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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.