Having watched the Madhouse Claymore anime years ago and being very disappointed by the ending yet interested in the concept, I was always wanted to read the manga. Imagine my surprise when I saw Claymore on the SJ+ app. What? The show I remember was closer to berserk then anything which a far crew from the demographic that Shonen Jump is going for in general. I mean, the concept of sexual monsters doesn’t usually appeal to kids I think. Maybe. Doesn’t matter to me I suppose, because I got to read Claymore for a good price. What do I have to complain about here? Almost nothing. I got to read it all on whatever pace I decided which is great.
Claymore opens up with a nameless and tall sword woman, called a Claymore by reputation, wandering into a medieval town. It’s made immediately clear that she is there for one reason and one reason only. To kill the Yoma slowly picking off the town’s people and then leave. That’s it. Over a short amount of time, we learn that this woman’s name is Clare. She seems to travel from place to place faster then other Claymores like she’s after something. Mostly because she is. Things change a little bit when a young orphan boy named Raki followers her from place to place. After her last visit in a holy city that doesn’t like Claymores, we dig into the real depth of this world. Well, sort of. We stay on the island that the manga takes place in and nothing else really.
This series does a pretty good job of establishing things in the beginning. Not just the world kind of, everything. The introduction of Clare and her level of abilities was great. We went along with her on her excellent journey of killing Yoma with tons of struggling here and there. Then when the truth gets revealed, it all makes sense now. The island that Claymore takes place in has 47 districts protected by 47 different Claymores at different levels. Having Clare being casually mentioned as being the 47th strongest Claymore was kind of a shock back in the day. The delivery behind it all makes this reveal in the manga still pretty great too. There is a reason for it in the manga’s backstory. Better wait a few paragaraphs. All in all though, It just means we get to eventually know 46 more buff women. Not complaining about that.
The world of Claymore, an island protected by a secret organization that pushes Claymores all over the place to save people, is a pretty lively place to explore and have our characters fight all over. Yes, it’s a very European medieval island, but each town somehow has their own personality to them. Each direction is ruled by a different awakened being which Claymores sometimes work in groups to defeat. We never see what this island looks like on a map, but the selected directions are varied enough to give you a feeling of knowing where you are going. It’s more obvious then “the north is snowy and the south is sunny”. There is real effort into making every region feel unique somehow. My favorite place is the holy city. I love medieval castle architecture.
Yoma energy flows everywhere in this series. The towns that Yoma show up and defeated in are killed by Claymore of course. The Claymore are women who choose to get Yoma flesh inserted in their bodies in order to gain some great abilities by this secret organization with vague motivations. A long time ago, the organization used to do this process with men. That experiment’s result lead to most of the awakened ones that inhabit the island right now. That’s not a spoiler by the way, that’s information that is revealed very early on. All that said, the scientific projects and mass atrocities from the organization as a whole are a massive plot point in ways that can’t be expressed otherwise. One of the massive plot points that takes numerous chapters is the downfall of the organization.
Clare being at the center of this journey is what makes it all work. She is this supposed super serious claymore who hunts down an awakened being other the course of the series. That’s all tied into her backstory. Like Raki, she followed a Claymore around for a long time too until that Claymore betrayed the organization for Clare leading to that specific Claymore’s death. That’s the second plot element that connect the whole thing together. This is the hardened Clare which is a shell of her true self; a kid that has never grown up. She’s very stoic and hot headed for a reason and it works because the other Claymores in the show bring up the emotional load of the series. It takes a while though.
From a story telling perspective, Claymore lost it’s steam for me half way through it’s run. After a massive battle between twenty Claymores and the massive pile of awakened beings in the north. A battle that doesn’t go well for Clare and other friendly Claymores. After a time skip, everything is actually pretty cool. Clare and six others survived the fight while the Organization reformed their Claymore unit. The dynamic between the two sides was great. Of course, that’s when the manga kind of sort of killed of Clare for a while AND threw a lot of world changing things all at once centered on the awakened ones and the organization’s newest experiments. A little too unfocused honestly. Luckily, Claymore really doe stick the landing with all it presented. Hell, even Raki grew up and became awesome.
If anything, Claymore in it’s manga form is pretty gay too. I do think that there is a difference between being battlefield buddies who you rely on to live and actual gay relationships, but the imagery and Clare’s story are pretty gay. The reason why she became a Claymore and the flesh she used to become a Claymore to secret revenge kind of are. Same with a lot of the monsters that the Claymores have to fight. One is two girls fused together facing each other and another one was a legitimate vagina monster. I’m not making this up and there is a lot of content centered on it. The gore was already bloody and bad enough to scare away (or intrigue) people in reading it, but the added sexual sort of content really pushes it all over the top really. I liked it, but it’s a hard recommend unless you know what other people’s tolerances towards this stuff is. A lot of “hey, have you watched Berserk?”
The manga art really did improve over time. I don’t think the character designs and action drawings have changed a lot. Well, at least not from what I’ve seen when I’ve read it at my desired pace at least. Honestly, that isn’t a problem because I think the style used in the manga is generally pretty solid. Ok, the newer monster designs are pretty cool so there is some design evolution here. For me, it’s the background drawings which really evolved over the course of the manga. The first chapter had great art and feeling of movement, but the background art was very minimal. It did a great job of creating a bleak tone in the manga itself, but they all felt tacked on last minute somehow. From that starting point to establshing all sorts of scenery and background shots in the world itself was great. Maybe that was on purpose to widen Clare’s point of view as the world itself grows. Even if it wasn’t, I’m pretty happy with the result.
Claymore is a very hard manga to recommend to some people, but I really enjoyed the ride. The story was pretty great, the characters were wonderful, and the evolution of all that happened was well structured and told. I do think that the 1/4th of the manga after the middle point really weighed down the story and manga quite a bit here in terms of tone and execution, but I think everything fight pretty well in the end too. Clare is a very stoic main character, but she’s a fun character to follow along with her journey for revenge. Plus, the other Claymores and even Raki each had their own story and evolution too. A surprisingly well thought out show. What else can I say. I’m just going to give Claymore a good on my rating scale. Even if it isn’t flawless, I think Claymore manga deserves it.