Claymore 1&2 on DVD

Saturday, 16 May 2009 14:40

Set against the background of a medieval fantasy world, Claymores - half-human female warriors also known as ‘silver-eyed witches’ - fight against the Yoma, shape-changing monsters who can disguise themselves as the humans they feed on.  The Claymores are feared and distrusted by the humans they protect as the strength required to fight the monsters comes from the fact that they are half-yoma, and every time they harness this power they risk turning into a yoma themselves.  Clare is an emotionless woman, a Claymore who saves the life of Raki after his parents were murdered by a Yoma, she finds her life changed by the boy as he follows after her and helps to rekindle some of her lost humanity.

The often dark setting of this anime and the fantasy element lead to a frequent comparison to “Berserk”.  I agree with this, in fact if you enjoyed “Berserk” or found “Hellsing” to be your cup of tea I think you'll like this anime.

Claymore 1 and 2 DVDWhilst the underlying plot here is steeped in anime cliché with a hardened hero recovering their humanity through the help of a young follower, the gender reversal adds a layer to the series that might otherwise have been lacking.  It’s also not unusual to have a half-breed acting as the hero against the monstrous half of their heritage; just the thought fills my head with a large number of dhampir (children of a vampire father and a human mother). 

However, the plot itself manages to weave together a story that surpasses the sum of its more trite parts and draws me with it leaving me wanting to skip the end credits to go on to the next episode straight away.  I didn’t though, I watched the end credits as the title had been a good piece of animation and music that worked well together and my patience was rewarded with another fine theme.

In fact the music in the series works well throughout and ranges from hard rock to a thematic if discordant electronic music, it even has some bagpipes thrown in for good measure, but it never overpowers the voice acting in either the Japanese or English soundtrack.  I prefer the Japanese on this series but the English dub is well acted if very different from the sound of their Japanese counterparts, Raki in particular I think may be better in the dub but one part couldn’t pull me away from the Japanese version.  Playing the English dub with the subtitles shows that there isn’t as wide a departure as sometimes can be seen between the two scripts.

I like swords so I knew I would be watching this anime to find out more based on the title alone as it intrigued me.  The Claymores in the anime are probably named after the swords they carry and whilst the swords in the anime are distinctive they are not exactly like the Claymore they have been named for.  They still have a very similar crossed handle but they are far bigger than the original Scottish broadsword, and help to bring some of the gorier action sequences to life.

The animation itself is good for the most part but with obvious attention drawn to main characters it’s easy to overlook some of the villagers as less care has been devoted to them.  Whilst this is understandable it’s something that I can point to and say is disappointing in the show.  I’m also less of a fan of some of the more action intense scenes as I like animation that flows rather than jumps and cut frames in the middle of a fight just irritate me a little.  Other people may like the quick cuts to emphasise the main action around the fight but I feel it draws me away from the action.

So overall a good start to a series with the main character’s both convincingly portraying their parts in a narrative that spans past tragedies and current events.  Their lives are followed in an interesting way that is only enhanced by use of the back story showing up the parallels as the series continues.

So, we move on to Volume Two…


At the end of Volume One, we first met Teresa of the Faint Smile, the mightiest of all Claymore Warriors.  Cold and emotionless as she fulfils her duties she crosses paths with a young Clare, this girl is determined to empathise with Teresa and a bond forms between the two. Teresa is unable to leave Clare to her fate at the hands of a ruthless gang of bandits even though she must break a cardinal rule of the Claymores – never kill a human – during the rescue.  The Organisation does not recognise any mitigating circumstances and the punishment for this crime is death, Teresa rejects this and fights against her executioners as she has found something to live for in Clare.

Unfortunately the Organisation cannot let the matter rest there and sends out a team of four Claymores to finish the assassination.  The team is made up of the next ranking warriors, including a new Claymore, number two-ranked Priscilla, who has the potential to eventually surpass even Teresa.  This extraordinary confrontation sets in motion events that will reach far into the future.

In the present day, Clare receives a place on a team of four warriors assigned to hunt down a Voracious Eater, known by the Claymores as Awakened Beings these monsters hide one of the Organisation’s secrets…

This volume continues the back story arc that was started in the last scene from Volume One and gives further hints into what might be required in becoming a Claymore and why you might choose that life for yourself.

After seeing the back story arc (which some people may consider too long as it takes up four episodes) the parallels between adult Clare and adult Teresa are stark and the fact that they share the names of the world’s twin goddesses of beauty and love cements this further and seems to me a hint at an additional story arc to come.  Seeing so much from Clare’s past helps you understand Clare and empathise with her as you move back into the present day. 

It has to be said that there seems to be more violence in this volume, and whilst the animation has more light to the scenes that just means you can see more of the gore.  The use of cut scenes and stills during fights is even more irritating than during the first volume and I think it would have been more interesting to keep the Yoma’s blood the same colour as human blood to increase the tension until the bodies reveal them to be Yoma. 

Also they apparently really like to have large eruptions of blood from wounds suffered several seconds earlier, another pet peeve of mine – as if blood wouldn’t flow from the first cut.  Some of this takes me back to the worst aspects of “Dragonball Z” fight scenes.

Other than this the animation seems to be holding it’s own with good backgrounds and an interesting variation to the Claymores given the limitation on hair and eye colour. 

Unfortunately the same can’t be said of the soundtrack, the music continues with the eclectic mix from volume one but seems to be missing in places where music is needed.  The voice acting isn’t bad but isn’t brilliant either, some character’s have great acting whilst others seems a little monotone and switching between Japanese and English doesn’t seem to help much here. 

Unlike the previous volume there does seem to be a larger difference between the dialogue, enough to make me suggest you stick with the Japanese even if it is only available as 2.0 whilst the English soundtrack is 5.1 - this may have been my preference for the first volume but it was much more of a coin toss between the two soundtracks at that time.

Scene 8 has to be my favourite from this disc, with an action packed fight scene, a glimpse into the final reason Clare chose the life she leads, and the revelation of what happens to Claymores who go past their limit when using their yoki power and are unable to return to being human, this episode has a full on story that doesn’t let you up for air.

Even with the flaws I’d say that this is definitely worth the watch and should hook you in by the end of episode eight.

In terms of a percentage score, this release is rewarded with an 80% pass rate on our scoring system!

“Claymore: Volumes 1 & 2” is from Manga Entertainment, Certificate ‘15’ in 16:9 anamorphic picture, with English 5.1 and Japanese 2.0 soundtracks, subtitles in English USA, and will be released on 8 June 2009. The two disc set has a running time (per disc) of 5 x 23 minutes – that’s 3 hours 50 minutes total run time. It’s available for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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