina Palencia, who does an excellent job with her character. To be fair, I’ve rarely seen anything short of good from the actress. Priscilla is that timid yet honor bound Claymore who ends up being the worst of all things when she turns into an Awakened One and slays Teresa, the one she was asked to slay. She is able to successfully embody all which you hate, and yet at the same time is tragedy in herself. Look out for the exposure towards the end, though…. It might knock your socks off.
Teresa – 4.8
While not a living character in the series, she has her own significant arc in the series and is played by Christine Auten very well. I was especially impressed the synergy Christine and Stephanie, and felt her noble spirit is an easy character to like. Now Teresa, being the Claymore who saved Clare, she is more significant by showing how even a demon like the Claymore has the ability to feel emotions… But more specifically be more human outside the pull of their Yoma side.
CREATIVITY – 4.6
This Claymore has a more realistic artwork than other series. As such, the horror in the series appears a bit more graphic than its contemporaries. In terms of the overall world, there are some great scenes with the mountain side scenery we are treated to, as well as a few cities Clare and Raki explore. But I couldn’t ignore the Northern Fortress and its location setting, some really neat stuff in the series. Personal touches, the Awakened Ones and Yoma are definitely gross beings, and the slow changes the Claymore makes on their way to Awakening was well designed. I also liked the uniforms each of the Claymore wear, they definitely look like the strange Yoma slayers that they are.
Music throughout the series is very well done. Especially the fight music, where I thought the show seemed to have a lot in its inventory to get you in the mood for the battles. The opening song is Raison D’être by Nightmare and does well enough to intro you into the show. But honestly, in terms of songs, Danzai no Hana~Guilty Sky by Riyu Kosaka. That ending song fit so nicely with the youth and tragic nature of Claymore. The only thing I find ironic about the ending song is the singer’s video is as rigid and lifeless as the characters in Claymore.
Overall Grade: 4.475
(Claymore is one of those shows that has a lot of talent and proves it. It’s got all the things Shōnen Jump titles can offer, aside from maybe emotional faces on many of its characters. While the last 5 episodes were a major disappointment in the overall series, the show is nevertheless a masterpiece… If only the ending never existed.)