Claymore Volume 1 by Norihiro Yagi
Claymore is one of those series that’s been on my radar for awhile because I remember reading several online reviews that pointed out it was a shonen manga series with some potentially interesting gender dynamics. So I was happy to spend .99 cents on the iPad version of Claymore volume one. This manga seems like a fairly standard fantasy action story, made much more interesting by the fact that the ultimate bad ass warriors in Yagi’s world are all women. Demons called yoma prey on hapless pseudo medieval villagers, and their only recourse is to hire claymores, women who have become part-demon themselves in order to be able to fight the yoma. The world of Claymore is introduced through the standard shonen set piece of having a young boy discover how claymores protect the world. Raki is orphaned, and he meets the claymore Clare when she is hired to protect his village. Clare is everything you might expect from a shonen action hero. She’s terse, business-like, and doesn’t hesitate to dismember a yoma by hacking off limbs before splitting it in half with her giant sword. Clare doesn’t even deal with the mercenary details of payment for her services. When the head of the town offers to give her money before she heads out on her killing mission, she tells him to wait and pay after she’s done with her job, “If I get killed…there’ll be no reason to pay.” Clare is followed from job to job by Rubel, a mysterious man who collects the money for her services.
Raki ends up following Clare and she agrees that he can tag along as her cook, telling him that he can stay with her until he finds another town he would like to live in. Clare isn’t one to sit around and talk about her feelings, but it is heavily implied that she’s taking on Raki as a sidekick because his companionship might be a way to help her regain some of her humanity. When the claymores transform themselves into human/yoma hybrids, they’ve started a process where they will eventually lose their human qualities and become yoma. A claymore who senses that she’s about to transform sends a black card to the next member of the organization requesting that she be killed.
Overall, I found this manga very intriguing. It is unusual to find a shonen manga that features a female main character that doesn’t feel exploitative. There were a couple scenes of Clare changing clothes taking a bath to wash the blood off of her self after battle, but these didn’t feel very gratuitous to me. Clare’s characterization is strong and forceful, and I’m curious to see what happens in the rest of her journey. I really liked the bleak tone of Claymore as well. It has been some time since I’ve read a grim fighting manga, so I actually found it a bit refreshing. Yagi’s art falls into the category of serviceable but not spectacular. I can see how it will probably improve over time, but Claymore doesn’t display the insane composition of something like Bleach that would prompt me to pick up several volumes for the action scenes alone. I’m very interested to see what’s going to happen with Claymore’s group of hybrid women/demon yoma hunters.
One of the things I like about reading manga on the iPad is that when reading it in the portrait or single page orientation, the art is automatically blown up to omnibus edition size. Also, being able to magnify individual panels is fun. The only thing that is making me a little hesitant about picking up this series is that it is so long! I will try to at least check out the second volume to see if I’m still interested. Can anyone whose read more Claymore let me know what they think about it? Does it get stronger as it goes along?