Saturday, June 19, 2010

Number of episodes: 26
Genres: Swords, demons, conspiracy
Based on the manga Claymore by Norihiro Yagi

Synopsis: Clare is what we humans would call a “Claymore”. Named for the large swords they carry on their backs, and recognized by their Silver eyes, these warriors have been infused with the blood and flesh of the demons, called Yoma, that they are charged with killing. As Clare completes a mission in a small town, she meets Raki, a young boy who feels indebted to her. Together they travel from town to town, wherever Clare is needed to slay the Yoma that plague the land.

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Now, I will preface this review with the fact that I love swords. Anything having to do with swords is an automatic “must watch at least once”, and then hopefully it will live up to my high expectations. To my delight, Claymore did just that. It was painful having to wait months between volumes so that I could continue the story. The anime follows the canon of the original manga almost frame for frame – a refreshing change, I might add. There is no filler, and only stories that are relevant to the main plot are presented to the audience. Anyone who is a fan of serial series like Bleach and Naruto would appreciate this.

Clare is intimidating, right from the start. We get an excellent explanation of the situation within the first five minutes of the first episode, leaving the rest of the time to learn about the cold Clare, and how she meets the spunky and admiring Raki. It is easy to see that although these warriors do nothing but save the people of the land from Monsters known as Yoma, they are feared as much as their prey, if not more. The way the story unfolds we get to see Clare fight and learn her temperament before we get her true back story. The true reasons behind her becoming a Claymore drive her onwards and leads her to develop both as a fighter and as a person.

In terms of artwork and animation, I would have to categorize it as nothing special, but it also doesn’t hinder the story. Emotions are well portrayed and the fight scenes are fun to watch, to a point. As one would assume, once a battle reaches a certain level it is supposed to be too hard for a human to observe all the motions, both of the weapons and the fighters. This leads to a very Dragonball-like battle at times, where all the audience gets is blurs and sound effects. Granted, unlike the aforementioned classic, these battles don’t take up entire strings of episodes, but it still feels like a cop-out sometimes. One thing that is impressive, however, is the artwork produced later on in the series in order to portray the monsters known as “Awakened Beings”. The striking beauty of these horrors contrasts perfectly with their nature and the fear they elicit. (On a side note, I’m actually thinking of getting one of them as a tattoo on my back!) The animation is fluid and realistic, which is to be expected with such a current title.

I must admit, I am one of those who are partial to original audio with English subtitles, but for you all I did get a taste and a feel for the English cast. As per my usual findings, the Japanese cast has a bit more depth to their performances, which is to be expected with acclaimed veterans Houko Kuwashima (Sango in Inuyasha, Tomoyo Sakagami in Clannad) as Clare and Romi Park (Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist and Toshiro Hitsugaya in Bleach) as Teresa. Considering the material, the English cast seemed just a little too lively, which I would attribute more to the casting than to the performances themselves. The Japanese cast is able to bring across a casual apathy that is lacking in the North American counterpart. The people at Funimation need to find more voice actors with a breathy rasp like Kathleen Turner, and stop hiring these girls and women who sound like teenagers.

This story is not for the faint of heart, and not for those who need happy endings. I, however, loved it, from start to finish. The twists and turns that we get at each new mission helps drape the dark Organization – those who create and manage the Claymores – in a mired conspiracy. The relationships that develop among these seemingly heartless and emotionless beings is refreshing.

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