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It wouldn’t be a stretch to claim that in writing that title and posting this blog, I am expressing an extreme sense of bias. It is true, sort of. I love claymore, that’s a biased argument. But claymore is good, no…not just good, unbelievably good, and there is no bias in that.
If you want to know how good claymore is, this is how I will explain it. Claymore fails terribly because of its one weakness, the claymore manga is released monthly in the magazine jump square.
That makes it slow as heck, Seriously, this manga debuted in 2006, and as of 2012, it had produced 21 volumes, approximately 135 chapters. Fairy tail, released around that same time, has over 320 chapters out. So that gives you an idea of what’s missing with claymore. If it could transform into a weekly manga, and hence pick up the pace with the story, I am not merely saying that it would be more popular, I am boldly stating that it would replace bleach in the big 3. Claymore is that good and I was lucky enough to start reading it (last September) when it had 113 chapters out. That way I was able to enjoy its arcs in completion.
But it is difficult to fault Norihiro Yagi. Anyone that has had the opportunity to read his work knows that claymore could be one of the best aristic works out their, and I am saying that objectively(I hope). Whenever I make this claim, most people are quick to point out all sorts of manga but especially Manhwa with what they believe to be brilliant art, that surpasses claymore, and usually I always conclude that either they have no idea what they are talking about or they simply have no perspective.
Being that curious, I will usually look into these different Manhwa and while I will manage to appreciate the impressive detail in the work, it is never on par with claymore.
Think back to that day you watched the hobbit or the lord of the rings in cinema, specifically to the mind blowing bits were you were immediately convinced that paying for that ticket was worth it. I am talking about the landscapes, as the cameras would fly over rolling hills, jagged mountains and beautiful valleys, and it was all just too breath taking.
That is what claymore does in most of its scenes. Claymore is set in a backward uncivilized country with more open forests and lands than buildings. As such most of claymore will occur in the open wild of nature and Yagi has a way of pulling off that feeling of a camera sweeping over a real life land. He will put painstaking detail into each and every scenario, highlighting the environment in all its beauty and majesty. One forest will almost always be different from another and every open landscape will literally take you to a different place from the one before
And of course I am not saying that claymore is amazing just because the mangaka can draw a couple of trees. Even in these frequently suggested Manhwa, you will find lush woods and forests drawn in detailed fashion. But that is always done in a ‘Mortal kombat-ish’ kind of manner. If you have played motor combat or any other fighting game, you will realize that all the fighting settings are just the same ring with different decorations. Sure they will introduce it with fancy animations just to let you know that you are fighting in a volcano but other than that, once the fighting begins, it all becomes generic.
This is what all these so called brilliantly drawn Manhwa do. They will take the time to display an impressive looking location in the introductory page merely to let you know where you are, but after that, it is all just flashing trees and shots so close to the objects that you can’t help but ignore everything else. And I am not saying this is bad, most artists will prefer to focus on the important bits rather than wasting panels on wasteful scenes.
I am just saying that Claymore takes it to another level. In most panels you will almost always know where you are, and that’s because Yagi puts his characters into their environment. He puts as much detail into the surroundings as he does the characters, and even as the characters a running about, engaged in battle, it is easy to differentiate between locations.
And that matters with claymore, because it also produces some of the best battles I have ever read. I once read an interview by Tite Kubo who explained that in creating bleach, he wanted to create a new experience of reading manga that was even better than an anime. Now as far as I am concerned, Kubo did do something major, but he didn’t achieve his goal, and that’s not just because he is lazy and rather than show us background, he chooses to fill entire panels with walls of black or white.
His dream is something claymore has achieved, because if claymore isn’t as good as watching anime, it will be even better. The battles are so…fluid; Each panel is drawn in such a way that it blends in perfectly with another. Each character is drawn in such a way that you can literally see the motion in the action. The result is that as I read page after page, I can feel the comic move…its hard to explain.The current Bleach arc is so good that I can’t wait to see it animated. I couldn’t care less if claymore was animated, because reading the comic is as good as watching the anime. You will not be confusing a speed based attack for wind, or a jump for descending force or pressure as it often seen in bleach.
And with such eye popping battle, it is a miracle that Yagi can keep the characters grounded in their environment. It doesn’t matter how awesome or epic an action being executed by a character is, if he doesn’t have to do extremely close shots that blur out the background, he won’t. it’s…ahhh crap, this isn't about claymore, back to my point…
Claymore takes place inside a region on a large island. The region consists of 47 divisions each of which is ravaged by the scourge of Yoma, supernatural shape shifting demonic beings that feast on human flesh. And that’s not a Yoma to the right, that’s something entirely more sinister called Dauf.
