With the ability to take over human bodies and blend in with ordinary people, monsters known as yoma have a (relatively) easy time finding humans to feed upon. The only weapons humans have against them are the “Claymores,” humans who have taken yoma flesh and blood into their own bodies in order to gain the power to defeat the monsters. Only females are able to successfully adapt to this procedure, which also grants them silver eyes with the ability to distinguish yoma from humans. As part of an unnamed organization, they travel from village to village in response to requests for their services.
The first “Claymore”—the warriors do not refer to themselves this way; the name was bestowed by humans due to the huge swords these seemingly frail women carry—readers encounter is Clare, a skilled and clever Claymore who is used to being shunned and voluntarily forgotten by the very people she is working to protect. This changes when a villager boy, Raki, seeks her out as she’s leaving town and declares his heartfelt gratitude. Later, when the villagers have shunned Raki for his association with the yoma, Clare takes him on as her cook, seeing in him a past not unlike her own. They travel together, ferreting out a yoma within a holy city and dealing with a Claymore whose human heart has lost control to the monster within her.
As a Joss Whedon fan, it’s impossible to read about a young woman saddled with the inescapable and thankless task of killing monsters and not make comparisons to the mythology of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Clare does not share much in common with Buffy herself, who has a network of friends around her to keep her grounded in normality as much as possible, but more reminds me of the Buffy we see in the alternate universe episode, “The Wish.” This hardened Buffy has no time for conversation or for even seeing the people she’s trying to save. Get in, do it, and get out, just like Clare, who has a habit of announcing to empty streets, “My work is done. Someone will be sent to collect the money. You will give it to him then,” before resolutely moving on to the next assignment.
There’s also an element of Whedon’s short-lived Dollhouse here too, though, as the Claymores have voluntarily corrupted their bodies with monstrous parts designed to make them faster and stronger. Unlike the dolls, the Claymores have not forgotten the memories of their past lives, but they are able to keep tight control of their emotions and perform the task to which they’ve been assigned. There’s even an impersonal male “handler” to tell Clare where to go next. It’s through her association with Raki that more of Clare’s latent humanity begins to shine through, as he is able to interpret subtle differences in her frosty exterior as kindness or gentleness and she begins to really care about him, seeking assurance at one point that if she should die in the battle, Raki will be taken care of.
It’s a little disappointing that, after advancing all these intriguing ideas in its exposition, Claymore‘s first multi-chapter storyline relies chiefly on action to propel it along, but I guess ideas alone do not a shounen manga make: there has to be fighting sometime! And, in fact, there is a lot of stabbing and slicing here, including many memorable images of yoma heads being severed while whatever’s left of the human they’ve taken over sheds unheeded tears. I’m impressed with Yagi’s ability to render action sequences so clearly, and also absurdly interested in Clare’s equipment, which seems to have been designed with more practicality than a lot of “costumes” manga characters are saddled with.
In the end, Claymore is enjoyable as an action tale, but is already providing ample food for thought with the promise of more intriguing revelations to come. This series was recommended to me by Melinda, and reviewed as part of the Shounen Sundays project. She has good taste.