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, Clare’s 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.
For this viewing, I listened to the English 5.1 dub. The Japanese track is offered in 2.0. There is a nice mix of directionality along the left and right channels, but not as much from front to back; dialogue stays on the center channel. There was no noticeable dropout on any of the tracks. My only real complaint is that with the amount of action in this series, I would not have minded a more dynamic mix, particularly with more vertical movement. But it is otherwise fine.
The video is more of a mixed bag. The lining is clear, but colors are muted, though that is more a symptom of artistic design than of a flawed transfer. Where the transfer struggles is that there is a great deal of noise in places throughout, especially in scenes heavy on reds and oranges. At first, I could not decide whether it was also a symptom of design, but it clears up quite a bit as the series progresses, so it seems to be more a problem with the transfer. It does not ruin anything, but it certainly is noticeable.
This set gets Funimation’s standard double thinpak treatment, though it is a bit plainer than most fares. Again, I think this is more a reflection of the design of the series rather than lack of effort on Funimation’s part. The box is not only wide enough to hold the three thin-paks but also to contain the booklets (see extras section). The front cover has a shot of Clare in full armor against a plain, white background. The back has Clare again, this time posing with her sword in her undercover battle-gear. There are half-a-dozen screenshots and a series summary, and the white background is bordered by a shot of a church bathed in purple light. The dark border is a stark contrast to the rest of the very white design.
The thinpaks each have an image that wraps around from back-to-front, with an episode listing overlayed on a white strip on the front, creating the same stunning contrast as seen on the back of the box. The covers are fully reversible, with the reverse covers following the same design as the standard covers.
My only real remark on this set is with the discs themselves. The top of each disc is pressed with a scratchboard effect, where they have a white background, and all the lettering is “cut-out” so that the disc underneath provides the coloring. All but the fifth disc, that is. Disc five has no background with white writing, so basically the complete reverse of the other five discs. It is really a minor complaint, but it screws with my sense of aesthetics.
One final minor note, I am not a particular fan of some of the images they chose for this set (particularly the two shots of Clare for the box). The character designs in this series are really quite good (even if all the Claymores are kind of samey), but the character art on the packaging does not really do it justice.
The menu has a nice design. The background has a static image of Clare holding her sword out getting ready to attack against a collage background of various scenes. All of this looks as if it is seen through a light purple filter, though the overall effect is dark. The main battle theme, a heavy guitar riff, plays in the background, which really helps the dark mood. The selections are offered below Clare in white, which stands up well against the relatively dark background. My only real complaint is that the highlight is a pale yellow, which might be tough to differentiate from the white on some setups, though I had no issues.
Funimation gave us quite a bit for this release. There are six episode commentaries with various people involved with the English dub (one on each disc), audition tapes for some of the English cast, interviews with members of the Japanese staff, some original TV commercials, and clean versions of the opening and closing.
Aside from that, this set also contains two twenty-four page booklets that I assume were offered at various points in the singles releases, but I am not sure. Each booklet has a mother-load of information on the characters and plot (including notes on specifics on the designs of the characters), as well as a ton of artwork and a somewhat lengthy Q&A with some of the production staff. I love little booklets like these, and these two are no different. I would only suggest that you wait until after watching the series to read through them, as they do contain quite a few spoilers.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Claymore anime series is based on a still-ongoing manga series that is being released Stateside by Viz. The manga also saw a brief run in Viz’s Shonen Jump magazine when it was first brought over here. The anime is a lot more fun than I expected going into it, but falls victim to the same problem that many anime based on incomplete manga do: namely not really wrapping much up at the end.
The world is overrun by beasts known as Yoma. Yoma are monsters who can disguise themselves as human and view humanity as their main food source, and even the weakest of them is far too powerful for humans to cope. Their only hope are the Claymores, a society of demi-human, female warriors who have absorbed the Yoma’s powers in order to be able to combat them. Unfortunately for the Claymores, the very power that helps them defeat the Yoma threatens to consume them at any time, turning them Yoma as well. And for this, they are outcasts even to the people they help.
In response to a request for aid, a Claymore named Clare travels to a village to hunt a Yoma that is terrorizing the town. While on the job, she meets a young boy named Raki, who seems drawn to her despite the stigma against socializing with a Claymore. Raki sees Clare as his only hope because the Yoma had killed his parents, leaving him and his brother alone. But when Clare discovers that the Yoma had also killed and replaced Raki’s brother, he has nothing left. That is punctuated when he is expelled from the town for fear that he might have been affected with Yoma blood.
For reasons known only to her, the normally uber-reserved Clare agrees to allow Raki to accompany her on her perpetual journey to rid the world of the monsters. When Clare was a little girl, her family was also killed by Yoma, and she was taken captive. When Theresa, the greatest Claymore in the land, frees her, Clare attaches herself to Theresa the way Raki became attached to her, refusing to leave Theresa’s side even when she is convicted of attacking and killing a band of human bandits raiding a town (Claymore’s are forbidden to kill humans). Theresa is so far above the rest of the Claymore society, though, that they cannot bring her down by conventional means. Eventually, it takes the awakening (i.e. turning to Yoma) of Priscilla, the Claymore number two to be able to kill Theresa. Clare is so full of hatred at Theresa’s death that she also joins Claymore, with the intent to hunt down and kill the now-monster Priscilla herself.