Here enter the Claymore, female warriors that have been infused with the flesh of yoma, endowing them with superhuman speed, strength and skills through a mystical ebergy known as Yoki. When unleashing their power, their silver eyes will turn golden while their faces and bodies under go some kind of grotesque transformation. (That, on the side would be Irene of the flash sword, a previous generation number 2 claymore)
But with the power to fight Yoma comes a steep price. Claymore can only release so much of their power before losing themselves to it. At 100% power release, Claymore will gain immense power, beyond that of any yoma, or even a hundred yoma, but they will lose their humanity, transforming into awakened beings that seek only to deed on human flesh.
The idea of awakened beings is introduced rather early in the series but only compounded upon later on. Initially the organization terms the creatures as voracious eaters, powerful yoma that have lived hundreds of years and thus gained great power. Their power is such that not one or two or even five claymore can be sent to take out one Voracious eater, but rather it requires a squad, as displayed in earlier chapters were Clare and her gang, even with the help of Phantom Miria, ranked number 6, find themselves at the mercy of the creature, that tears at them from within and without (pretty grotesque stuff if you haven’t read it).
Of course they eventually discover the truth that the organization doesn’t want them to know, that these super powerful yoma are actually their former comrades. As such most claymore have chosen to adhere by a self proclaimed rule: if any of them feels that that are at the brink of losing themselves and transforming (the awakening process can happen over a period of time), they will send out a black to a claymore that they feel particularly close to, who they will then request to kill them while they still possess their humanity.
Claymore also suffer stigma from the very population they protect, who see them as no different from the monsters that they fight (though it might also have something to do with the mountains of gold the towns are charged to hire a claymore, and the destruction they face if a claymore completes the hired task and they don’t pay)
What makes this situation so interesting is that claymore are prohibited from taking human lives and a claymore that kills a human will herself be killed. And as such it becomes quite interesting to watch these elite warriors fighting to protect humanity while at the same time having to watch out for the same ‘innocent’ entities that they must protect.
There are approximately 47 claymore, ranking from number 1 to 47, each of which is assigned one of the 47 regions on the island (the chart above displays the symbols of the claymore that have so far been introduced and have played major roles). In the claymore system, rankings are more than numbers as the single digit claymores are the most powerful of the lot, with numbers 1 and 2 usually proving to be monsters of warriors in each generation. These will possess a special ability that sets them apart, which no other claymore possess. They are also the most dangerous threat to humanity.
Because of their monster level yoki, when claymores ranked number 1 and 2 awaken, they become creatures termed as ‘The Abyssal ones’ (or dwellers of the deep, depending on the translation.) If Awakened beings are super yoma, then Abyssal ones are super super super super awakened beings (actually add about ten more supers to that), and that doesn’t even begin to describe their power. (I am thought Dauf, the big guy pictured higher up in the document was an abyssal one, but it turns out he is just an awakened being)
it has been posited that a single abyssal one is worth more than all 47 claymore combined, or at least 45 claymore, minus numbers 1 and 2. Because of their power, numbers 1 and 2 claymore will be eliminated the moment they display signs of awakening. But this decision is rarely taken casually, as these two numbers are the organization’s greatest weapon.
There are four known Abyssal ones (if you read claymore, then you know that is no longer the case), termed as the kings of the north, south, east and west. As far as the anime is concerned, we are only introduced to Isley, Priscilla’s guardian, and Riful, a little girl with a giant companion of metal (that would be Dauf, Riful is that plant like thing in her awakened form). These beings rule their respective territories, based on agreements to stay clear of each other’s territories, but that doesn’t last.
Clare is ranked number 47, the lowest ranked claymore in the organization. She comes off as cold,calm and expressionless, but as Miria pointed out, she hides a raging and frenetic personality that subconsciously makes her brash and capricious.
Claymore began her journey as a young traumatized girl that saw her entire family brutally murdered by a yoma. But rather than kill her, the demon took a human body and dragged her around from town to town as its pet, even as it killed and maimed.
Clare would be saved by the strongest claymore ever (I don’t care what anyone says about Rafaela), Teresa of the faint smile, a claymore so powerful that she never has to release more than 10% of her yoki to defeat her opponent, be it yoma, awakened being, or even claymore. Rather than keep to the family assigned to her, Clare desperately clung to Teresa along her journey, eventually melting her cold heart over the months.
