Mawaru Penguindrum: Just pretend that serious thing never happened

Mawaru Penguindrum is one of those rare anime that doesn’t have some form of source material. It was created by Brain’s Base, the same studio behind Durarara & Baccano. The co-writer and director was Ikuhara Kunihiko. You may not know his name but you probably recognise his other works. He created and directed Revolutionary Girl Utena and served as the director for large segments of the Sailor Moon anime. I have to say, this sounds promising. So far, the two anime I’ve seen from Brain’s Base have been at least decent and Ikuhara does amazing work. If they screw this up I’m going to be sorely disappointed. So, let’s proceed with cautious optimism.

Story:

Our tale opens with three siblings, Shouma, Kanba and Himari. The three are living on their own since their parents went missing and things aren’t going very well. Himari is dying of an incurable disease and her brothers have been told that she doesn’t have long. They decide to do everything they can to make her final days happy and take her to an Aquarium that they all used to love going to. It’s there that Himari collapses. She’s rushed to the hospital where she dies only to quickly come back to life and start adopting odd mannerisms whenever she wears a penguin hat. She brings her brothers to a strange psychedelic space that even Lewis Carroll would find excessive, calls them worthless low lives and tells them that they’ll have to find something called the “Penguindrum” to save their sister’s life and things only become crazier and crazier from that point on.

As usual, let’s begin by looking at the series’ faults. The biggest one is that it’s fond of bringing up really serious issues for dramatic moments that don’t tie into the plot in any substantial way and are never brought up again after they happen. The primary examples being scenes where someone will very nearly be raped and the next episode they’ll interact with the person who made the attempt as though nothing happened and it will just go completely unaddressed for the rest of the series. Which just begs the question of why something as serious as rape is being brought up at all if they aren’t going to bother doing anything with it. Really, any source of drama should have some plot relevance instead of just being there for a cheap shock moment but there’s something particularly terrible about using such a grotesque crime, and the number one cause of PTSD, in such a tawdry fashion. There are also quite a few humorous moments that fall short, mainly because they’ll try to pull off humour at parts of their cheap shock scenes or really close to them which results in a tonal clash. The romance elements in this are absolutely atrocious. Most of it involves incestuous undertones, stalking and/or some other factor that makes it really skeevy. The problem being that a lot of it is played as uplifting or otherwise positive instead of having some self awareness of how messed up the situation is. Although, in all fairness, they do always show rape as being a terrible thing, even if they never bring the attempts up again after they’re done with.

Let’s move on to the positive aspects. I will give the series credit on three points. The first is that the premise is very creative and had a lot of potential, even if that potential was largely squandered by meanderings into the realms of pointless irrelevance and general stupidity. I’ll also give credit for having some legitimately good dramatic scenes, when it’s actually doing plot relevant stuff and can refrain from trying to inject humour into it. The series also does have some funny scenes, when it’s putting them in at light-hearted bits instead of trying to cram them into really serious moments. So, the series does manage some good bits during the rare stretches when the writers were on their Ritalin.

Characters:

The characters are, largely, not bad. Every single one does suffer from the writing’s general lack of focus, but in terms of characterisation and development they aren’t bad characters. They are, however, pretty standard with little, if anything, unique to define them. There are some really good familial scenes with Shouma, Kanba and Himari. They still aren’t very complex characters, though and there are times when the series takes those bonds into creepy territory which does weaken that aspect.

Then we have the penguins. Those of you who have seen Utena might remember the little purple monkey that existed solely for comic relief but was bearable because he largely stayed in the background and did, in all fairness, have some funny moments. Now, imagine that same basic character with a more prominent role and with four slight variations running around. So, now you have four largely pointless comic sidekicks taking up screen time and being highly obtrusive. I would like to tell you that at least none of them makes any attempt at sexually assaulting anyone, but one of them does, albeit in a much more mild form than most of the similar scenes in the series. Because tying someone up and forcing kisses on them without consent is still a type of sexual assault.

Art:

The art is really good. Ikuhara’s fondness for symbolism that’s extravagant and kind of bizarre is fully on display. The visuals are highly engrossing and appealing to look at. The character designs are very reminiscent of Utena. For example, Natsume Masako looks similar to Arisugawa Juri in terms of hairstyle, facial structure and even expressions.

