As a purveyor of shonen and seinen-style anime, it’s obvious when you stumble upon a series that is top notch. While these series are made for boys and young men, the mark of an exceptional shonen anime rests in the studios’ ability to draw an emotional reaction out of their viewers. Whether that’s a “That kicks ass!” or a “I can’t believe they killed her…sniffle.” isn’t the focus, it’s the integration that those scenes have into the story as a whole. They tend to stay away from the tear-jerking moments, so when these moments do occur, it’s important that they blend well with the action and character development. Shows like Berserk, Hellsing, and Ergo Proxy all have that intrinsic quality of coupling excellent action with superb development.
Thus when I state that Claymore has risen near the top of my shonen anime collection – or at least shares the top spot with some of my previously mentioned favorites – I hope the weight of that carries through in this review. For those that haven’t yet, I’d urge you to go back and read through the content in the first review, simply to give you a background for this final article. In my review of the first three discs of Claymore, I waxed poetic about how Berserk and Claymore have a number of similarities, including – but not limited to – giant swords, lots of blood, and shapeshifting monsters.
However, the final three discs of Claymore, in some ways, surpass the conclusion of Berserk. Some would contend that the feat wouldn’t be that difficult considering Berserk’s end is merely a teaser for viewers to be enticed to buy the manga, but Claymore’s end offers much more stability than what viewers found in Berserk. And… believe it or not… there’s actually an “end” of sorts to this television series.
Unfortunately, that end comes at the expense of continuity, as the anime diverges sharply from the manga. While I have not spent the time to read through the first few volumes of the manga, there’s a lot of discussion over the way the ending was presented. Most contend that such a swift diversion was the work of a studio really looking to wrap up a series that otherwise would have had no conclusion, and, in their eyes, comes across as hackneyed.
From the very outset, Claymore was a fantastic anime. Put together with high attention to detail and a badass attitude that permeates the entire series, it’s easy to fall in love with the characters and setting. You want those Yoma to die, you want the heroes to succeed, and you want Clare – the main character in the story – to get her true wish.
However, the final three discs are all about spinning that entire confrontation on its ear. Without giving away too much of the storyline, the plot forcefully pushes its way into the climactic confrontation that every viewer was yearning for – the struggle between Clare and her arch-nemesis Priscilla – but along the way viewers manage to understand a bit more about Priscilla, and thus understand her monstrous ways.
Clare’s young apprentice, Raki, reappears toward the end of these last few discs, and serves as a very useful tool; allowing the animation team to truly tease out the human sides of both the Yoma and Clare. Raki’s reappearance serves once again to help Clare grasp hold of her humanity.
That said, the end of the series does run into one of the common speed bumps found in shonen anime, and that’s the concept of power hoarding. As is often the case, once a series nears its conclusion, the main characters – heroes and villains alike – pull out all the stops and start using the full extent of their powers, often doing things that were previously thought impossible.The action of the final conflicts often struggles because of that.
Even with that in mind, the conclusion of Claymore does feature some of the best animation, fight sequences, color palettes, and character identification found anywhere in the series. Even during her transformations, Clare’s character is still easily recognizable, and all of her colleagues remain interesting throughout the fighting, even though they become quickly outmatched on all levels.
The music in Claymore remains top notch, the voice work is above average in most cases, and the art style is superb. If you’re a fan of this style of anime, this is not one to miss. Grab Claymore (which is now available in a full series collection), throw it into your DVD player, and give it a watch. It’s entirely worth your time.