Thursday, June 30, 2016

Claymore by Norihiro Yagi, Volumes 7-9

 Genre: manga, fantasy

Claymore is the story of Clare, a half-human, half-monster warrior who is sworn along with her sister Claymores, "silver-eyed slayers," to protect humans from the flesh-eating Yoma who roam her world.

I definitely have a new manga obsession.  While Claymore started out as a fairly simple tale about a female warrior and her companion, a boy she rescued from the Yoma, it has by the seventh volume expanded into a full-blown epic saga, complete with a complex mythology, larger objectives, and many, many more characters!

The seventh volume continues with the showdown between the sadistic Claymore Ophelia and the monster that I simply call "the most terrifying thing I've ever seen in my life."  (See my review of volumes 4-6 for some images.)  This is another freakishly beautiful fight scene.  Meanwhile, Clare and Raki try to get as far away from Ophelia as possible.  Clare sends Raki on to a village where he will be safe, and just after they part ways (with a kiss!), Ophelia shows up to kill Clare.  The other warrior is so much more powerful that Clare has little hope of defeating her, so she tries to trick her...unfortunately Ophelia figures out what is going on.

Clare is badly, permanently injured and saved from death only by the appearance of another very powerful Claymore.  This Claymore, Ilena, helps Clare to regain her strength and as a parting gift presents her with the single strangest present I have ever heard or read about.  However, Clare has barely said goodbye to Ilena when she encounters Ophelia again (!).  Now Ophelia has awakened into a monster, having used too much of her Yoma power during her last battle against Clare and so lost her human half.  Battle ensues between her and Clare again, continuing into the next volume.

The eighth volume features the finale of Clare's battle with Ophelia, and we learn something by Ophelia's past which makes her seem a little more human.  Er, even though she is now a gigantic snake monster with a woman's head.  The next arc sees Clare searching the nearest village for Raki.  However, while there she sees a party of her comrades leaving the village to hunt yet another Awakened One.  (Exactly many Claymores have gone crazy and turned into monsters over the years??)  Her search for Raki is unsuccessful, and Clare is interrupted by the appearance of one of the Claymores from the hunting party.

The girl is bloody and looks half-dead.  She pleads with Clare to rescue her comrades, who are trapped in a nearby cave with not one, but two very powerful Awakened Ones.  Clare finds the other Claymores being tortured by an enormous, hideous monster called Dauf and a pretty young girl.  The girl says she wants to force the Claymores to awaken and join her army of monsters to lead an assault on another Awakened One's army in the north. Clare must then fight Dauf, against whom she is very outmatched.  And, then, as if things were not bad enough, one of the most powerful Claymores in the organization, Galatea, arrives to take Clare back to the organization because she disobeyed their orders in fighting Ophelia instead of working with her.  (As if Ophelia were a team player, right??)  Under the circumstances, however, Galatea joins Clare in the battle against the monster.  

In the ninth volume, the fight continues.  The powerful Galatea distracts Dauf, while Clare manages to save Jean, one of the Claymores who has been chained up and tortured to the point of awakening.  Jean is a cool character, one of my favorites of the many Claymores we have met in the series so far.  With the help of Jean, ranked no. 9 in the organization, Clare and Galatea are able to defeat Dauf.  They are prevented from killing him, however, by the pretty girl who has been sitting in a corner of the cave commentating on the fighting all this time.  The girl shows her true face and turns out to be Riful, a very dangerous Awakened One indeed.  However, instead of fighting, she and Dauf disappear, though not before Riful reveals a tantalizing hint to Clare about the location of Clare's greatest enemy, Priscilla--the Claymore who killed Clare's beloved friend Teresa.

The volume continues with a new arc, "the Battle of the North."  Clare and twenty-three of the organization's most troublesome Claymores (hmm, suspicious much?) are sent to quell an army of Awakened Ones and Yoma in the north of the country.  The organization promises to forgive Clare for her disobedience if she goes and, furthermore, Clare learns that Raki has been captured and sold into slavery in the north in her absence. (Tsk tsk, Clare can't leave the kid alone for five minutes without something happening.)  Jean, no. 9, has declared that since she owes her life to Clare, she will follow the other Claymore until she is able to repay the debt.  Clare and Jean therefore report to the north together, joining the other Claymores who have gathered to prepare for battle.

There is a lot of tension between the assembled Claymores, some of whom threaten to turn violent.  Though they are all exploited by the organization, they are all eager to fight one another to prove a point or perhaps improve their number ranking.  The dynamics between the different warriors are endlessly interesting and one of the main reasons that I am enjoying this series so much.  I will doubtless review the next three volumes, featuring a gigantic battle between half of the Claymores in existence and hordes of monsters, very soon!

Update on my 2016 Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge: I have now read 15 of 24 of the graphic novels/manga that I had hoped to read for the challenge.

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