Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Claymore (2007)


After losing his brother, and final living family member, to a demon, Raki becomes the traveling companion of Clare, a Claymore (man made half demon/half human demon hunter). But as Raki soon finds out, the life of a Claymore is a troubling one. Constantly fighting, not only demons, but the dual sides of themselves, all haunted by traumatic pasts. And each, forever at risk of turning into a demon themselves.

To sum up Claymore in a single sentence would be hard. It should suffice to say, don't watch this series while eating, or just after. It's brutally violent, dark, and incredibly graphic. It hits you right in the gut with every episode, and really knows how to pull the emotional cords. It's a plot that lends itself to that area of visuals. The sharp character designs and unique visual attitude are built around the need for a very monster-like visual. There's nothing sexy about what's going on, and the show isn't going to try and make it. The show even hints throughout that the body of a Claymore is so disgusting anyone who sees it would throw up (don't worry though, we're never shown this).

That's because these Claymores are created by man. They're humans who have experienced some trauma in their lives, and how requests demon be combined with their flesh, no matter the cost. And Clare is no different. Perhaps then it's no surprise her character receives a multi-episode flashback right smack in the start of the series. It's a story very emotionally powerful, and one that seems to grasp at the heart of what the Claymores' are. They seek power, not for themselves, but rather for their past. And I have to say the first 13 episodes of this series are simply perfect.

The show moves itself plot fluidly, managing to cover a lot of points in a small period without feeling demanding, while at the same time giving the viewer the action they so desperately seek. The Raki and Clare dynamic is handled with great care, and we really feel a family like relationship develop between them. Not to mention the series is just so well animated, and acted, it's hard to take your eyes off of it. The show hits all the right notes, and really brings up the questions to entice the viewer to seek out more.

If only, the series could have maintained that momentum. Seeking to finalize everything in a single season, just in case, the show quickly vacates the manga plotarc, and goes for the cliff note, action crammed, monster laden, finale. It's high octane, frantic, and full of graphic violence. At the same time it also develops many of the characters, and we see them grow into what they will eventually become.

There's just one problem. After it's finale, the viewer is left with a mountain of unanswered questions and unfinished plot points. And I'm not even talking side plots. The main central, highly developed, plot arcs throughout the series are just left on the table. Sure the finale had a huge fight sequence, but what's the point if nothing comes of it? It feels more like a lead in to a non-existent second season than anything. And since it's abandoned the manga, you can't even go there to find all that you want to know.

It's just a sad way to end such a strong show. The other two downsides to the series is, first: because all the Claymores (by nature) are blond, pale white, and wear mostly the same body armor, it's difficult to tell them apart (especially during the big 23+ battle royale finale). A few subtle face alterations and hair is about the best you get for differentiation. Not too bad though as each has a well developed personality (at least the heart of the crew). With the second downside being some cheap, rather cheesy, and misplaced music, but nothing worth crying over.

Don't let those fool you though. If you can bear through said issues, I'm sure you'll find a lot to be engrossed by with Claymore. It's the kind of series you don't regret watching, even with the ending as it is. It's powerfully epic, full of emotion, heart, and really gets into the characters. The kind of show that if it ever gets a proper second season could really develop into something special. But, until then, it's solid, but not great as a stand alone show.

While Claymore has an amazing amount to offer fans of graphic action anime, in terms of character, and violence, it's desire to stand alone from the manga leaves lots of hanging plots in the end. The kind of show one hopes gets more time to evolve, and close off those, if at least in some form.

1 better thoughts:

JapanCinema said...

Like you stated, this series really starts to lose momentum. So much in fact I never finished this series. It's blu-ray release kind of had me itching for a bit to pick it up but I'm not so sure now. Great write up!

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