Thursday, June 23, 2016

Claymore by Norihiro Yagi, Volumes 1-3

Genre: manga, fantasy

Claymore is the story of Clare, a half-human, half-monster warrior who is sworn along with her sister "silver-eyed slayers" to protect humans from the zombie-like Yoma who roam her world.  I was attracted to this manga series by the beautiful covers and that premise, which reminded me of Buffy the Vampire Slayer if Buffy were set in a fantasy world which closely resembles medieval Europe.  While I was initially not impressed by the art and worried that it might turn out to be a typical shounen manga--lots of fighting and half-naked girls, little characterization or thematic depth--I quickly realized that Claymore is more complex and interesting than that.

The first volume opens with a village in distress.  Six people have been gruesomely murdered and everyone knows that the killings are the work of a Yoma.  Yomas are flesh-eating monsters, much worse than the sort of zombies you see in The Walking Dead because they are cleverer, more powerful, and much, much faster.  In addition, they can take on human form to disguise themselves.  Raki, a local teenage boy, soon encounters Clare, a Claymore who has been sent to hunt down and slay the Yoma terrorizing his village.  Claymores are dreaded and despised in this society despite their function as monster slayers, because they are half-monster themselves and may lose their human selves, allowing the monster to take complete control at any time.  However, Raki is fascinated by Clare (and more than a little enamored of her).  He is cheerful and naïve and treats her like an ordinary girl, which disconcerts solemn Clare.  She has come to this village to do one thing and one thing only: destroy a monster that feeds on human flesh, armed only with her claymore blade.  After further tragedy strikes his village, Raki ends up travelling with Clare against her better judgment.

This volume is immediately exciting and does a good job setting up the story and the universe.  There is also a lot of gore and plenty of fighting scenes which were well-drawn and well-paced.  I was less than captivated by the art in some of the panels.  The style is efficient rather than extravagant and extremely detailed, like in some of my favorite mangas, but on the other hand I have seen shounen manga with much uglier drawings.  And the covers for the whole Claymore series are gorgeous!

The second volume was my least favorite of the three I have read so far.  The arc about Clare and Raki's journey to investigate Yoma killings in a cathedral city is an interesting premise, but I felt that one fight scene dragged on literally for several chapters, even running into the next volume.  On the other hand, we do get to learn a little more about Clare and witness her chameleon-like acting skills as she disguises herself as an ordinary girl travelling with her brother in order to seek out the Yoma without being thrown out of the city by monks.  There is little dialogue in this volume due to all of the action scenes; I breezed through it in about a half hour!

The third volume, subtitled Teresa of the Faint Smile, was the one that made me eager to get my hands on the next, um, twenty-four volumes of this series now!  The first two chapters finish up the "Darkness in Paradise" arc from the last volume, in which Clare and Raki hunt a particularly powerful Yoma in a holy cathedral city.  The rest of the volume begins a new arc about another Claymore, called Teresa.  I immediately liked Teresa!  

And I was happy to meet her, because I had been wondering about the other Claymores and whether they resembled Clare.  While Teresa does superficially resemble Clare--she is a beautiful, blond young female--they actually are quite different both in their designs and their personalities.  Clare is serious and solemn and very willing to sacrifice herself to protect the humans who despise her from Yoma.  But Teresa is not afraid to bend or break the rules of the mysterious organization for which she and the other Claymores work.  She is fierce and has a bit of an attitude going on; I liked her a lot!  The first few chapters of this new story line about Teresa involve her seeking out a Yoma hiding among villagers and being followed through the woods after she finishes her job there, first by a strange, mute girl and then by a group of bandits intent on humiliating Teresa.  Yeah, needless to say, they've got another thing coming!

I love this series so far.  Honestly, I half-wish I had not picked the first volume up, because now I will become addicted to the series and have to read the next twenty-four volumes in the next week or so.  Then, I will have to watch the anime and obsess over it when I should probably be doing preparatory reading for graduate classes next semester.  Oh well!

I am keen to learn so many things about the characters, their backstories, and the world of Claymore.  Are all Claymores female?  How does one become a Claymore, and what is this organization that sends Claymores to different villages to kill Yoma?  I cannot wait to read the next volume and am considering breaking into the library tonight to get it a few hours early!

This manga has

strong female characters              lots of action       gore                         monsters                  

These three manga volumes count towards my goal in the 2016 Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge!

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