The story is a tragic one though, as Teresa must kill a horde of bandits to save Clare in a town she had abandoned her in. Now branded a criminal that must be destroyed, Teresa initially seemed ready to accept her punishment, then on seeing Clare’s face, defeated the four claymore sent to her and goes on the ran with her surrogate daughter.
There is no denying that this origin arc had to be one of the best in claymore. Even when Teresa finally fell, you knew she was unbeatable and only lost because of a weakness developed during her time with Clare in the mercy that she chose to show to Priscilla, the unstable prodigy number 2 claymore, and thus regretted it when Priscilla awakened and beheaded her.
We had seen so many of these characters before prior to this event, claymore once of great repute and power, only spoke of or seen in flashbacks; here in this arc we got to see them in all their glory in a battle royale against Teresa, it was amazing.
Anyway, Clare swears vengeance (pretty stupid if you know who Priscilla is), takes Teresa;s head back to the organization and had them infuse the revered claymore’s flesh into her, making her, not half yoma, but one fourth yoma, a weak incomplete hybrid.
The story of claymore follows Clare on her path to avenge Teressa, which if you have read claymore, know that it is actually in vain-Priscilla is ridiculously strong.
On the way she, like Teresa, undergoes a transformation through her meeting of Raki,. a young boy who liker her saw his family brutalized by yoma. She learns to communicate and form bonds, not only with Raki, but with other claymore that, like her, have been branded rebels. The term rebel here refers to claymore that the organization is watching because of their increased recklessness and disobedience and in whom the organization has lost trust.
Along with their gang leader, Phantom miria, Clare tries to face the increasing onslaught of powerful enemies while trying to stay off the radar of the organization and keeping their greatest secret, that they have all awakened and returned from the edge, a feat that not only made them more powerful but would completely blacken their reputation in the eyes of the organization that would see them as too unstable a risk to let loose.
Through their chosen rebellion Clare and Miria work to uncover the secrets of the organization, such as why there are villages that have never heard of yoma and claymore, and the true purpose of the claymore. The discovery of the true nature of the organization, that the island is their personal laboratory in creating weapons to fight against a great foe of dragon like creatures in a war that has spanned centuries on the main land, changes the game and puts Clare in the cross hairs of the organization.
This only complicates her search for Priscilla, whom she had discovered in the hands of Isley (the guy in white), an Abyssal one who, it turns out, along with his pal Rigardo the silver lion king, was once a claymore several hundred years ago, taking the number one spot along side his number two, Rigardo. It is here that it comes to light that claymore were once male and female; but because of the high rate at which male claymore awakened (awakening here is said to manifest as a sexual high), there line was discontinued, with Isley being among the last.
Claymore is rich with characters, and yagi isn’t afraid to introduce to us as many claymore as we would want to see, each with a unique name, claymore symbol and some possessing special names for the special techniques they have developed, such as phantom Miria who is the fastest claymore around, and can accelrate to a point where she is no more than a phantom, then wind cutter flora who…never mind that. Each claymore has her own story, a tragedy that led them to join the organization (being a claymore is voluntary),and how their past lives affect their duties as claymores.
Pause a moment, I thought I would stop to point out that the guy above is isley awakened. Why do I have to point that out? Because the first time I saw it, especially that ‘organic bow and arrow’ I was blown away. This guy is single handedly the coolest looking thing claymore.
The battles are insane and clever, and the action is brutal but not so over the top that it is simply designed to shock you (well, there is that one scene where Clare has her legs sliced off her body at the very beginning of the fight, and has to reattach before Riku falls in his attempts to hold out against a crazed claymore). And nothing beats the intensity of the stakes at hand. Everyone and I mean everyone here (except probably Clare, I can’t be sure) is fair game. There is no incident were a character wins a fight they simply can’t win, even by a fluke.
Characters will die when they are forced to the edge, and find themselves spent; this is a battle they are facing, a war even, against a demonic horde. There are casualties left and right, and claymore doesn’t hold back in displaying the tragedies involved. Basically it will not cheat for the characters, and neither does it drag out deaths. Most characters will die faster than you can blink and any weeping usually has to be postponed until the battle is over, because as claymore, these women know that losing control and raging in battle for bloodlust and vengeance is a sure way to get killed.
There is no special ‘nakama power ups’. It doesn’t matter how angry or grieved a character is, they will lose in the face of a greater power, so basically expect greater realism.
Clare plays the part of the odd man out; Miria once commented that when she first saw Clare she felt like she was standing in front of the most powerful claymore alive (probably sensing Teresa's essence), but Clare was number 47, the weakest claymore. More than that, Clare doesn’t really have an impressive amount of Yoki or even skill. what she does possess and what impresses Miria is Clare’s adaptability and her ability to use her little skills to create methods and mechanisms with which to defeat greater opponents.
