Secret Santa 2012 – Claymore

Claymore OP Clare

Happy Christmas, everyone! As Overcooled explained in her review of Rideback, the Secret Santa project is run by Reverse Thieves to create a chain of secret anime recommendations from bloggers to other bloggers, resulting in a mass of reviews that go up in the final week of the year. This year, I was actually given the task of choosing 3 shows for both Narutaki and Hisui, the Reverse Thieves themselves, and my recommendations were Gunslinger Girl, Mysterious Girlfriend X, and Kaiba. Unfortunately, it seems that none of the shows really appealed to them, but hey, can’t win them all. As for me, I was given Claymore, Xam’d: Lost Memories and [C] The Money of Soul and Possibility Control, and you can already tell that I decided to go with the first of that list.

Claymore is a fantasy action show that was produced by Madhouse in 2007. The world of Claymore is a violent and dangerous one, a medieval setting in which humans live under the constant threat of attack from powerful demons called Yoma. The title refers to the label given to half-breeds who are employeed by an organization that sends them out to kill particularly problematic Yoma. The show follows the story of Clare, the lowest ranked member of this group, accompanied by her cook/sidekick Raki, a human boy she rescues from superstitious townspeople early on in the show.

Claymore 15 (3)

One of the Claymores in danger of awakening. No two are the same.

Visuals are critical for an action show, and Claymore was quite mixed in this front. The Yoma are truly freakish creatures, capable of transforming from little human girls into multi-armed, multi-tentacled monsters at least 20 times the size. The designs don’t exactly break new ground, but the extent to which they push past physical and biological boundaries was pleasantly over the top. If you’ve every played Ninja Gaiden, you might have a sense of what you’re in for. Unfortunately, the designs of the eponymous Claymores aren’t as compelling, as their identical blonde hair, pale skin, blue eyes, and grey uniforms made them all blend together. Being half Yoma, Claymores can transform into monsters – though they have to be careful not to go too far lest they be stuck as “Awakened Beings” – and like the Yoma, are almost always beautiful in how messed up they can become. The final battle between Clare and Priscilla, the former very close to awakening and the latter already awakened, was worth watching alone for their monstrous designs.

Claymore 17 (3)

That right arm is a dead giveaway.

Unfortunately, the quality of animation was more one-sided. Some of the earlier fights had decent choreography, but by and large they relied on power level battling – strength and speed was the key to victory. That Clare was the weakest Claymore seemed like an opportunity to show off the power of technique or strategy over pure strength, and the show did play to that a bit with the Flash Sword technique and arm transplant she gained about halfway through the show. Unfortunately, most of the battles were still typical shonen affairs.

Despite those issues, the strength of the story and characters was enough to carry the show. The 2nd half suffered from a typical shonen problem of extremely slow pacing, with just 2 story arcs taking place in that time, but enough happened in each episode to keep things engaging. The slow progression meant that the major side characters could get enough screen time for us to know and sympathize with them before they were killed off. There were many aspects of the story that I thought could have been better developed – particularly Raki, who got separated from Clare halfway through the show and all but disappeared until the final few episodes where he still didn’t do much. Ultimately, Clare’s main story of the underdog outcast in a lifelong mission of revenge was just so darn compelling that I could look past most of its flaws.

Claymore 12

Sure would’ve been nice if Raki had been useful instead of handicapping Clare every step of the way.

One thing the ending made abundantly clear was that this was not a complete adaptation. Though the main story thread sort of got resolved, there were too many loose ends to be satisfying. Given the incompleteness of the story, the pacing issues, and the mediocre animation, I’m probably safe in assuming that the manga is a much better experience than the anime. However, what’s there in the anime is still good. It’s not exceptional in any front – even the strongest aspect, the story, didn’t elicit emotions out of me too often – but it was never boring, and the ridiculously fucked up violent action scenes were particularly delightful. I would be first in line to watch a sequel. As it stands now with its 26 episodes, Claymore is a good shonen-style action show that is greater than the sum of its parts. If you are looking for a fun sword & sorcery medieval fantasy anime, this show will scratch your itch.

Claymore 26 (2)

The designs of Clare’s various forms, I can’t complain about. I was impressed at how easily they were all recognizable as being her.

