+ Well paced back story
+ Depicts emotion beautifully
+ Characters have cool powers
Horrible 1st volume
Strange sexual undertones
4 out of 5 · Highly Recommended
Claymore Manga Review
Written by: James Moynahan on 6/8/2009
In an alternate world where humans coexist with creatures called yoma, (humanoid monsters that feed on human flesh) a nameless and highly secretive organization has produced a class of half-human half-yoma all female warriors to slay yoma and protect humans for large fees.
The people of this world refer to them as 'Claymores' due to the huge swords on their backs. Another name for these people are 'silver eyed witches' because their eyes are colored silver, and also because of the general dislike for the claymores by the public. Between themselves, they refer to each other as 'warriors'.
The story starts at a small village whose inhabitants are being butchered by a mystery assailant. The village finally assumes their butcher is a yoma, and the village gets up enough money to hire a claymore to protect their village. When the claymore arrives at the village to slay the yoma, a young boy named Raki is interested in her because his parents were killed by the yoma and left him without relatives except for his brother Zaki. Raki grows a liking for the claymore because he hopes that she will take revenge for him. The claymore is surprised that Raki isn't scared of her, but ultimately states that she is there to kill the yoma for money not for anyone's personal vendetta. She also won't state her name because she is convinced he will forget it soon enough. The yoma turns out to be Raki's brother Zaki, and after he is slain, Raki joins the claymore on her aimless journey to protect humans and kill yoma for the nameless organization. She tells Raki her name is Clare and the story begins.
No one could have predicted that Norhiro Yagi, after creating the black comedy, Angel Densetsu, would have created something this intense. There is blood and brains and guts galore. The story itself though, is quite interesting. The concept is that this organization took the flesh of monsters to create half-human monsters to defend themselves from the monsters. This seems pretty standard right? Yagi incorporates the huge swords on the backs of claymores into their fighting, and due to this each claymore develops her own interesting style of fighting, which keeps the fights from becoming repetitive. The main differentiating point from this concept and other concepts is the presence of the mystical 'yoki' (yoma energy). Every yoma and claymore has yoki but claymores are more powerful because they incorporated the softness of the flesh of humans (to make them quicker than yoma) and the blood of yoma (to gain strength). This concept of yoki may also seem familiar but there are two interesting differences: the discernment of yoki, and the releasing of yoki. Every claymore who is certified by the organization can sense yoki, thus can track yoma and other claymores. An interesting ability that is built upon is that yoki is a somewhat telekinetic force, that if one is skilled enough in sensing yoki, one could tune their own yoki with the one they are sensing, and potentially dictate some of the movements of their body or the patterns of their yoki (this is difficult to explain but makes a lot of sense in the manga).
The other concept, the releasing of the claymore's yoki dictates the claymore's power, as well as their form. Claymores gain power by 'releasing' their yoki, and the more they release their yoki, the more they resemble yoma, until they fully release their yoki and transform into yoma themselves. As it is built upon later in the series, this concept of releasing yoki is similar to that of sexual pleasure. Female claymores were shown to be able to control the release of their yoki and thus were controllable by the organization. Male claymores on the other hand, were unable to control their yoki once they released a small amount, and thus every male claymore turned into yoma. This concept is interesting, but is highly suggestive of orgasm (this parallel is touched upon openly in the series, so this comparison is brought to the reader as opposed to being above the reader's comprehension). The series also employs female homoerotic undertones and symbolism. Both of these elements contribute to the series' strange sexual themes that add a layer of interest, but also seem gratuitous or excessive.
The story of Claymore is quite interesting to say the least. The story not only has interesting fights, but also utilizes sub-concepts to build up the intrigue of the series. One of these concepts is that the organization ranks its warriors, so there is always a curiosity that makes the reader ask, 'who is the number one' or 'who are all of the single digits?'. The 1st volume itself is horrendously bad. It introduces Clare and Raki (a highly unimportant character), and merely introduces some of the concepts through exposition and episodes that are not particularly interesting. This may help the manga though, because some of the intrigue comes from the way that the story steps back and shows more over time, so if in the beginning the story seems boring, the changes seem more dramatic and glorified. What I enjoyed about the storyline was that it played out like a warring-states war story. In addition, most of the main characters have back stories that are interesting in their own right and don't slow down the pace of the story. There are territories controlled by certain individuals, and the main characters form their own party as they develop their characters. The fact that the main characters become a force in the whole war may seem contrived, the story plays this plot point in well and gives it a context.
An irksome quality that some series lose quality from is exhibited somewhat here as well. The (main) main character, Clare starts off unbelievably weak, but over the course of the series, Clare becomes one of the strongest characters in the story. Some of her gains in ability are beneficial to the story because they are wholly interesting, but many of her gains are too unnatural, and her battles would be more interesting if she were much less powerful than her opponents and she had to use clever battle tactics to save herself or others from the enemy.
The last main element of Claymore is the artwork. Claymore enjoys an art style that is unorthodox in a good way most of the time. The character artwork is clean for the most part, but adds a unique flavor. Yagi's monster designs are highly notable though, for being original and well shaded. The backgrounds are also well done due to good tones and shading. The only negative about the art is that at some points it is strange and confusing to look at. Yagi has a singular way of depicting battles, in the sense that he doesn't use many speed lines, but because of this, sometimes the fights are confusing because sometimes you don't know which direction someone is slicing from, or if someone was hit or if someone is punching the ground etc. If you look at the drawings in every fight scene, you will be able to tell easily what has happened. But for many readers (especially new ones) who just read the word bubbles and took a quick glance at the panel to tell what has happened, this page layout and art style may confuse you in fights or action.
Claymore is a great series that interprets standard concepts in a highly interesting way. It also has an interesting war-like storyline that will keep a reader's attention. Although the series doesn't commonly depict emotion, when it does it is done beautifully (this may be done in a good vein because the series has a animalistic motif and emotion may convolute the story). Although Claymore lacks any central themes or philosophy, the series has a good storyline that will keep you invested without, like I stated earlier, convoluting the story with too many themes or philosophy. The characters all have back stories and (with exception of a few silly characters) are well developed. The art is odd but in a good way. This is a series I would highly suggest for any fan of action series, but one I would have fans of emotional stories or wholesome manga steer clear of.
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