Story and art by Norihigo Yagi
Published by Viz (2006, 27 volumes)
Synopsis: In a world where shapeshifting creatures (yoma) prey on unsuspecting humans, their hope for survival lies with the “Claymores”, a new type of warrior. Half human, half monster, they are able to see through any yoma’s disguise, and possess the aptitude to defeat them. Despite their superhuman abilities, they are condemned by not only savage impulses, but the humans who rely on them.
Claymore doesn’t possess the most unique narrative imaginable. It takes the classic Shōnen “warrior vs. monster” plot line, and combines it with gender-specific classes to situated itself within a fairly oversaturated genre. However, I suspect this series wasn’t created to present complex philosophical issues, rather, to engross the reader in an expansive universe filled with interesting characters and creatures. This, Claymore delivers on.
In many manga where gender plays an important role in categorising character classes, the female body is often excessively sexualised, turning opportunities of empowerment into pointless smut. In Claymore, women are portrayed as both elegant and powerful, a testament to the author and his depiction of gender.
The characters in this manga were exceptional, all unique in their own way. I feed into tropes involving multiple ranked enemies that gradually increase in power (the “Tournament Arc”), and Claymore did not disrespect this genre-defining method of storytelling. While many characters only developed through fighting, I was surprised at the amount of depth ascribed to an incredibly large cast of characters, with multiple flashbacks linking characters to greater plot significance, and allowing the reader to create emotional attachments to them. There was a weak theme of discrimination within the piece, as the Claymores were always villainised for possessing inhuman traits, but it was underdeveloped, and ultimately, ineffective in producing any form of empathy.
The art was fantastic, and a highlight of the piece. The unique personalities and abilities of the Claymores were incorporated in their character designs, which was only complimented with the equally incredible designs of the yoma. When both groups clash, some incredibly intense and well constructed fight scenes ensue, in an almost cinematic fashion. The creativity needed to develop so many unique beings is monstrous in itself, something I cannot commend Yagi on enough. Unfortunately, the basic Yoma design was incredibly generic, meaning there were no universal creature/symbol that could transcend the series and be recognisable to mainstream audiences (an example being the Dragon Balls or Pikachu), but within the manga it wasn’t too devastating.
Unfortunately, the storyline fluctuated between being too simplistic and unnecessarily complex. About halfway through the series, the reader is alerted to an important revelation that effects the entire universe that Yagi has created. It’s super confusing, and once it’s revealed, never touched on again, adding nothing to the overarching story, only hurting the consistency of this manga. Towards the end of the piece, Claymore also begins to lose some steam, falling into repetitive traps inevitable for a manga of its length. However, Yagi allows his manga to end soon after, as opposed to riding its popularity through another twenty volumes of arduous story arcs. Knowing this, the ending itself is more satisfying, and ultimately, leaves the reader on a high.
Claymore achieves what any good Shōnen manga should; it provides us with an expansive world filled with many interesting and well designed characters that can produce captivating battles in a classic good vs. evil style. However, sporadic plot convolution conflicted with its linear narrative, hurting its ability to spin what could have been a simple story. It’s very much a shōnen manga, not challenging any weaker traits of the genre, nor adding anything unique to solve them. Nonetheless, for a fan of said manga, it’s a fun and addictive read.
Because of its simplicity, Claymore is an excellent introduction to manga, maintaining classic structure synonymous with the medium. If you’re looking for a manga that’s going to make you think about the intricacies of the universe, I’d put this on the back burner until you’re in the mood for some well produced action.
Art – 9
Story – 7
Writing – 8
Overall – 8/10