One of the first things I thought after I finished Claymore was that it was the least shonen-like shonen that I’ve ever seen. It’s clearly a shonen-the manga was published in a shonen magazine, friendship is an important theme in it and it has a few tropes from the genre-but there’s a lot about it that’s different from your usual shonen manga adaptation.
Claymore takes place in a dark fantasy world inhabited by humans and man-eating monsters known as Yoma. Yoma can consume humans and copy their appearance and memories, making them almost impossible to detect. The only ones who can fight them are half-human/half-Yoma warriors known as Claymores (called that because of the type of sword they use) who have enhanced strength and the ability to sense Yoma. Claymores are all female and are almost as mistrusted as the Yoma they hunt. The downside to their power is that if they draw on their Yoma side too much, they run the risk of turning into Yoma themselves. The main character is a Claymore named Clare who takes on a young man named Raki who she saved from a Yoma. The early episodes are mostly the two of them traveling together while Clare fights Yoma. The cast of Claymore is almost entirely female, which is unusual for a shonen, and yet there’s no fanservice. There’s some nudity, but it’s never excessive and is never framed like it’s intended to titillate, which helps sell the dark atmosphere of the show. Fanservice would have just felt out of place.
Clare herself is the type of character who is defined more by her actions than her words of facial expressions, at least at first. Early on, Clare seems distant all the time and claims not to care about Raki. Her actions contradict this, though, as she always seems to go out of her way to protect him and seems to genuinely care about people, even if she doesn’t show it. Throughout the anime, Clare begins to open up and grow more human, which makes her conflict with her Yoma side even more compelling. Raki is more interesting in how he relates to Clare than as his own character. He mostly stays with Clare and helps her hold on to her humanity, serving as a reminder of what she has to lose if she gives in. More Claymores are introduced later on, but the focus is mostly Clare. The one exception to this is a short arc early on that follows a different Claymore named Teresa. This arc makes up some of the best episodes Claymore has to offer, although I can’t go into specifics without spoiling it.
One of the best parts of Claymore is the action scenes, which always impress. The animation itself (which I’ll talk more about later) does little to support them, but the fights themselves are directed well enough to compensate for that. They start out as simple “sword vs. monster” fights, but later on the Claymores demonstrate more abilities that spice things up a lot and make them stand out more in their battles. The Yoma they fight similarly grow more intimidating the longer it goes on and show off some special abilities of their own.
Claymore’s one major weakness is the ending. The character conflicts are settled quite well, but there are several plot details that are left unexplained and some secondary characters that could use more screen time. This happened because the anime was made in 2007, but the manga it adapted didn’t actually end until 2015. There was enough anime original content to settle the character arcs, but there was just no way it could tie up every plot thread with just 26 episodes. The original manga resolves much of this, although it has some problems of its own. I highly recommend reading it if the ending leaves you unsatisfied.
The animation for Claymore was done by Madhouse and shows signs of a talented staff working with a low budget. Speedlines, flashes of light and other tricks are used frequently to avoid having to use actual animation, but what animation there is is pretty good and the characters always remain on model. The art for Claymore is excellent and actually looks very un-anime like, which fits since it’s set in a western-style fantasy world. What’s especially noteworthy is how each Claymore is distinct, even though they all dress alike and have blonde hair and silver eyes (a side effect of being half Yoma). The hair and facial detail is so well done that there’s never any confusion about who each character is, even when there’s a large crowd. The music for Claymore is pretty standard and does a solid job overall, although it sometimes feels intrusive. The dub for Claymore was done by Funimation and is generally very good. Stephanie Young was a great choice to cast as Clare, and Colleen Clinkenbeard was similarly excellent as Galatea, another Claymore who shows up later. Todd Haberkorn is a bit grating as Raki, but overall decent. The rest of the cast similarly varies from decent to excellent, although it’s too large for me to list everyone.
Claymore is a great anime overall, although the ending leaves a lot to be desired. I’ve wished for a remake ever since I first watched it, but that’s become pretty unlikely since the manga’s over. Still, the strong characters and cool action scenes make it well worth the watch. The dark tone, predominately female cast, and more mature feel also make it distinct from most other shonen action anime while still retaining enough of the genre to still appeal to shonen fans.
Claymore is available from Funimation and can be streamed on their website. The original manga is available from Viz Media.
Final Score: 8.9/10