When FUNimation announced that it acquired the rights to Claymore the hardcore anime community cheered, but avid otaku didn't really know how to react. It's not a massively popular brand, and it's definitely far from mainstream franchises that typically catch the average anime viewer's attention. However, those who knew Claymore was something special hit it right on the nose. The series has finally come out here in the States and it is everything the hype surrounding the title suggested that it could be.
Originally airing in Japan during 2007, Claymore is a 26 episode series that stemmed from a manga of the same name, which began in 2001. The show features some intense action coupled with fantasy elements, an interesting concept, well-developed characters, and a dark edge with lots of gore. Each of these components comes together to set Claymore apart from the rest of the current market. It's a throwback to darker series of the past and its approach is very reminiscent of Berserk. I'd go further to say that if you've seen that classic and enjoyed it, then stop reading this review and pick this one up post-haste. It's very similar in many ways.
The introductory volume of Claymore features the first five episodes of the show and really covers a great deal of the background and concept. Basically, what you've got with this series is a world in which monster known as Yoma roam the land and feed on humans. These beasts can take human shape and have no souls, morals, or remorse. They are very adept at blending in and eat humans whenever they feel like. At least, the Yoma are a threat as long as there isn't a Claymore around.
The Claymore is a warrior from a secret organization whose mission is to protect humanity for a price and defeat the Yoma. That's fine and dandy, but these Claymore are just as feared as the monsters they are hired to kill due to their half-human, half-Yoma nature. In addition to being half-breeds, the Claymores are also made up of only women and each of these ladies are given rank based on their powers. It's an interesting and involved secret society, with rules, expectations, and a lot of history for the show to explore.
When Claymore starts we meet Clare, a young Claymore out tracking a Yoma she was hired to kill. When a nearby town finds that they have a problem with a monster as well, they attempt to employ her exterminating services. During this time a young boy named Raki begins to follow her and ask her questions. He seems to be the only person in town that shows no fear towards Clare, and because of this he ingratiates himself to her good nature. Tragically, it turns out that the Yoma had been portraying the boy's older brother and had murdered his parents. Clare takes Raki under her wing and the unlikely pair journeys together across the land.
In the second episode a strange man from the organization comes to Clare in the middle of the night and presents her with a Black Card. This basically means that one of her fellow Claymores has gone rogue and she has been assigned to track her down. It stirs up memories from Clare's past and she finds herself faced with the difficult job of killing one of her old friends. Once that nasty business is completed, Clare and Raki head towards a town in secret in an effort to take down a Yoma who is deeply hidden. Pretending to be brother and sister, they work undercover as Clare attempts to find out exactly what's going on there.
This storyline of the Holy City continues as Clare eventually comes face to face with the Yoma and begins to lose a little of her humanity after a serious injury. There's more than meets the eye here and as the volume progresses the plot surrounding the Holy City arc increases. Just before we put a close on the volume though, we are introduced to Teresa as the show takes a look back in time to show just how Clare got involved with the Claymores. It definitely sets the tone for the coming volumes and I can't wait to see what happens next.
If you're looking for a bloody good time, then Claymore's opening volume has a lot to offer. The background, characters, and story so far are fascinating and there's a lot of promise here. The show is off to something of a slow start, but it starts to pick up the pace towards the end. We'll see if future volumes keep up the quality, but for now consider the show highly recommended, especially if you enjoyed Berserk.
Presented with its original 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio, Claymore is a nice little treat on DVD. The artwork, design, and animation from Madhouse Studios are incredible, though I will say that some of the styles are a little generic. As far as the transfer here is concerned, the video quality holds up decently, but it's not flawless in its presentation. The picture is grainy (some parts are worse than others), there's some slight aliasing in parts, and the image isn't quite as sharp as it could have been. Otherwise compression artifacts aren't really an issue, and the colors appear natural and vibrant. This is a nice looking show, but it could have been spruced up just a little more.
Claymore hits DVD with English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 language tracks. As far as the dubbing quality is concerned I found that the Japanese selection definitely was the better of the two. Some of the English voice actors just don't present well, or capture the feel of the characters quite right. The Japanese language, however, does just that and hits all the right dramatic notes. Technically speaking, the 5.1 Dolby Digital track is much more robust than the 2.0 offering thanks to a better sense of immersion during battle sequences. Whichever you're looking for, voice quality or sound quality, each track has something different to offer.
A decent spread of bonus content makes its way onto the first disc of Claymore. Some trailers and textless animation get things started, but some cast auditions help to flesh things out. There's also an English commentary for the first episode of the show with the director and voice actor for Raki, and voice actress for Clare providing the discussion. The commentary is rather dry with a little bit of banter between the two about the show and how they became involved with it. It's worth noting that the commentary never gets goofy, unlike other anime commentaries, but it's not very lively either.
I didn't really know what to expect when Claymore found its way into my DVD player. Right away I was impressed by the tone of the series and found that it was dark and serious enough to separate itself apart from other shows on the market. I got a strong Berserk vibe from the program, due to the fantasy setting and gratuitous amounts of violence, but that definitely works in the show's favor. If you've been waiting for a new property that has a lot to offer then definitely give this one a spin. This first volume may be a tad slow with its pacing, but there's a lot of promise here. Let's look forward to the coming installments and see where this one goes.