Sound:

The actors in this really put a great deal of effort into their performances. They do deliver their lines as over the top or seriously as the current scene demands. I appreciate the effort they’re clearly putting into it and I won’t say that any of them were bad, but I really can’t call them good performances either. Due to the tonal issues, A lot of scenes require them to fluctuate from serious to exaggeration in the space of a few sentences and it just sounds awkward. There aren’t many scenes that let them show any subtle emotional range. Most just have them fluctuating between extremes. Honestly, the music is the one thing I didn’t notice tonal problems with. Maybe it does fluctuate during those horribly executed scenes and I was too overwhelmed by everything else to notice but, as far as I can recall, the music was really good.

Ho-yay:

There’s certainly some. One of the attempted rape scenes is between two characters of the same sex. There’s also a case of two female characters being portrayed as having had sex, consensual too as rare as that is for this anime and there are some scenes that definitely come across as homo-erotic, usually between girls. That being said, it isn’t a huge part of the anime since a lot of the focus is on Shouma and Kanba. As such, the ho-yay factor is going to be a 5/10.

Final Thoughts:

This anime is a classic example of style being valued over substance. It has some amazing visuals and it has some good scenes both dramatic and comedic and it does portray familial bonds pretty well. But taken as a whole, it doesn’t hold up. The narrative is an unfocused mess with tonal problems and lots of dramatic moments that serve no purpose to the plot and come across as pretty offensive and demeaning towards serious issues. Because it’s one thing to address serious issues and quite another to bring them up and then do bugger all with them. This series chose poorly and took the latter route. In the end, every good scene is over-shadowed by two or three bad ones and my final rating is going to be a 3/10. Next week, we’ll ignore the requests for a moment because it’s time to take another look at that franchise, in the name of the moon.

Reviews of yesteryear: Highschool of the Dead

Welcome back to horror anime month. This week we’re going to look at a zombie apocalypse anime, Highschool of the Dead. An anime from Madhouse based on the manga by Sato Daisuke. It’s also one that I’ve been avoiding because every clip and image I’ve seen makes it look ridiculously exploitative and overly fan-servicey. So, of course, I’ve gotten a request to review it. I can only hope that it’s better than it looks because if it’s exactly what it looks like this is going to be painful. Let’s dig into Highschool of the Dead and find out. Okay, now that I’ve watched it I can say that it’s not as bad as it looks. It’s much worse.

Let’s start with the story. Normal life gets interrupted by an outbreak of the undead. A small group of survivors runs around seeking refuge/their families. You know, the same story that gets used in virtually every zombie apocalypse story ever. Highschool of the Dead offers nothing unique or new, just the same tired cliches that most of us have gotten bored with already. If you’ve seen or read any zombie apocalypse narrative then you can predict absolutely everything that happens, unless you fail at basic pattern recognition. As a consequence of the cliches, or possibly the characters but I’ll get to them in a moment, the whole thing is really boring, when it’s not infuriatingly misogynistic, because we’ve seen this done to death and done with far superior execution. There’s not a single original thought or scene in the whole anime. Actually, I don’t think there was thought put into this, cliche-driven or otherwise. Those stretches that aren’t mindless action are mostly used for highly problematic fan-service instead of anything story or character developing since Highschool of the Dead is against that sort of thing. Why have depth when you can have mindless T&A?

Now, I said I’d get to the characters. This is another aspect that fails utterly. Like the story, there’s nothing original here. The characters are all one-dimensional stereotypes with roughly the same depth as a puddle that’s been evaporating under a hot sun for several hours. The best thing about them is that they occasionally move to two dimensional stereotypes for a scene or two but it’s barely an improvement. There’s no likable or sympathetic character to be found. The most interesting character is the dog and the dog does virtually nothing. This isn’t Cowboy Bebop or Sailor Moon, there will be no animals that are also intriguing characters here, or any intriguing characters for that matter. The dog is only the most interesting because the rest of the characters are so one-dimensionally detestable while the dog is just a dog.

