Sunday, June 26, 2016

Claymore by Norihiro Yagi, Volumes 4-6

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 read these next three volumes of this exciting and action-paced series with a rabid eagerness and, at the end of volume six, once again encountered an evil cliffhanger.  Oh, Norihiro Yagi, you are the most malevolent of manga-kas!

First things first, though; I'll start with volume four.  This volume continues the story arc about the powerful Claymore Teresa and her new companion, a young girl who Teresa saved from a Yoma a few villages back, a young girl who turns out to be the human Clare.  Teresa tries to leave Clare with kind villagers so that she can have a normal, human life, but ends up having to double back and save Clare from the same bandits who threatened and had planned to rape Teresa in the third volume.  The bandits are brutal men, though no match for Teresa.  Furious at their slaughter of some villagers and their mistreatment of Clare, Teresa kills one of them in a fight.  In doing so, she violates the most sacred rule of the organization who hires (and creates?) Claymores: their job is to slay Yoma and protect humans, not kill them.  Teresa and Clare go on the run from the organization, but in the meantime four of the strongest Claymores are summoned together and ordered to hunt down and execute Teresa for her crimes.  The character of Priscilla, one of these Claymore who appears to be only a little girl, is particularly interesting and she promises to be an important part of the series.

I had been hoping the series would introduce more Claymores, and my wish definitely came true with these next three volumes!  In fact, so many new Claymores are introduced that it is a little difficult at times to tell all these beautiful, fair-haired young woman apart.  I loved this story line that focused on Teresa and "human Clare" and their strong friendship, since they are still my favorite characters even with the introduction of some others.  The fight scenes between Teresa and her Claymore comrades who are under orders to kill her are very well-done and I liked that the drawings increasingly emphasize the monster or Yoma side of the girls as they are fighting.  For example, their faces change and their eye colors shift and their limbs grow longer as they draw on more of their Yoma power during tough battles.

If the third volume clearly marks the point where I began to become emotionally invested in the series, then the fifth volume is really where the "feels" kicked in!  There is a new story line, titled "The Slashers," which focuses on Clare in the present day.  She and some of her fellow Claymores are instructed to hunt down and slay an "awakened one," an extremely powerful creature which is actually the remnant of a Claymore who has lost their humanity and fully transformed into an inhuman monster.  This monster varied from the typical, zombie-like Yoma and I have to say that it was creepy!  I liked seeing the interactions between Clare and the other Claymores.  We learn among other things that Clare is in fact ranked as the least powerful Claymore currently alive, and once again we meet some interesting new characters.  It is impressive that the manga-ka has managed to endow each of the twelve (and counting!) Claymores who have been introduced so far with a unique and remarkable personality.  They do have similar designs, though, and I usually have to rely on hair styles to distinguish them during the fight scenes.  Speaking of which, there are a lot of fight scenes in this fifth volume, but also some emotional depth.  Something happens in this volume which shocked and saddened me.

The sixth volume boasts the most absolutely horrifying, pee-your-pants scary manga monster I have ever seen.  Let's just go ahead and put that out there.

I placed a picture there to present a rough idea, but that one panel does not really do this creature justice.  It has the face of a human female, because it is another "awakened one" who was once a Claymore before she released too much of her Yoma power.  The way this monster moves her wings and hair and her neck, and the way she looks when she opens her mouth...just ugh!  I nearly dropped the manga and ran away screaming.  Forget fighting her, I would just take one look and instantly die of terror.

Anyway, in volume six the organization orders Clare to kill this lovely monster which has been terrorizing a village.  She is supposed to have assistance to kill the monster, in the form of Ophelia, the fourth-strongest Claymore (they are all ranked precisely in order of strength).  Miria, no. 6, had warned Clare about Ophelia and the other powerful Claymores in the last volume.  Because Clare is sort of semi-awakened, having unleashed too much Yoma power and almost become a monster forever during the episode in the cathedral city, Ophelia becomes suspicious that Clare is already a monster.  

She torments Clare and Raki and seems on the verge of killing at least one of them when the "awakened one," pictured above, makes her entrance.  She first attacks Clare but then turns on Ophelia, sensing her arrogance, and Clare and Raki are able to temporarily escape while Ophelia battles the monster.  The volume leaves off as they are running, trying to get as far away as possible before Ophelia comes after them.
Ophelia vs the monster

Ophelia is one scary, sadistic bitch.  I am actually not sure whether I would prefer to face her or that freaky, winged hair monster.  Oh, wait...just kidding, I'd take Ophelia!

It practically goes without saying that I adored these three volumes and will be starting on volume seven as soon as possible!  I have grown used to the style of art and now think it is really quite beautiful, so no complaints there.  The story has really taken off in lots of different directions since the fairly straight-forward first and second volumes, and I cannot wait to find out what happens next.  While I realize not many people read reviews of later volumes in a manga series, I will continue writing these reviews for every three volumes if only so that I can reflect upon what I read and because I enjoy writing about Claymore!

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