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.
Though I have been reviewing this manga three volumes at a time, so much happened in these two volumes that I think reviewing volume twelve here as well would be absolute overkill.
So, volume ten! First of all, I have to say that I love the cover for this volume even more than any of the previous gorgeous ones. This volume continues where the ninth left off, with Clare and twenty-three of her fellow Claymores on a suicide mission to defend a northern village from what seems to be dozens of monstrous Awakened Ones (powerful former Claymores who have lost their human side and become Yoma, monsters). The warriors are divided into teams and must immediately learn to adjust to each other's different fighting styles and techniques, as well as their various personalities. As usual when Claymores meet, there are hostilities--even when they are fighting for their lives!
Many new Claymores are rapidly introduced, but despite the dominance of fight scenes in this volume, I felt that I was able to get to know and distinguish them very quickly. We learn some of their traumatic backstories and, before very long, see some of them die fighting the Awakened Ones. These death scenes are always gut-wrenching in Claymore, which says a lot considering that the series has tons of characters; the characters are such that one immediately becomes invested in their fates and usually strongly likes or despises them (for the latter category, that awful Ophelia comes to mind!)
On the other hand, there are many morally ambiguous characters. Clare's former companion Raki (reportedly sold into slavery in the north in the last volume) has ended up traveling in the company of Clare's archenemy Priscilla and Isley, one of the most powerful Awakened Ones in this country.
Although we last saw Priscilla as a monster and know Isley to be trying to destroy the Claymore Organization, the two of them appear human in front of Raki and behave humanely towards him, taking care of him. Isley even begins teaching Raki to fight with a sword. While I somehow did not gather from the first few volumes that featured Awakened Ones that they can retain a human appearance (even though Riful appears as a young girl in the last few volumes I reviewed), it seems that she is not the only one who can. (On the other hand, some Awakened Ones never appear to be humanoid, which is a bit confusing! Perhaps the mythology changed as the series progressed, or perhaps I just wasn't paying attention and missed something.) Anyway, Raki is determined to grow stronger so that he help Clare fight and it is revealed that Isley is planning a major attack on the Organization while half of the Claymores are engaged fighting in the north.
The eleventh volume made me gasp and groan aloud more than a few times as I read it. It is a brutal, brutal continuation of the Claymore epic which honestly I did not at all anticipate. Here there be climactic last stands and character deaths, the deaths of likable and major characters. The battle in the north between Claymores and an army of Awakened Ones continues in the village of Pieta, which fortunately has been evacuated. Clare pushes herself to her absolute limits and alternates between despair and fierce anger as her comrades die in droves around her.
Meanwhile, the Organization have gathered their strongest warriors to defend their base in the south. This includes Galatea, no. 3, who, despite her privileged position as a powerful fighter, has grown to resent the Organization's abuse of her fellow Claymores. Galatea learns the extent of the Organization's callousness when one of their leaders explains that the Organization does not expect any of the weaker and "habitually disobedient" Claymores in the north to survive that battle. She also meets warriors nos. 1 and 2, Alicia and Beth. The two are actually twins, and are different from any of the other Claymores. They have been brainwashed to be completely obedient to the Organization and are able to transform into Awakened forms (this generally means monstrous, with predatory animal features such as giant claws, tentacles, teeth, etc) without fully losing their humanity and becoming Yoma.
In yet another part of the country, Isley faces Luciela of the South, one of his rival Awakened Ones, in battle. This is an awesome fight scene which promises to continue into the next volume. Isley's Awakened form is extremely cool, and looks like a centaur.
|Isley's awesome Awakened form|
Once again, the eleventh volume in particular was a slightly soul-crushing read for me. I didn't realize that I had become attached to so many of these characters until they died! The fact that the Claymores die fighting because the Organization essentially decided to use them as disposable shock troops while they prepare their obedient, stronger warriors for battle makes their deaths particularly disturbing, and I begin to see certain themes of questioning and rebelling against corrupt power and institutions emerge more strongly and potently in these last two volumes. This manga has really come a long way as far as complexity since the first volume!
Update for the 2016 Graphic Novel/Manga Challenge: I have now read 17 of 24 of the graphic novels/manga that I had hoped to read for this challenge.