The art and action scenes could’ve been good. There’s just one humongous problem, the entire anime is over-run with tasteless, exploitative and highly misogynistic fan-service. The action sequences are frequently broken up by random shots of bouncing breasts and panties. Class, there’s as much here as there is depth. Which is to say none whatsoever. I can just see the process behind this, Artist: “I’ve gotten the scene done! I think it’s nice and intense with plenty of violence. The mindless action crowd’ll love it.” Sleazy douchebag: “There’s too much action. Throw in five or six panty shots and pan to bouncing breasts here, here, here, here and here.” Artist: “But that’ll make the whole thing disjointed and it’ll look terrible.” Sleazy douchebag: “I said do it.” Yeah, the action scenes are disjointed with the flow being constantly interrupted for fan-service. The only major female character without breasts that had to have gone through several surgeries to get that large is the small child. The zombies look pretty bland. They look like just about every horde of zombies in media that’s not even trying. I know, they did nothing new and it’s shocking.

The voice acting and music are the best part of the anime. It’s not that they’re good, but they aren’t bad either. They’re just kind of mediocre. There’s nothing that really stands out about them.

The yuri factor is a 5/10. There are some very detailed les-yay scenes involving some of the minor characters. They’re used for… you guessed it, mindless and exploitative fan-service. Like everything else, they contribute nothing to the plot and do nothing for the characters. Because having scenes that are important in some way would just be stupid.

Highschool of the Dead is atrocious. The story and characters are completely cliche. The art is full of absurd and exploitative fan-service, which also interrupts the flow of the action sequences. It gets, do I even have to say it at this point, a 1/10. I will give it some credit. It is scary, not because of the plot or generic zombies, but because it has a fanbase. I don’t know if people just love cliches or if there are that many people who are just entranced by the fan-service, but either way this meritless pile of excrement having fans is pretty scary and makes me question whether the human race really needs to keep existing. All in all, there’s not a facepalm hard enough. To this day, Highschool of the Dead is one of the worst abominations I’ve ever reviewed. 

Reviews of yesteryear: Muramasa

Welcome Lovely fans to the second review of horror anime month. For a while, I referred to the people who read my reviews like that consistently. But I stopped because I didn’t want it to seem like I was just trying to disingenuously flatter you all. It was meant as a sincere expression of fondness, but that’s not how a lot of people took it. Today we’re looking at a short offering from the legendary Tekuza Osamu. You may know him as the creator of Astro Boy, Black Jack and many others. Today’s selection is a rather odd choice for him. A lot of his works are lighter-hearted action series. A horror film is pretty atypical. Let’s take a look at Muramasa and find out what he did with it.

The plot is really basic, it would have to be given that Muramasa is all of nine minutes long. A wandering warrior finds a sword stuck inside a straw dummy. He takes it along with its scabbard. He uses it in practice and finds that it’s incredibly sharp but then things start to go wrong and he begins losing his mind. That’s as far as I’m going to take the description. Now, the plot is simple but it’s actually really well done. Especially when you factor in the time constraints. The inner struggle that the warrior goes through is portrayed poignantly and, although events move quickly, they never feel rushed. I will say, however, that it’s not scary. The struggle is poignant, yes, but that doesn’t make it frightening in any way. Psychological, yes. Horror, no.

The characters aren’t as interesting. The one character you get is the warrior and you know virtually nothing about him. Since the story is all about the struggle there’s very little nuance to him. Not that I can really blame them since, again, it’s all of nine minutes long and studying all of the nuances of a character in that time frame is not going to happen.

The art… Well, the images themselves look almost like Watercolour paintings. Which does look really good, mostly. There are some cases where the expressions just look really bizarre. The animation, however, is really slow and choppy. There are also several scenes that get repeated. I remind you, this anime is nine minutes long. Is there really any legitimate excuse for being lazy with the artwork?

There is no voice acting. Which actually works really well in this. The story is told without any dialogue and that helps heighten the mood, I think. As for the music, it’s a little boring. Even with the short length there’s very little variation and it doesn’t change to suit the mood so the anime might just be better if it’s watched in total silence.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s no yuri in this, although you probably figured that out already.

