Adapted from the manga series by written and illustrated by Norihiro Yagi, Claymore is a 26 episode anime show that faithfully translates the dark and intricate story to the small screen. Filled with engrossing characters that populate an intricate world, this series fires on all cylinders through most of its run. It is only at the end where the story dips just a bit, and that's mainly because they stray for the source material there.
Humanity has a problem. There is a race of demons, the Yoma, which feed on human flesh. The Yoma can perfectly disguise themselves as human too, taking on the manners and characteristics of someone they've eaten. The only people who can detect Yoma are an order of female fighters, The Claymore. When a village notices that people are disappearing, a sure sign that a Yoma is in the area, they contact the Claymore organization. One of their fighters will be dispatched, hunt the demon down and kill. All for a hefty fee.
The reason that Claymore can detect Yoma is because they are part Yoma themselves. They've undergone a secret process that makes them half Yoma and half human. They can access their Yoma side in battle to gain more power and speed. There is a danger to doing that however. The more often they access their Yoma side, the sooner they'll turn into monsters themselves. When a Claymore fully embraces their Yoma half they loose their humanity and become an 'Awakened Being', a monster of tremendous power with a ferocious appetite.
As the story begins, a Claymore named Claire arrives in a small village that is been stalked by a Yoma. She follows a young boy who recently lost his parents, Raki, to his home because he has the scent of Yoma about him. It turns out that Raki's brother is actually a Yoma in disguise and after Claire dispatches the beast she leaves. The villagers distrust Raki however. Why was he the only one from his family spared? Could he have latent Yoma tendencies? Erring on the side of caution they exile the teen who takes up following Claire.
While the Claymore doesn't want Raki following her, she slowly starts to appreciate his company. He makes her feel human again, something she really isn't. As Claire fights Yoma with Raki watching on she slowly becomes aware that things might not be as straight forward as they've always seemed and that the organization doesn't necessarily have the best interests of their warriors in mind. Especially when she arrives at a rendezvous and her comrade tries to kill her.
This is a very interesting and enjoyable show that really reaches out and grabs the viewer. It seems to start off as a typical monster-of-the-week show, but it never really goes that route. They quickly set up an interesting dynamic by establishing that the Claymore, a term only the humans use, are desperately needed by mankind but that they are feared and even hated by those that they're protecting. The fate of the Claymore, hopefully to be killed by their best friend before they can turn into a monster, is cruel and unfair, but also raises the question of who would want such a life.
That's answered in a Claire's multi-part origin, some of the better anime episodes I've seen in a while. This fleshes out her character and gives viewers some insight as to what drives the Claymore.
The only real problem I had with this anime wasn't necessarily the creator's fault. Claymore is still being published as a manga so the story isn't finished yet. This show adapts the first 11 volumes of the comic, but then has to tack on an ending. The last two episodes depart from the source material in order to wrap things up, which they only do to a limited extent. The main plots are still unresolved and there are still a lot of mysteries left even with the new ending. I didn't realize that the final installments weren't from the manga when I was watching the show, but even so I thought that the story took a bit of a dip in quality and that the narrative wasn't as tight as it had been. Still, this shouldn't stop anyone from watching the series. Overall it is excellent and the ending isn't bad, just a bit of a let down.
All 26 episodes are presented on 6 DVDs. These are housed in double thinpak cases and stored in a slipcase along with two booklets (see the extras section for more info on these.)
The program has the original Japanese soundtrack in stereo along with an English 5.1 dub. The dub sounded very good, especially during the battle scenes. The rears were used to good effect and the ultimate battle at the end of the show was really improved by the multi-channel mix. Having said that, I did have a slight preference for the Japanese track. I just wish it was in 5.1 also.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic image looked very good. The lines were tight and crisp and the colors were solid. There was a good amount of detail present too. On the digital side of things the show also was a little less impressive. There's some digital noise in scenes where one color predominates, and aliasing was evident too. Overall this is a good looking show with some minor defects.
There are several extras scattered across the six discs that make up this series. There are six commentary tracks, one on each disc, with the English cast and crew that are about average anime commentary tracks. In other words there is not a lot of new information about the show, but pleasant enough to listen to.
A couple of the Japanese crew members are interviewed, including director Hiroyuki Tanaka, sound director Yasunori Honda, art director Manabu Otsuzuki, and Nobukito Sue who part of the art department. I appreciated these interviews much more than the commentary tracks since they discussed the genesis and design of the show and these people actually had something to do with the creation of the show.
There are also cast auditions (yawn), textless songs, and an art gallery.
Finally the set includes two 24-page booklets that include character designs and profiles as well as interviews with the creators.
I really enjoyed this show. A story of a powerful woman who risks her life every time she uses her powers would have been good to begin with, but this show fleshes out most of the characters nicely and creates a very detailed world filled with intrigue. While the ending wasn't the series strong point, the rest of it easily makes up for any dip in quality in the last episodes. Highly Recommended.