In Raki, Clare sees herself when she was younger, just as lost and just as alone. Unfortunately for Raki, he has attached himself to the lowest rank, and therefore the weakest, Claymore in the Organization, and Clare is constantly left to deal with the derision of all of the other warriors she encounters. What everybody else does not know, though, is that Clare is different. Instead of absorbing the powers of a Yoma, Clare was able to absorb the powers of Theresa and can call them forth when she finds herself in over her head. The question is whether her former benefactor’s abilities will be enough for her to accomplish her goals.
When I first read the plot summary for Claymore, I have to admit that I was not particularly enthusiastic about it. Women fighting monsters in a fantasy setting just seemed too generic to be particularly interesting. Even the sampling of artwork (i.e. the packaging) I saw beforehand did nothing to make me think I would enjoy watching it. Having now watched it, I am glad to say that I was wrong. Claymore delivers a gritty storyline, far grimmer than I expected, and backs it up with some great action and some true human drama. In fact, the strength in this piece lies with the characters.
Clare is a strong protagonist who shows some really nice growth over the twenty-six episodes. When the series starts, she is a woman of strong determination but not the greatest personality. Despite their tireless work to keep society safe, Claymores tend to be shunned by those who do not need their help, and that generally suits Clare just fine. She does not need people.
But the introduction of Raki in her life opens her up more, beginning with his assistance after a harrowing battle with what she thought then was an awakened being (a particularly powerful Yoma). That battle had stretched Clare’s relatively meager talents and had forced her to push past the safe boundaries of her Yoki aura (Yoma powers) and was worried that she was awakening. But instead of granting her wish that she be killed on the spot before she could turn, Raki instead showed compassion and love, helping her back from the abyss. From that point, Clare begins to regain the human emotions she suppressed when Theresa was killed, and each episode sees her character grow a bit more into a more rounded person.
And as a group, the Claymores are interesting people. Each person has their own story and motives for joining the Organization, and it seems that each has a fundamental distrust of the Organization’s true motives, but is willing to work within the system in order to achieve their goals.
I was particularly interested in Ophelia, the fourth-ranked Claymore in Clare’s era, whose single-minded desire to kill the “one-horned monster” (i.e. Priscilla) that killed her brother has turned her into a sociopath that enjoys torturing and killing other Claymores just as much as she like killing Yoma. There was some intriguing pathos stuff at work for the brief time that she is in the series, especially when things start to go wrong and she starts talking to herself as if she is reverting to a younger age. She is truly a fascinatingly hateable person, who in the end seems to have an understanding of what she had become.
On a similar note is Priscilla, Clare’s antagonist (though is likely not the overall antagonist). Much like Clare, her entire family was killed by Yoma, precipitating her enlistment as a Claymore. Her hatred of Yoma is what drives her, to the point that she never actually notices when she awakens in the process of killing Theresa. She becomes one of the most powerful Yoma in the world, but still has a hatred of all things Yoma. It introduces some idiosyncrasies in her personality that are interesting to see play out, not the least of which is the fact that she struggles to accept her past, also often reverting to a child-like state.
But as much as I enjoyed this series, there are still flaws, mostly related to the pacing. For starters, the way they introduce Clare’s past and motivation is a bit jarring. The series opens with five episodes establishing Clare’s and Raki’s relationship, but then puts all of that and the story on hold for four episodes in order to show Clare’s past with Theresa. Frankly, it is a bit jarring. For starters, the first episode of the Clare/Theresa arc opens up with Theresa wandering into a town and slaughtering a group of Yoma, saving Clare in the process, but there is no hint as to how/where this fits into the storyline. The young Clare looks nothing like her adult self, and having lost her voice from fear, we do not learn her name until later. For much of that first episode, I was lost as to what we were supposed to be learning.
And by the time the four episodes of backstory are up, it was tough to remember why we should be caring about adult Clare and Raki. We had spent almost as much time away from them as we did with them. And frankly, Theresa was awesome as a protagonist. Even though I knew something was going to happen to her, I found myself hoping the focus would stay on her.
The other problem with this series is that being based on a still unfinished manga, the whole thing felt unfinished. The story set up essentially three issues: 1) Clare’s struggle with her humanity and hatred of Priscilla, 2) Priscilla’s overall psychoses, and 3) the increasing threat of Isley, the Abyssal One of the Northern Lands (the biggest Yoma threat to humanity and the manipulator of Priscilla). By the end of this series, only one of these has been dealt with, and I am not even sure if that conclusion is final. To me, it was a big black mark on an otherwise fine story.
As a final note, I have to mention an aspect of the design of this show that had me chuckling quite a few times, even though the overall effect was supposed to be grim. Many of the Yoma, in particular, the really powerful ones, have an affinity towards a type of attack that can only be called tentacle-like, and so there are many scenes in these twenty-six episodes where the young, female Claymores have been pierced by (often by many) tentacles. And yet, there is absolutely nothing sexual about this series. I found it a bit distracting at times; at the very least, it was an interesting design choice.
Claymore was a series that I really was not particularly looking forward to watching, but one that I got a lot more than I expected. There are certainly some pacing issues that hamper it, but the overall plot idea and the characters that enact it are really good. Well worth the time put into it; just do not expect to have all (or even most) of your questions answered by the end of it. You will need to hit up the manga for that. Recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Actor Commentaries, Cast Auditions, Original TV Commercials, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: October 27th, 2009
Running Time: 620 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony BDP-S360 BluRay Player w/HDMI Connection upconverted to 1080i, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System