And as we watch Clare's power actually grow over the time skip, these skills become more pronounced. She learns to let the other claymore in, and to operate in sync with her new team. She, like the rest, works to recruit claymore to the ghosts, the name of their group, formed after the epic and tragic events of the ‘campaign in the north’ arc.
Her relationship to Priscilla is what drives her; in that she lives only to avenge Teresa and has no qualms about losing her life. In fact she once intimated that she saw no life beyond killing Priscilla, basically indirectly stating that when she faces Priscilla she will intentionally awaken and lose her humanity to gain the immense power with which to kill Priscilla.
This showdown drives the entire series, in some places, because as the story builds, its creates so much potential for what could happen during the events of the final battle. And if you watched the anime and think you already had a chance to see this showdown, the awakening of clare and Priscilla unleashed power, you have no idea what you are talking about. The final episodes of the anime change things around the time when Rigardo attacks.
The anime has Clare having to transform her legs to gain the (uncontrollable) speed to match and take down Rigardo, then she faces Priscilla, awakens and uses the hundred of blades forming her wings to do a flash sword, tearing Priscilla apart.
The true showdown between these two occurs a hundred chapters later, and while the show down actually began last year, around the chapter released in October, up to now, February 2013, it is still ongoing, that is how epic it is.
If you are suddenly envisaging images of dragon ball’s frieza arc, where the Goku vs Frieza battle exceeded 15 episodes, do not worry. This situation is much cooler and less tiresome, as it was spiced up with the arrival and inclusion of a being known as the destroyer (fusion of Rafaela, former claymore 2 and her sister, who awakened decades ago while Teresa was still a child warrior in training).
To truly understand why the showdown between Clare and Priscilla would be so epic, you would have to understand just how monstrous Priscilla is. As the most powerful being in claymore, the term overpowered doesn’t even begin to describe her. And she is crazy as hell. First of all, she doesn’t even know of her current status as an awakened being, and actually still believes that she is a claymore fighting to destroy evil. As such she is the only yoma related creature that will actually use her large sword in battle, rather than depend on her claws and wings (the fact that she has kept it all this time is quite telling).
It is funny watching her interact with other claymore, acting as if nothing is wrong, and going so far as to wonder why they are looking at her with such fearsome expressions. Then she will go on to eat them and wonder why she is so hungry, not even bothering to register her recent inhuman actions.
Secondly, you would think Priscilla too powerful to even notice Clare and her petty vengeance. But Priscilla is actually hell bent on destroying Clare at all costs, the reason being that she is scared to hell of her. Once a child prodigy, deemed to be the most powerful claymore the organization had ever acquired, Priscilla had her power and beliefs tested when she came up against Priscilla years back, along with her other team mates. She learnt to fear who Teresa was, but more than that, her childhood mind was unable to compute the ridiculous might that was Teresa.
Priscilla can sense Teresa’s essence in Clare, and whenever she is within a few kilometers, Priscilla goes crazy, feigning anger initially then revealing her fear. She determines that to destroy Teresa is to destroy evil, but actually she needs to destroy Teresa to confirm her own might and release herself of her fear, except that Teresa is dead and Priscilla is crazy as hell.
This character, Clare, was once described as gats from berserk (supposedly the most badass male character in anime, don’t agree) as a girl. She is far from the strongest or most powerful, but her ambitions are greater than her abilities and she is willing to mix it up to win. It is difficult to describe what it is that makes Clare so bad ass, especially after the time skip. There is no doubt that without her, claymore would be a less interesting creature than it is now, even with the myriad of interesting characters more than capable of taking her place.
I haven’t read claymore for a while now, I am hoping to let the it grow to at least seven chapters such that I can read them at a go, but the thought of opening that first page, to continue the epic story of claymore, finding out the conclusion to Phantom Miria single handedly storming the organization and its new set of 47 claymores, the show down between Priscilla, the Destroyer and Clare, Riku’s story after Priscilla seemingly betrayed him after regaining her memories, only to save him for old times sake (the time she spent with him and Isley as a family) by sticking her right her hand into him, and leaving it in, to restrain the infection from….this story just keeps getting so much better with each chapter that it leaves me shivering in excitement at the prospect of wrapping these stories up.
If you haven’t yet, read claymore and check out why Clare is such a beast. Better yet, read Claymore and find out why it is better than most Manga you have ever read. Then maybe we can all gang up and send a deluge of emails to Norihiro Yagi, petitioning his to pick up the pace.