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A math/science geek and a self-dubbed cynical optimist. I don't care if it's deep, if it can make me feel something or laugh, it's fine in my book. @lvlln
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9 Responses to “Secret Santa 2012 – Claymore”

  1. BlackBriar says:

    Claymore gets an A+ for animation and story. I actually have the Funimation english dub box set and it’s excellent hearing my favorite english dub actresses Monica Rial and Carrie Savage. Clare is certainly an attention grabber with beauty, personality and strength.

    There are some sadistic enemies, Yoma and Claymore alike. Ophelia (the one in the picture severing Clare’s legs) was the most depraved and intimidating adversary yet mutilating Clare’s body just to test her ability to reattach her limbs.

    The things definitely deserving notice are unapologetic violence and the unhesitating drive to kill off the side characters you would start to get attached to and a large number of them in gruesome ways that it would make your hair stick up in the air. I can honestly say this is the only anime other than Hellsing where I’ve seen such intense gore and blood.

    The finale was open ended and it had a strong possibility of continuing so it’s a shame that it hasn’t because you’re left wanting a lot more.

    • lvlln says:

      I actually have the DVD set that I got from a Yankee swap last Christmas, but I actually ended up pirating it for the convenience. Maybe I’ll check out the dub at some point.

      And if you like bloody, gory shows, might I suggest 2003’s Elfen Lied? One of the earlier widescreen and CG heavy shows, had a touching and corny story that I fell for.

      • BlackBriar says:

        Way ahead of you, lvlln. I saw Elfen Lied a long time ago and it was great and brutal. I would never cross Lucy’s path no matter what. Now that you mention it, that’s another bloody and gory anime alongside Claymore and Hellsing.

        The thing to notice about Elfen Lied is that it was completely uncensored with nudity as it was with violence. The studio did absolutely no effort of holding that little detail back which was shocking back then considering how prudish most people were and still are about that. To them, violence is moderately acceptable but they wouldn’t dare let nudity slip through the cracks.

  2. Overcooled says:

    You had a tough job suggesting anime for the Reverse Thieves duo. So much pressure!

    I think reading the Claymore manga would have been a better choice since the artwork is consistently detailed and it should resolve everything (when it actually ends). I haven’t actually seen the anime, but I really like the manga and how it makes every fight seem like the most difficult thing in the world. There are no easy victories.

    Also, lots of limbs get cut off by grotesque monsters and that’s pretty neat. :3c

    • BlackBriar says:

      LOL. I knew a proud sadist like you wouldn’t ignore all the blood and gore. You wouldn’t be you if you didn’t.

    • lvlln says:

      I didn’t realize you were reading the manga. Watching the anime, it definitely felt like the source material must be solid, because the designs were gripping and the story was engaging, and the manga format wouldn’t suffer from a low number of keyframes.

      Picking for the Reverse Thieves was tough, but what I’m most disappointed in is that they avoided Mysterious Girlfriend X because of the saliva and Kaiba because of the Kick-Heart hype earlier this year. Seem a little silly, I guess. :/

      • Overcooled says:

        Yeah, the manga art is (consistently) really gorgeous. Seeing full-page spreads of some of the Awakened Beings are just incredible. If you can still be bothered, you could always pick up the manga from wherever the anime left off and see if you like it better.

        Well, to be honest the saliva was too much even for me so I understand how that would be enough to scare people away. If anything, the Kick-Heart buzz should be getting more people to watch Kaiba though. It’s good! I think they mentioned watching the first episode before and not liking it, but it’s the kind of series that takes time to enjoy. I wasn’t fully sold on it until episode 4 or so.

  3. […] Lvlln reviewed Claymore as recommended by Intermediate Otaku […]

  4. I’m happy you enjoyed the show. I was really hoping to see how your view of it changed over the course of wacthing, since there is a specific key moment in the first half that elicits WTF’s all over, but it seems like you just enjoyed it the same amount throughout.

    The manga is my favorite manga of all time, and I actually was really hesitant to reccomend the show without expressing how much better I really do think the manga is. I love the anime a lot, and up till the final episodes, it is a perfect adaption, but they do pull a “make your own ending” that completely ruins one of the main values of the manga.

    I am definitely happy you watched it, though I really thought you would have watched Xam’d. I recommended it after listening to your Eureka Seven AO podcast shorts( where’s the discussion of the last episodes by the way? :) ) and am really surprised you didn’t jump on it. It is another Bones show, and only some of the Eureka Seven staff carries over, but it is both aesthetically and emotionally very similar. I liked it a lot.

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