My final rating for Muramasa is a 7/10. It’s a good little piece with some power behind it. The biggest issues are the choppy animation and lackluster music, but I’d still suggest checking it out. It is well worth the nine minutes

Welcome to the NHK: There may be life outside your apartment

Welcome to the N.H.K is a comedy-drama anime based on a novel written by Takimoto Tatsuhiko. The anime adaptation came out in 2006, four years after the manga, and was developed by Gonzo. You may remember them from Basilisk, Gantz & Bakuretsu Tenshi. This will be the first time I’ve reviewed a comedic work from Gonzo. So, how do they handle a dramatic comedy?

Story:

Satou Tatsuhiro is a NEET, or a person not employed, not in education and not training. He lives as a, Hikikomori, shut up in his room without interacting with anyone else unless he absolutely has to. That all changes one day when he carelessly opens his door for a religious solicitor and her niece. The two are handing out pamphlets about Hikikomori. Rather than shut the door in their faces or openly mock them, which is what a sensible person does when strangers come to their door with religious pamphlets, Satou panics and, in his overmuch protestations to the contrary, outs himself as a Hikikomori. In the hopes of undoing the damage, Satou decides to look at life outside of his apartment and goes job hunting. When he encounters the woman’s niece by chance he once again panics and retreats. Later, he finds a letter from the young lady, Misaki, shoved through his mail slot, claiming that she can save him from his Hikikomori ways and asking him to meet her. That’s when everything starts to change for Satou.

When it comes right down to it, this anime puts the focus on outcasts of various kinds. Hikikomori, Otaku, the Depressed, Conspiracy Theorists and several other sub-cultures that are generally viewed as strange or worse by polite society. There isn’t a single major character that isn’t othered in some way. So, let’s look at what they do wrong with the concept and then look at what they do well.

There’s only one big problem with the series in terms of the story, but it is a really substantial one. The tone is all over the place. There will be episodes that are largely light-hearted and contain a lot of zany moments and then it’ll shift to incredibly serious episodes dealing with suicide. There’s even one episode that has really serious moments about suicide with bizarre comedic moments inappropriately mixed into it. The series tries to be dramatic and funny simultaneously, or shortly after each other, which ultimately undermines both aspects.

Let’s move onto the positives. While the series definitely has issues with tonal shifts, when it can successfully settle on a tone it does do some interesting things. It is also good about showing its outcasts in a light that’s comedic, but also encourages understanding. You laugh at the characters for making idiotic blunders, but you can also sympathise with them and understand why they messed up. The series also does well when it comes to keeping things realistic. About the most outlandish it gets are scenes where Satou is daydreaming or imagining things and inanimate objects talk to him. And, to be fair, that is the kind of daydream someone without much actual social interaction might have.

Characters:

The cast is made up of social misfits. They’re largely portrayed as either pitiable or subjects of schadenfreude, depending on whether the tone is more serious or light-hearted at the moment. I will give the series credit for making them largely realistic in their behaviours and their reasons for those behaviours. That being said, there are times when you’ll get a group of characters all being ridiculously gullible at the same exact time and it strains believability. This is most readily apparent in the Multi-level marketing episodes. It can also get annoying when Satou repeats the same mistakes over and over and over again without actually learning anything because learning from experiences is for other people.

Art:

The art is pretty good. The characters are very expressive and there is a lot of work put into the various background details. The daydreaming scenes are appropriately surreal and fan-service, when it does come up, is appropriate for the situation. For example, it comes up in Satou’s fantasies and with Galges. Both of which are contexts where it makes sense to have that kind of imagery and it’s not particularly sexualised when it comes up. It’s largely used to show how pathetic Satou and Yamazaki are and how absurd their concept of women is. I do respect the series for taking that route as opposed to devolving into straight up sexualisation. There are a few issues with the art though. The first is that the character movements can be really awkward and stilted at times. Almost like they cut down on frames for time and ended up skipping a few hoping that no one would notice. The character designs themselves are also pretty bland.

