Claymore is a series released in 2007 produced by studio Madhouse. On paper this should be an exceptional show since it was made by a studio giant and arguable the best out there, and released in the so-called “golden age” of anime. This anime contains everything it needs to be successful in the industry and hailed as a masterpiece: Beautiful women wielding epic weapons, large-scale battles as well as small “assassin’s creed” type infiltrations as well as political intrigue by touching on subjects such as alienation, prejudice, loyalty and vengeance. But sadly this is not the case, Claymore is not a masterpiece and hailed as a benchmark of the genre, but it is a superb anime and still deserved to be watched. So why is Claymore the way it is? Falling in between good and amazing, doing more than enough in some categories but not enough in others.
Claymore is set in a fiction world resembling medieval Europe with a supernatural twist. The story is about a mysterious group called The Organisation as they make incredible female warriors who are half-human, half-yoma. Yoma are in a sense a cross between a vampire and a werewolf. Yoma’s are creatures who can hide themselves in the bodies of other people and can thus parade around as said person whilst devouring human being as they chose. At night they are most likely to reveal their true forms which strongly resemble werewolves. To locate and destroy these monsters and restore peace is the very reason for the Claymores existence, but not for free the organisation charges said village a fee for slaying the Yoma that is in their town. The village only pays if the Yoma is killed by the Claymore, it the Claymore so happens to fail their task, then another will be dispatched by the organisation to deal with the Yoma.
Claymores are named after the giant swords that they wield. Besides that they don’t really have many human characteristics. In this story we follow a Claymore called Clare as we explore her life as a Claymore and why she choose to become one as we go back to see her past and the events that has transpired for her to get to this point in her life. Clare is a very exciting character to follow in the first half of the story. She is not to strong as most action-adventure heroines in anime as that would make for her not to have any obstacles in he way and would make her fights against Yoma’s less interesting as the outcome would be pre-determined. Clare is actually the weakest Claymore in the country, since all Claymores are ranked from 1-47 depending on their skill level and effectiveness against Yoma, we get to find out that Clare is ranked at the absolute lowest and is thus looked down upon as inferior by other Claymores she runs across. The anime does switch gears in the early half of it and decides to focus on a different character: Theresa, who seems to be the complete opposite of Clare. Theresa is ranked number 1 in the organisation at the time and is regarded as the strongest Claymore to ever exist, she can easily dispatch of any enemy that threatens her including other Claymores that are ranked in the single digits. Theresa is a nice change of pace to Clare, not that Clare is boring or uninteresting in any case, but Theresa just adds a new level of confidence but also allows us to see how the other end of the scale feels like. Theresa and Clare’s narrative seems distant from each other, but as you follow along you get to see that their stories are intertwined which produces an unexpected but great effect.
The other characters feature in this anime aren’t especially noteworthy. Raki who is Clare’s apprentice starts off as a well-meaning character and adds much-needed humanization to Clare at the start of the show, but throughout it’s 26 episode span, he becomes more unbearable. The other minor characters are other Claymores that Clare and Theresa come across on their separate journeys as well as other they get paired with on difficult missions. The other Claymores aren’t especially great characters, but they fill their role of supporting the main characters and not drawing the audience’s attention of the leads. Some of them do get notable screen time and their backstories developed which does lead to some interesting dialogue. But this show is a show focused solely on their main characters, so not much can be expected from the other background characters but they do their jobs.
Their are clear parallels between the Claymore anime and The Witcher series, which are novels that have been adapted into video games. Witchers like Claymores are paid monster hunters which have had their bodies altered at a young age to give them the necessary strength and abilities to do their jobs. They both have cat-like eyes, don’t involve themselves in human politics, and are positions that operate with only one gender: being males for Witchers and females for Claymore. The parallels go on every further as they are both hated by the human factions and looked down on as not being fully human, but are also depended upon by humans do to jobs that only they can accomplish. Both stories even involve the main character taking on a sort of apprentice of the opposite gender in the form of Raki(male) in Claymore and Ciri(female) in The Witcher. Both Raki and Ciri aspire to be like their savers Clare and Gerald the main characters of their respected tales, but ultimately know they cannot achieve that goal due to genders restrictions of the profession.
Since the anime was done by the powerhouse that is studio Madhouse, we can expect a certain level of polish and animation from them considering other notable works from them include anime Death Note and Trigun. The downside about it being made the studio is that we will probably never get a second season of Claymore as Madhouse are notorious for not continuing popular series such as HighSchool. Of. The. Dead, No Game No Life, Btooom! and Black Lagoon. The animation for Claymore is fantastic and while some might argue that the colours used are dull and unappealing, I think it fits well with the medieval setting. The use of mostly greys are browns creates a great atmosphere for the show and immerses you in the world and the story of it.
The sound for the anime was just as good as the animation, since both complemented the show without being to overbearing. Weather you should watch this dub or sub, I would have to say watch it the original Japanese only because Raki is so irritating as a character that having him in English is just unbearable and can at least be tolerated in sub.
My issue with Claymore is that I feel it lost steam as it went along. The anime had so much potential to be a stand out in the year consider other great anime that came out during that period like Gurren Lagann, Code Geass R2 and Baccano! The anime started off amazing introducing a great world with interesting characters that you connected with, but as it progressed it started becoming less medieval supernatural action, and becoming more pure shōnen battle anime. With ridiculous power-ups by Clare leading to her becoming one of the most overpowered main character I’ve seen in recent memory. Clare was perfectly levelled in the beginning allowing for her to get progressively stronger as the show goes on due to her past, but as the show did progress she took a massive spike in power when in the end she was one of the strongest individuals on the show without her getting any real consequences for obtaining that power. I would have rather seen her progress slowly up the list on Claymores and eventually getting into the single digits by having different more powerful Claymores teach her and her taking up more high-level missions whilst tracing back her past.
Towards the end, in her last fight I felt as if i was watching an episode of Dragon Ball Z because of all the overpowered super levelling that was happening. Theresa never used her max power at any point: the most she ever went up to was 10%, but at least her powers made sense to an extent since she was number 1, whilst Clare’s made no sense as she was the lowest ranked Claymore and struggled to take down even regular Yoma’s. My other huge problem with the show as I’ve referenced before is Raki, at the very beginning when Clare adopts him he was a necessary character as what and who Claymores are explained to the viewer through him since neither knows anything at the beginning. But the last couple of episodes he became the most irritating and frustrating character in anime (yes, even worse than Shinji), he didn’t impact the final moments of the anime at all and just was a waste of screen time.
Overall Claymore is a great anime series with a lot of entertaining fights, great characters and an interesting world. If you enjoy The Witcher series (books or games) or have an interest in medieval times with a fantasy twist; you’ll be in for a treat. I wouldn’t say it’s a masterpiece or a must watch by any stretch of the imagination, but I would say it’s worth your time to at least check. I also feel that the show is great for newcomers to the anime medium as it’s plot is simple to follow, action-packed and contains both an english dub and sub.
[see end of review for weighing]
Alternative anime recommendations would be: Spice and Wolf as it also had a similar setting, but it rather devices deeper into the economy and politics of the world than it’s fantasy elements.
Also Black Lagoon another series made by studio Madhouse, it shares similar aspects with Claymore as both incorporate badass female characters wielding powerful weapons.
[story+characters+animation+sound] + [enjoyment]