If I ever get the time, I think it might be worthwhile to put CLAYMORE down next to BERSERK and actually run some point-for-point comparison about why one is better than the other. They’re a little similar, superficially. Both are about wandering warriors with ludicrously big swords fighting demons in a generalized fantasy setting. However, all the qualities that felt cliché in BERSERK feel skillfully minimalistic here, and I can’t immediately perceive why. Is it simply that the sparse dialog is phrased better? Is it better paced even as it still doesn’t have a lot of plot to cover? Does it help that is has a bit more of a sense of humor about itself? Or is it some je nes c’est quoi?
Whatever the reasons, Clare’s doomed adventuring with Raki has moments of realer badassry and more genuine pathos. Yomas may be flesh-eating skin walkers of another name, but it’s enough for me that they aren’t exactly the same as the werewolves and vampires that have so unimaginatively become the work horses of fantasy thrillers. At least there will be some surprises in learning the precise natures of their strengths and weaknesses.
There’s also something richly tragic about how all these Claymores operate with an indeterminate death sentence hanging over their heads. It reminds me a little of an old comic called STRIKEFORCE: MORITURI, but the aspect of these saviors turning into monsters puts twist on that like a knife in the heart. Fatalism’s par for the course for shows of this stamp, and I suppose there’s something doubly-sorrowful about these Claymore doing penance for their transgression while knowing full well that a black card will eventually be dealt to spell death for them or their friends.
Of course, considering how early this whole conceit is being introduced, I suspect that the crux of the series will be about Clare and Raki somehow breaking this cycle of pain. Or maybe the creators of this are just that sadistic as to torture everybody for 26 straight episodes.
Watch this episode “The Black Card" below, decide for yourself and then read my comments on the previous episode here.