Sound:

The acting in this is mostly good. Sakaguchi Daisuke, Koizumi Yutaka & Makino Yui all give good performances. The one issue with the acting is that the series likes to exaggerate for comedic effect and they can go overboard with it at times. The music is really well thought out. They put a lot of effort into making, say, the “purin” theme sound like something that would come from an anime like that. They also do a good job of making the ambient music suit the mood. Except in those cases where the mood itself has a tonal clash.

Ho-yay:

The closest the series comes to ho-yay is Satou thinking about having Yamazaki cross dress because he told his mom that he had a girlfriend but it’s abundantly clear that that scene is a joke and that both Satou and Yamazaki like girls. So, 1.5/10.

Final Thoughts:

Welcome to the NHK has some good dramatic scenes and some good comedic scenes. It also features good acting, art and it has a good level of realism. Where it runs into trouble is when the comedic and dramatic moments meet or there’s a major shift from one to the other. It also has some hiccups with both the art and acting. Furthermore, the characters can be somewhat grating. Still, it is a good series particularly if you have been an outcast in one or more of the ways experienced by the characters. As such, my final rating is a 7/10. Next week I’ll continue down the review request list with Mawaru Penguindrum.

Reviews of yesteryear: Blood-C

Hello and welcome to horror anime review month. This was the kick off for October of 2012. To start things off I’m going to look at Blood-C. I’ve heard of this for two reasons. The first is that it’s related to Blood+, which I may review at some point but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I ended up reviewing Blood+ four months later in February. The second is that a lot of the Blood+ fans hate it. Now, I’ve seen Blood+ and to give my thoughts about it in brief, it’s okay. I thought that it did some things pretty well and others kind of poorly. Am I going to be ticked off if Blood C doesn’t follow it? No, no I’m not. It’s really not a franchise that I’m really attached to so, frankly, I don’t care what they do with the franchise as long as it tells a good story. The one thing I’m really hoping for is a less whiny Saya because the Blood+ version got on my nerves a bit. So let’s take a look at Blood C and see if we get an interesting story and, possibly, a better Saya.

Now that I’ve seen it, I just have to start by saying that I’m not going to be bringing up Blood+ for comparison purposes except for maybe when I talk about the character of Saya. The two anime are completely different so there’s really not much to be gained by the comparison. Now, a lot of the big plot details are spoilers so I won’t explicate on it too much. The basic setup is that Kisaragi Saya is a shrine maiden who lives in a small town with her father and fights monsters at night. But there’s a secret that she only has vague inklings of. That’s as far as I can go without giving spoilers. I will say that the horror label in this is code for “it has monsters” since the anime isn’t scary in the least. There are things that the anime does well. The mystery surrounding everything is interesting and, once you learn the truth, the concept behind it is interesting. However, the execution is flawed in that the hints are pretty minimal and the reveal comes at the end when it’s too late to do much with it. Another basic problem is that Blood-C lacks impact. A lot of the events that occur should be tragic but they aren’t because there’s not much reflection on them and a lot of them are rushed through.

The characters are a bit lackluster. The only really interesting characters are Saya and, arguably, the antagonist. The rest of the characters do and say very little aside from some exposition. I will say that I did like Blood-C’s Saya better than the Blood+ version since she’s more determined and a lot less angsty.

You can tell that Clamp was involved with this from the art. The characters have limbs that are too long for their bodies and tiny waists that shouldn’t be able to hold all of their organs. I will say that it still looks far better than the art in Xxxholic. It’s actually pretty decent if you can get past the proportions. The action sequences are really well done, even if the amount of blood that ignores the laws of physics to gush out of wounds is ridiculous. The monsters are pretty hit and miss. Some of them do look pretty interesting, but others just look silly.

The voice acting is actually really well done. They had a great cast including Mizuki Nana (who is always excellent), Asano Masumi and Fujiwara Kenji. The music is good sometimes but others it’s pretty underwhelming.

The yuri factor is a 4/10. There are some scenes involving Saya and her teacher or some of her female classmates that are pretty homo-erotic. They don’t ultimately go anywhere though.

My final rating for Blood-C is a 6/10. Like Blood+, it’s okay. There are some things it does well and others where it falls short. Saya is a good character and there are some interesting ideas but the execution falls short and it really ends up being more of a mindless action anime than anything else. If you’re expecting it to be like Blood+, don’t. But give it a try if you enjoy bloody battle sequences or if you’re curious about the mystery.

