|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.
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.
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.
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.
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.