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Claymore Complete Collection Collector’s Edition UK Blu-ray Anime Review

13 min read

Claymore UK BoxSometimes the gritty colours and the badassery is all you want…and then you add characterization…

What They Say:
A brutal scourge stalks the land. Yoma, monsters driven by a hunger satisfied by only one quarry Humanity. The dark breed knows but a singular foe: Claymore. Human-Yoma hybrids of extraordinary strength and cunning, the Claymores roam from skirmish to skirmish delivering salvation by the edge of a blade. Thus begins the twisting tale of Clare, one such sister of the sword driven by pain in both victory and defeat. A child silent and suffering hidden in her past, Clares march toward vengeance unfolds along a path marked by violence, solitude and scorn. In a land where even the predator is prey, the haunted hearts of hunter and hunted alike wear the scars of the age.

The Review:
Audio:
Set up in 5.1 Dolby Surround in English and 2.0 Stereo set-up in Japanese, the English audio release is superb, with no issues with transition or synching, and the Japanese release whilst is definitely noticeable with the difference doesn’t hinder the set-up as didn’t need to adjust the volume with either track – overall there weren’t any issues in terms of the sound being out on sync with the subtitles or the video (except for one of the commentaries for some reason the set-up paused a couple of times, fortunately after a clean it was fine).

Video:
Similar to the recent FMA release, we get a full screen 1080p transfer but IMO unlike the FMA release, the effect of the darkness and grey colour here comes out superbly clear, and is one of the best transfers to an older(ish) series I’ve seen to Blu-Ray set up. This is very noticeable when you watch some of the DVD behind the scenes and the clips they show aren’t as well defined as they are using older footage, here it is crystal clear, great synching and imagery, no issues with pausing with no other transaction issues, no repeated animation, runs very slick it still compresses well as a release, just one of those releases that despite the dark colours and backgrounds has transferred very well to Blu-Ray.

Packaging:
There was no packaging for this test release, however the collector’s edition itself will come packed inside a rigid case and inside that will be a digipack to hold the three Blu-ray discs, also included are Art cards and a 100 art book.

Menu:
On each of the discs, the menu is very similar – lots of clips with dark foreboding music in the background – very bright yet dark with the black and red colours – visually striking, it has popup menus during the show which do include extras which is a rarity (unless you are in an extra where it has resume episodes or main menu) – on the main menu, the choices are on the top half of Play All, Episodes, Audio (which allows you to select subtitles easily even in English) and Extras on all three discs. Very simple but eye-catching, some good extra little things in pop-up and audio, almost instant like most Blu-Ray releases, it is very well-rounded.

Claymore UK PackaginExtras:
Outside of the physical extras you can get on the special edition as mentioned above, there is a lot of extras on the Blu-Rays themselves. Whilst an older series, most of the commentaries still have actors working in Texas so it definitely doesn’t feel old.

And we get a lot of them. Right out of the gate we have one for episode 1 with Stephanie Young (Clare) and Todd Hakenborn (Raki/director) – as Todd is the only main male voice he gets a fun view of his role both as a character and as a director and how the role was very different for Stephanie and how Clare develops for a character and with the voice she uses. There is a bit more talk about the behind the scenes works with this one (scripts, rewriting, audio engineers) and how they kept it as close to the translation as possible, as well as talking about the unique colour palette and the sheer amount of characters and cast they had to use by the end of it (it’s mentioned it is a tad different to dubbing a show like Shuffle ^^)

The next one is episode 8, we get Brina Palencia (Priscilla) and Wendy Powell (Elena) – the rest of the commentaries are a bit more fun related despite the gory nature of the show – Brina talks her VA friends, how the animation stands out when the blood comes out, how Wendy struggled with Elena, how Priscilla changes (as a character both physically and mentally), the use of music and silence in the show and the fact there was 47 women cast in it…

Episode 11 gets Colleen Clinkenbeard (Line Producer/Voice of Galatea) and Monica Rial (Milia) – unsurprisingly as per commentaries with Monica, it’s a bit mad – she jokes how her usual voice is that squeaky so doing a more stoic character like Milia was more unique and challenging – the ranges of both actresses voices (especially useful when you learn they also do a number of the monsters’ voices), and about the powers of their characters if they would have them if they wished. Also beware the power of a Monica monologue…

Episode 16 gets Laura Bailey(Jean) and Leslie Patrick (the director of the episode) – at this point the commentaries are more general – Laura mentions at this point she actually lives in California rather than Texas so she flew in specifically for this role so definitely doing it for the art, episode 19 gets Caitlin Glass (Deneve) and Jamie Marchi (Helen) which is a bit of fun because how Helen is probably the only comic relief type character in the show with her valley girl style accent and the amount of research into the show beforehand, and the final one is the final episode (26) with Brina and Stephanie going into their rivals mode and climatic battle – how their voices had to change and go lower, the scope of the show, the monsters designs, the change of characterization and the challenges that come with it.

