Claymore Blu-ray Review
In a world where Yoma – man eating demons – roam the land it is common for people to disappear without a trace or be found dead with their guts eaten. To counter the Yoma an unnamed organization has created the Claymore – half human half Yoma women. The Claymore have strength equivalent to that of the Yoma but retain their human minds. This enables them to fight and exterminate the Yoma. But not all is black and white. If the Claymore use their Yoma powers too much they transform into Awakened being – the most powerful type of Yoma, one that cannot be defeated by common Claymore. Clare, a young and inexperienced Claymore, is hunting such an awakened being. Together with a young boy named Raki whose family was slaughtered by Yoma she travels the land in search of information about the whereabouts of one of the strongest awakened beings in history. But there’s a problem – Clare is the weakest Claymore in all the organization. Can she gain enough strength to defeat an awakened being and stay away from becoming one herself?
Claymore is a shounen anime and is both very different and very similar to other series in the genre. As the main character Clare undergoes various encounters with Yoma and other Claymore that strengthen her both physically and mentally. Some of her fights bring her closer to the brink of death, and when she wins them she becomes even more empowered. If that seems like the common concept behind every shounen series that’s because it is. Claymore also suffers from another staple of the shounen genre – poor animation. But beyond these issues the series manages to carve its own identity and do several interesting things. There is a cruel element to the work of a Claymore. No regular person would volunteer to be one and indeed most of the Claymore carry dark pasts full of sorrow and death. And yet these women are supposed to slay Yoma on a daily basis and when duty calls kill one of their own. Because of that all the Claymore have crooked personalities. In other words they are all interesting and entertaining. Clare starts out as a real weakling and as it turns out she cannot, physically, become any stronger. She simply is weak. The ways in which she manages to survive and refine her swordsmanship are admirable. You never get the feeling that she is cheating or that she is too powerful. She is always the underdog, but she is stubborn and unyielding. In the end she wins her fights by being more focused and more cunning than her adversaries.
As the series progressed we meet more Claymore and understand just how outcast and self-reliant they are. Clare makes some allies but as the Claymore are weary of relationships these begin more as bonds of respect and trust then warm friendships. As the series progresses Clare is forced to team up with other Claymore to defeat powerful Yoma. The Claymore all use a big Claymore (hence their name) and their fighting style is mostly identically. Sure, Clare uses the “quick-sword” technique, Miria uses the “phantom blade” technique and Flora uses the “wind-cutting” technique. But these are all essentially the same move. The real emphasis in the battles of Claymore is on team work and individual traits (such as superior speed or the ability to sense and predict attacks). This opens the door to fights which are inevitably different from what you see in other shounen series, yet remain true to the genre.
Contrary to most shounen nowadays Claymore uses a very pale palette of colors to portray its world. The dominant colors in this series are black, grey, brown, silver and gold. This metallic sense of color immediately makes Claymore stand out. Sadly the Blu-ray suffers when it comes to displaying this color palette. The brown and Black colors have a tendency to become greenish and the white colors can be a little on the yellow side. It’s not enough to ruin the atmosphere, but it certainly is noticeable and it’s a shame this wasn’t fixed for the Blu-ray release. Another important thing to note about the visual qualities of this release is that this is an upscale of a series that was made before the era of high definition anime. This means that there isn’t really any high definition content to see here. If a scene portrays characters in the distance they will most likely have no faces or very crude details. At times frames look a bit too blurry. If Claymore were to be produced a year later it would have probably looked considerably better. It just happens that this series was released at the wrong time and suffered from it. As I mentioned before Claymore suffers greatly from poor animation quality. Most of the action in the series is depicted in stills or disconnected frames. For example, instead of seeing a character run you’ll see a momentary picture of her standing in a running position with speed lines around her feet. At other times you will see a single picture depicted on screen while the camera moves horizontally or vertically to show its edges (think of backgrounds being shown in a panoramic view). This becomes a bit absurd in the second half of the series when fights are diluted to disconnected frames. The animation gets better near the end, but by that time it’s already late to make up for it.
One thing in which Claymore excels is the pacing. The anime series follows the manga to a T. If one of the characters said a line in the manga she will say it in the anime. But the anime is more streamlined then the manga. Fights are faster and less detailed then the manga. This notion, which is completely the opposite of what you see in most shounen series, makes the series faster and more refined. Fights are fast and furious. Some of them start and end in an instant. The series keeps charging forward and never stand ideally in one place for too long. There are always characters to get to know, new monsters to fight, a new technique to master. These things, which tend to stretch across hundreds of episodes in common shounen, are crammed full into single episodes here. The effect is a satisfying feeling of achievement from each episode. Claymore is a very gory series. If you pick up this series you better be ready to see heads fly, eyes plucked, intestines eaten and bodies grinded into pulp. The demons, especially the awakened being, are truly the stuff of nightmares. There are also a few instances of female nudity. Suffice to say adults will find this abundance of uncensored content quite fitting while a child might be scared out of his or her pants by watching it.
Claymore really shines in the final episodes when it reaches its pinnacles and all hell breaks loose. The anime diverges from the manga from episode 19 onward and has an alternative ending. In the case of Claymore this isn’t a negative thing. The alternative ending is done tastefully and packs an impact. It will definitely feel adequate for those who haven’t read the manga, and might be an interesting twist for those who did.
The FUNimation Blu-ray discs come in a deluxe package that includes four discs across two DVD cases, an art book and a dust cover. The art book in particular is amazing. It’s filled with character design sketches, interviews, concept art and background art. Without a doubt this is the richest and most encompassing art book I have ever seen being bundled for free with an anime series. The Blu-ray discs themselves also have a wide range of extras, including audio commentary by the dub crew, interviews with the Japanese staff, trailers, commercials and textless versions of the opening and ending themes. In terms of audio this release features Dolby TrueHD 5.1 for the English dub and Dolby Digital 2.0 for the Japanese dub. The English dub is a joke. The English dub directors decided to change the translation a little bit because they couldn’t deal with the characters’ speech patterns (their “mouth flaps”). In this day and age, after so many anime series have been dubbed to perfection, making such a claim is ridiculous. The English dub replaces words and change meanings of sentences. I hardly believe there is a modern anime fan who would be willing to put up with such a thing nowadays. The dub crew also finds it hard to say the character names, despite the fact that all the names are from Anglo-Saxson (English) origins. The subtitles are good, so you should stick with them this time around. There are a few issues with name spelling in the subtitles but I can’t really complain because this is the official spelling of the names. For example, I always thought Clare should be spelled as Clair. The boy Clare saves is spelled Raki in the subtitles, and while in my ears he will always be “Lucky” I can’t really complain about the decision to spell him as Raki. I can, however, complain to no end about the English dub where he is called Rocky. Yes, the dub is that bad.
Claymore is a step above modern shounen series in both execution and pacing. It has interesting characters and a satisfying plot. On the downside it suffers from slow and cheap animation and has some color issues that weren’t fixed for the Blu-ray edition. Nonetheless it is an entertaining series which will please both newcomers and long-time followers of the franchise. If you are looking for an action series that isn’t afraid to mix a good story with some gory visuals Claymore is definitely for you.
- Good pacing.
- Interesting characters and a decent plot.
- An insulting English dub.
- Brown and Black colors have a tendency to become greenish.
Final Score: 8/10
Product Information: Claymore Blu-ray Complete Series. Published by FUNimation Entertainment. Release Date: February 16, 2010.
Review Equipment: Samsung 32-Inch LCD HDTV (LA32B530) connected to a PlayStation 3 using an official Sony HDMI cable.