In an unknown land, villages are preyed upon by demons known as yoma. Their shape-shifting ability makes them impossible to identify to all but beautiful warriors known as Claymore. Easily identifiable by their large swords, silver eyes, and white-blonde hair, these women take jobs to destroy the yoma through a mysterious organization. In one of these jobs, the Claymore Clare won’t simply be disposing of a monster – she’ll also be gaining a companion in the guise of an adolescent boy.
Based on a manga, Claymore follows Clare and the boy, Raki, as they travel the countryside and take jobs dispatching yoma. Thought it follows shonen action series conventions, Claymore also brings in various other elements that combine together to create something unique. The fantasy setting; prominence of gorgeous, lithe warriors who look and act similar, but exhibit differing personalities; the mystery of the Organization and its rules; and the vile, dangerous, and sometimes sickeningly beautiful nature of the enemies roll together to create a engaging series. The danger these characters face feels real and immanent, and each succeeding arc continues to raise the stakes (and heartbeat) as the audience realizes that any character at any time could be killed.
The animation on the Funimation release is generally very good. The main warriors, though all sharing common physical characteristics, can easily be told apart. The animators also spent a great deal of energy in drawing their eyes, which literally and figuratively convey a Claymore’s soul. The Claymore have an ephemeral beauty, and that idea is carried over by the bluish tones used throughout the series and which look particularly stunning in Blu-Ray. But note that the first several episodes are very dark in color, making it difficult to watch – it seems the animators had a much smaller budget at first before the series showed its potential success. I would recommend that you give the series until around the fifth episode if you’re thinking of dropping it because of the dreary, hard-to-see colors; I actually dropped the series by episode three when I first watched it years ago precisely because it was a chore for my eyes.
The series is certainly not for everyone. It contains nudity (mostly displayed in a grotesque manner rather than in a fanservice way) and of course, loads of violence. I will say that strangely enough, despite all the blood, dismembered limbs, and “guts”-eating, the series is not particularly gory. Still, the violence can be overwhelming, particularly in the later Battle of Pieta episodes. But for Christian viewers, if one can get past objectionable content, spiritual themes abound. The characters themselves often display noble (or sinful) characteristics.
Possibly the most criticized portion of the series is its finale – and deservedly so. Small divergences from the manga appear in the last quarter of the series, during the Battle of Pieta episodes, but the last three or four episodes are entirely different. Currently in the manga, Clare and Priscilla are MIA, as it were, but in the anime, they fight in a final showdown. The idea itself isn’t terrible – some conclusion was needed. However, the tone of the finale is what’s disappointing, as a elegant series (despite its vicious violence) is reduced to what feels like a Dragonball Z fight, in terms of choreography, dialogue, level-ups and a lack of sense. Add a corny, overwrought ending to an anticlimactic final fight, and the series ends on an almost unforgivable note. If anything, it shows the gulf between the creativity of the animators and of the mangaka, Norihiro Yagi, though with a meandering (if still very compelling) storyline the past several years, he may have displayed sagacity to end the series near this point as well.
This is not to say the story achieves “masterpiece” level even before the last few episodes. Typical shonen conventions sometimes disrupt the power of the show, as when Clare kills a yoma that is at least 100 yards away from her, but which falls dead from the sky only several feet away. The panning in the series is also so fast that it becomes irritating.
Funimation’s Blu-Ray release is excellent. It comes with beautifully-illustrated, reversible covers – which is a big plus for me. There’s also an extensive artbook with profiles on even the most minor of characters (ex. Raki’s brother), many accompanied by quotes from the character designer.
Though Claymore goes astray in its finale, leaving a less than satisfying taste behind, the bulk of the series is amazing in all ways. The characters, storytelling, and animation are absorbing, particularly on Blu-Ray. I suggest to watch it and simply forget the end, remembering, it’s not really over.
Review copy provided by Funimation