Length: 26 episodes (approx 25 mins each) (preview based on eps 1-4)
MPAA Rating: M15+
My Rating: 2.5/5
In a dark and gothic world, monsters called yoma roam the countryside, disguising themselves as humans and feasting on the entrails of the living. Coming to the defence of humans, a mysterious organization has bred and trained a race of half-human, half-yoma called Claymores. These Claymores- beautiful young women known by the humans who distrust them as silver-eyed witches- have the power to recognize and defeat the yoma. Enter Clare, one such Claymore roaming the countryside, who rescues a young boy, Raki, after his family is slaughtered and devoured by a yoma. As she passes from battle to battle with Raki in tow, her greatest struggle may not be overcoming the monsters she must face in the world, but the one that lives inside her half-yoma self.
This is a preview rather than a review, as I’m basing my comments on a watching of the first disc of Claymore but not the entire series. I like to pick discs off the shelf from time to time and try them out to see whether I want to get into the full series or not- a little cheaper than investing blindly in an entire box-set. So, not comprehensive. Just an impression.
First, the good. Claymore drips with atmosphere. It’s a dark, creepy show which reflects well the macabre nature of the plot. The bad guys in this show are truly hideous monsters who tear people limb from limb and feast on their innards (see how many references you can find to the feasting upon of innards in the first four eps alone…). The world that serves as a backdrop to the show is loosely based on a medieval Europe, full of stone-walled castles and thatch-roofed villages set in moodily-lit valleys and tangled forests. Everything is sinister, from the lighting to the artwork, and as a whole it’s unsettling. This is gothic horror and no mistake.
The action is quite cool as well. That is if you’re into gore-spattered battles between warrior chicks and monsters. It’s a new genre for me, and I can’t say that it’s my first pick (I like my warrior chicks with nine-millimetre semi-autos or CAR-15 assault rifles thanks), but it was certainly entertaining. It behooves me to mention that it is pretty violent- and horror violence at that, with spraying blood of all colours, and severed limbs, and the [thus far implied] feasting upon of innards.
The artwork was hit-and-miss for me. On the one hand, the settings were pretty good. Wooded valleys beneath heavy grey skies, shafts of sunlight and exposed gothic citadels were nicely rendered and set the scene. The close-up scenery can be a little flat, but overall a decent effort at portraying a sense of place, without being anything new or heart-stopping. The characters started to lose it for me a bit. They’re not the most attractively drawn I’ve ever seen. Perhaps this is in keeping with the theme of the show, the dark and ugly underbelly that is being portrayed. Even Clare, the heroine, is far from appealing to look at. There’s not stacks of emotion in the faces- but then Clare generally only expresses calm disdain or ferocious anger anyway. She’s supposed to be pretty cold so that’s in keeping with her character. The animation again was hit and miss. I enjoyed some of the fight scenes, but some of the movement really isn’t that fluid, and there are pretty serious scaling problems. One rooftop flight scene in particular is really pretty shoddy- this from a guy who would struggle to draw a smiley face.
The storytelling is a little heavy-handed. Like a mallet, with lots of sharp spikey bits sticking out. The source of the show’s tension has several layers- the dynamic between Raki and Clare, the hostility of the humans towards the Claymores, the slaying of brutal yoma. But it’s primarily driven by the knowledge that Clare’s yoma self is struggling to take her over, and that at some point, she will need to be destroyed. This theme is made very, very clear. Over, and over, and over, just in the first four episodes. I have to confess to feeling pretty patronized. It’s a good premise. Throw it to us, and let us run with it. We’re intelligent viewers and we like our anime-watching. Don’t mollycoddle us. And yes, we got that Clare had to kill her best friend and fellow Claymore because the yoma side of her was about to take over. We didn’t need a sobbing Raki to blub it to us again. We saw the fight scene too.
I won’t go into Raki’s character much. I realise that a kid who’s seen his family get devoured by innard-feasting yoma is probably going to have some issues. But seriously, the boy needs to grow some balls. He has himself a pretty good cry pretty much every episode, and, look, you’re the sidekick to a bad-ass sword-swinging monster-chick. You’re making yourself look bad. Pull yourself together.
All up, I think Claymore has potential, but that potential could swing either way. The premise is a good one, and the underlying tension of the struggle between Clare’s two personalities is an intriguing one that will clear run throughout the show. If the storytelling can lighten up and give the audience a little more credit it could be a good ride. Otherwise it could be awkward, repetitive and painful. If the artwork was a little nicer to look at I’d probably give it a go, but as it is, I probably won’t be investing any funds in this show myself. If gothic horror is your thing, it’s probably worth investigating. If, like me, you can take or leave the genre, I probably wouldn’t be pitching in to this one. That said, if somebody leant me a copy and I didn’t have something good on the go, I’d probably give disc 2 a shot.
This show is probably the most violent I’ve watched to date, with not just blood and limbs and flying gore, but also the implication of all sorts of nastiness, including violence against children. It’s dark, sinister, and designed to be freaky. Granted a lot of the gore has to do with the demise of monsters, and the blood is a rich purple colour, so if that settles your stomach, all the better then. But this is certainly a show for people who like their splattering gratuitous, and not for the faint of heart. Rating well deserved.