Reviews of yesteryear: Tekkonkinkreet

Tekkonkinkreet is a film from Studio four degrees Celsius. A studio that I have watched nothing whatsoever from but have heard of a lot of their work. I’m not sure if this is a good introduction to them or not so feel free to enlighten me about how typical of their work it is.

The story is pretty simple. Two orphaned boys, Black and White, claim control over a small town and that’s when the Yakuza try to muscle their way in. It probably sounds like more happens than actually happens. The film’s biggest problem is that it’s tedious. Really, really tedious. There are long stretches where nothing of interest or relevance happens. Then there are story segments that drag on far longer than they need to and some of the worst action sequences I’ve ever seen. Seriously, those scenes that aren’t over within seconds are padded with the characters running away from each other. The longest action sequence involves Black and White running away from a huge assassin who could’ve killed them both with ease if he wasn’t the slowest person on the planet when it comes to unsheathing his blade. It quite literally takes him a good minute to get around to it. There are some less pressing issues as well. There are some side-story plots that don’t go anywhere or that receive very rushed and unsatisfying conclusions. The entire ending is rushed, for that matter, and pretty lazily done.

The characters in this are dull and one-dimensional. The villains are evil for the sake of being evil. Black and White are pretty clearly supposed to have a symbolic as well as a literal connection, but the symbolic connection is really over-stated. That type of thing just isn’t interesting when they beat you over the head with it. And they’re too one-dimensional to make them interesting aside from that connection so it’s just unsatisfying to watch. The side characters are barely worth talking about. Most of them just represent very shallow stereotypes like the gangster seeking redemption or the elderly mentor.

The art… Well, I have to split it into two categories. The backgrounds are decently done with some good details. The characters look terrible. Their proportions are way off and not in a good, stylized way and to top things off the faces just look bizarre.

The voice acting is pretty emotionless. The actors mostly sound like they’re reading the script instead of, well, acting. I’m not sure whether to blame the direction or the actors themselves for that one. Either way it doesn’t sound good. The music does little to help with the tedium, generally blending into the background noise.

The yuri factor is a 1/10. There’s no yuri here.

My final rating for Tekkonkinkreet is a 3/10. I really can’t recommend it to anyone unless you’re having trouble sleeping. I almost fell asleep several times while watching it so it just might be good for that. However, it is a pretty harmless form of bad. There’s nothing in it that’s offensive or that’s so bad that it’s infuriating, just a lot that’s poorly thought out and incompetently executed. 

Claymore: Has the annoying sidekick Darwinised himself yet?

The Claymore manga was written by Yagi Norihiro from May of 2001 all the way until October 2014. Yes, it just finished. Roughly midway through the manga’s run, in 2007, it got an anime adaptation from Madhouse. Now, I have not read a single chapter of the manga, so I’m not going to notice how faithfully they adapted the portion of the manga they adapted. The question is, does the anime manage to be interesting and coherent with what it does use?

Story:

In the world of Claymore, monsters called “Yoma” roam around the land disguising as ordinary humans and eating their guts. In order to combat these beings an organization with no name creates warriors that are human-Yoma hybrids, the titular Claymores. Our narrative follows a particular Claymore named Clare as she travels the land, fighting Yoma and completing missions for the organization. You quickly learn that there’s a particular Yoma she’s chasing after to take revenge for the death of someone she loved. Unfortunately, the one she’s chasing is a particularly powerful variety called an awakened being. So, how does the series manage the premise?

Let’s start with the problems. The biggest one is the ending. Now, let’s be as fair as possible. There’s no way they could go through the story of the entire manga, even if you only include the bits that had been released at that point. That being said, the part they do end on is kind of rushed and very much unsatisfying. A lot of the story is also pretty standard action fare. It isn’t really bad, but it does nothing new either. Clare goes to a place, fights a thing, gets stronger, lather, rinse and repeat.

Now, there are some good things about the story too. The episodes that deal with Clare’s back story are quite brilliant. The series also does build up a world that has a lot of potential intrigue, although it isn’t nearly taken full advantage of in the anime. The series is also good about introducing major plot points well in advance of the point in the story that they become really important.