But that’s not all, we also get some cast auditions which are basically just audio clips of some of the characters with no behind the scenes footage – we get Stephanie Young (Clare), Christine Auten (Teresa), R. Bruce Elliott (Rubel), Eric Vale (Sid) and an unknown voice as Yomi.

However, the other real big extra is some interviews with the work from the Japanese version. We get an interview with the director Hiroyuki Tanaka – all the interviews get some similar questions (the appeal of Claymore, what was most fulfilling, favourite character) but they all get some different ones – the director is the biggest of the interviews so you get to hear him say what he had particular difficulty with, what he paid most attention to, how careful he was with the description of the Claymores, most memorable scenes, the appeal of Claire and her performance.

We get an interview with Sound Director Yasunori Honda with similar questions but more relating to his line of work, including an inside story of before production starts, why the main actress got the role of Claire, etc. We get one with the art director Manabu Otsuzuki which describes his job, the backgrounds he’s drawn, what was most fulfilling about it, what backgrounds and scenes he enjoyed the most, etc. Lastly an interview with art settings director Nobuhito Sue, which is a bit more behind the scenes as we see some of the work that went on it, which he also describes the work of an art designer, the art design in Claymore, etc.

Lastly we have standard extras, with the clean opening and ending, some TV commercials from Japan, and trailers for the following shows ; Strike Witches, Darker Than Black, Dragonball Z, Gunslinger Girl, D. Gray Man, Tower of Druaga, Shiguri: Death Frenzy and Soul Eater.

Content:
Considering my run of nostalgic series, Claymore flew under the radar as it has been a while since I’ve seen it, and the fact it is 10 years old really shocked me – but this is yet another series am happy to see transferred to Blu-Ray as the dark and gritty atmosphere with the grey background, dark animation and utterly badass nature it provides can really drag you into its world and hook you there.

The basis of the series is that is a fantasy swords slashing anime with lots of powerful female figures known as Claymores. The focus is primarily on one named Clare, who we meet early on in the 1st episode, as she saves a boy named Raki from demon beasts known as Yoma. Claymores are quite solitary and don’t seem to want to have human contact, however Clare after a while lets Raki tag along with her – the significance isn’t obvious until episode 5 but something like this definitely has happened to her before…

The episodes before that are ones of conflict for both Clare and Raki, as Clare explains that when they used too much of their Yoki power (it is showcased they are all part Yoma) they could transform into their Yoki half – most wish to die before it happens, as Clare kills one of her friends back from the start in Elena, and we also learn of Voracious Eaters, much more powerful Yoma. It’s here we discover that each Claymore is ranked as well in terms of power, and Clare despite showcases some top skills, is ranked the lowest of the Claymores…

Episode 5 showcases why, and also references why she lets Raki tag along. We get a flashback episode (though it isn’t obvious at first until the end of the episodes) that we see a young Clare tagging along with a Claymore named Teresa, who was the most powerful Claymore of her time. Similar to Clare, Teresa is very solitary and refuses Clare to join her, but she continues to follow, mute and weak until Teresa does allow her – and despite bandits, Yokis and obstacles, the two begin to bond – however when she leaves Clare in a village for her protection (because travelling with a Claymore is very dangerous), bandits from before attack the village, and we learn of the biggest taboo of a Claymore.

Never kill a human.

However, Teresa breaks that rule because rule or not, there are scumbag humans and these definitely fit the bill (one of the bandits implied he may have raped Clare). However, she escapes before some Claymore try to kill her, so as a fugitive and the highest ranked, they send in the 2nd-5th strongest after her…

The next couple of episodes then set the plot in flow as we see Teresa facing the other Claymores, with two in particular getting focus – Ilena, who will become a little more important later, and Priscilla, a shy girl who seems very nervous, but is actually the most deadly of the fighters and wanted to face Teresa one on one – but when Priscilla is defeated, she ups her Yoki power up too much, and does awaken. This causes the death of Teresa, the other Claymores bar Ilena, but Clare is spared for some reason. Cradling the severed head of Teresa, Claire asks to become a Claymore, but only becomes a quarter Yoki, the other quarter of her non-human blood is Teresa’s…hence her supposedly weak rank.

Back in the present, Clare leaves Raki to search for an Awakened Being…of course we now know she is hunting down Priscilla hence her need to find such beasts. However Awakened Beings are far more powerful than average Yoki, and some are way too strong for the average Claymore. She joins a group with three other Claymore, Miria, Helen and Deneve who initially dismiss her when she is discovered to have the lowest rank (though Miria suspects there is more to her as she senses she has the power of the strongest being around – indicating Teresa’s blood) – but when they encounter the Awakened Being (just not powerful, but a rare male one as generally it’s due to female Claymores only) it is looking grim as the girls figure they were on a suicide mission due to all of them being partially awakened. However Clare’s ability of Yoki aura sensing brings her to victory as other higher ranked Claymores watch from afar…the four make a bond even when they separate as Clare is immediately sent to deal with another Awakened Being, this time in a mission with just one Claymore, Ophelia. However, Ophelia is a tad more….psychotic than the average Claymore…

Ophelia pretty much tries to kill Clare and Raki, but is saved by the not-dead Ilena, which later causes Ophelia to awaken (a good bit of back-story makes Ophelia actually seem sympathetic) whilst Ilena begins to teach Clare her technique, the Flash Sword – a super quick sword slash technique…by attaching her arm to the stump in Clare’s arm caused by Ophelia. Ouch.