Characters:

Most of the major characters in Claymore are quite interesting. The Claymores are nicely varied and the best character moments in the series are among them. The biggest issue with them is that most of their basic back stories are all very samey, at least the ones you see. Dead family because of Yoma and then she became a Claymore. I suppose it does make sense given the sacrifices they have to make to become Claymores. Doesn’t seem like the thing you’d get into if you had a loving and supportive family but it still gets a bit repetitive when the series wants you to feel sorry for a particular character because of her tragic past that happens to be virtually identical to the tragic pasts of all of these other characters. The antagonists do have some depth to them too, which is nice for an action oriented series. The secondary characters are largely under-developed, but most of them serve well enough for what they need to do.

After all that let’s get to the big problem the series suffers from in terms of characters, Raki. Just imagine the most obnoxious, useless sidekick character you can think of and you’ve probably got a character similar to Raki. He’s a young boy who gets rescued by Clare and then starts following her around while contributing nothing of value to anything. As a narrative device, he serves two purposes. The first is to give the series an excuse to explain information about the organization. Which could have been done without him if they’d been clever with their dialogue. The other purpose he serves is to give Clare an anchor to her humanity. Although I would argue that they could have easily made her a stronger character by giving her a more introspective anchor, like her memories of Teresa or her own determination, and dispensed with the twit altogether. But instead we had to have this obnoxious brat with no good dialogue or moments. I don’t know what ultimately happens to him in the manga, but I hope it involves death by fire.

Art:

There are plenty of positives about the art. The action scenes are magnificent. The backgrounds are vivid and nicely detailed. They also do put effort into making the Claymores look different in spite of them all having the same outfits, hair and eye colours. There are two major problems with the art, though. The first is the way they do blood. This is one of those series where blood frequently spurts from wounds as though it’s shooting out of a high pressure hose. Furthermore, the lighting in some scenes makes the Yomas’ blood look like a neon purple hue. Which is practically guaranteed to drain the tension given how silly it looks when a liquid that strongly resembles grape kool-aid is spraying into the air. The second problem is the outfit that claymores wear. It’s a tight, white bodysuit with a cape and the only armoured bits are around the shoulders, fingerless gloves and making up the skirt. Now, they can regenerate quite a bit of damage but it still makes no sense for them to leave quite literally all of their vitals exposed. Nor does it make sense for them to wear something that’s going to ride up in the worst ways into battle.

Sound:

They did get some really good actors. Kuwashima Houko, who also showed up in last week’s review as Kita Michiru, voices Clare. Paku Romi, Mizuki Nana, Orikasa Ai, Takayama Minami and Inoue Kikuko all give great performances. The one weakness is Raki’s actor, Takagi Motoki. That isn’t to say he’s a bad actor, I really haven’t heard him in enough roles to make a good judgment, but he plays a character who spends the bulk of his dialogue either crying or being vaguely perky. As such, he doesn’t get the chance to demonstrate any real range. The music is pretty standard stuff, except when it comes to tragic or intense scenes. The composition work in those is really good.

Ho-yay:

There is a bit of les-yay in this series. Clare’s attachment to Teresa comes across as a young girl’s first crush. Jean and Clare get some subtext laden moments. Several of the other Claymores get scenes with each other that could be read as having romantic undertones as well. Particularly Helen and Deneve. That being said, the series ultimately does nothing with these relationships that’s definitive, so it’s ultimately left open to interpretation. So I’m going to give it a ho-yay factor of a 3/10.

Final Thoughts:

Claymore does have quite a bit that’s good. A lot of the characters are well done, the premise is interesting, the acting is largely good and the action scenes are awesome. However, it also has a lot of issues. It ends at a bad point, Raki exists, there are questionable art decisions, Raki exists, it draws on quite a few cliches and Raki exists. In the end, the series is still decent enough for what it is but it’s certainly not a classic or among the best. My final rating for it is a 6/10. If the premise sounds interesting or you’re looking for something relatively quick with some good action, check it out, unless you don’t want to deal with an annoying sidekick. Next week I’ll look at another request, Welcome to the NHK.