The rest of the series pretty much then follows Clare’s eventually journey to find Priscilla. She fights off against Ophelia with her new powers and wins, Raki and Clare separate which later goes to a promise with both of them also searching for the other, she fights other powerful beings along with making a comrade in a Claymore named Jean, as well as being saved by the powerful Galatea (who doesn’t report the deserting Clare back to the authorities). However, they are caught and as punishment, sent to an area with 23 other Claymores to confront a horde of awakened Beings, and one named Isley, also known as the Abyssal One who is the crème de la crème of Awakened Beings. Not to mention that Raki has been sighted there, with a couple of people…one named Isley…and another named Priscilla…

Needless to say, the final arc everything comes to a head. Clare reunites with her other friends whilst other Claymores join the fight as captains with separate teams, whilst Isley sends his strongest fighter Rigaldo to take them all out. Whilst the Claymores initially do well against the beings, Rigaldo easily kills 4 of the 5 captains (though Jean does recover) with just Miria still alive – and when things look their worst, Clare apparently awakens and her power skyrockets, chopping off Rigaldos’ arm, with Raki travelling to the area after hearing the lowest rank Claymores are there, as Clare showcases her control in only allowing her legs to awaken, with Priscilla sensing Teresa’s energy and Clare sensing her, the final battle is set, with Priscilla, Raki, Jean, Miria, Helen, Deneve, Isley and Clare all involved as it feels like it has ended, but there is still more to be told…

This is a really devastating series. The atmosphere is dark, there is very little humour, and the show deals with death constantly. The character of Clare is complex, interesting and her back-story is very well told – you see the comparisons with Teresa as you learn her past, why Raki is tagging along as he reminds her or herself as a young lady, and the fact she has to learn to become stronger – she gets lucky a few times – and the show ends ambiguously as it could have ended, but it keeps it open with Priscilla and Raki seemingly improved to see how his character could go (as he is pretty much not needed for most of the show).

It does have loads and loads of characters, and even Clare’s relationship with Raki isn’t developed as much as I’d have hoped, it just seems a weaker parallel of Clare’s relationship with Teresa – it’s the only major weakness because she does bond with the 4 Claymores of Miria’s group and to a lesser extent Jean later, but they only seem slightly rememberable – her strongest bond was with Teresa during those flashback episodes along with her brief training with Ilena, and her fight with Ophelia (Ophelia’s flashbacks actually gave her good development for the short time she was in the show) – they do give most of the named Claymore at least one good moment of either characterization or fighting skill before they either leave or killed off, so the large cast isn’t as big a hindrance as it could have been, but it is still noticeable.

That said, Clare herself carries the show, and it is just those subtle changes in personality that works. The character of Priscilla, despite only in it for a few episodes overall, gives her plot, balance and purpose, as partly her job, partly revenge and thanks to how well told the Teresa arc was told, it continues throughout the story as she vows and becomes stronger. The gritty atmosphere, the tension in villages (and having to hide her Claymore side at times especially when she is on the run) combined with the shocking claret that shows in between the dark backgrounds make this such a beautiful yet dark show to watch.

It is also a show that relies on several strong female characters and no real fan service – and even then it is more of not wanting (Teresa nearly gets attacked by a bandit but her Yoki side turns everything away) – the idea of Claymores being female only yet there are male awakened beings is cleverly told and the action scenes are the cherry on top.

I forgot how good this series was, and in 10 years it holds up very well, especially considering the fantasy genre is usually a lot more wizards and warriors, this dark, gloomy art style combined with the odd spot of crimson and high intensity battles makes it a stand up release even in this time.

In Summary:
Claymore is a rollercoaster of a show, with dark heavy imagery, impactful plots, a strong lead and a developing story and plot of revenge, trust and blood. Whilst the loads of characters combined with the fact most of them don’t have much impact, combined with the one main male character not being important bar for comparison reasons, the show holds its own as one of the gritty fantasy hack and slash series even today. Clare’s back-story and growing powers combined with her later comradeship and lust for revenge makes her identifiable but also understandable despite her seemingly lack of emotion. Combined with some good flashback sequences and understanding of the end bosses, Claymore is a sleeper hit that needs more love.

Features:
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Episode commentaries on episodes 1, 8. 11, 16 19 & 26, Character Cast Auditions, Interview with Director Hiroyuki Tanaka, Interview with Sound Director Yasunori Honda, Interview with Art Director Manabu Otsuzuki (Kusanagi), Interview with Art Settings Nobuhito Sue (Kusanagi), Original TV Commercials, Textless Songs

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: A
Video Grade: A
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B+
Extras Grade: A-

Released By: Anime Limited
Release Date: January 30th, 2017
MSRP: £44.99
Running Time: 650 minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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