A Great Action Manga
I really enjoyed Claymore for these reasons:
- It's an action manga with great action; the claymores actually use their brains and skill when fighting. Most Shounen characters with a BFS just swing it around wildly like a jackass, whereas the Claymores use tactics, timing and skill to defeat their opponents, and all of the fights are very detailed and it is always clear what is happening on the panels. Because of this, the action scenes feel unique, smart and exciting, which is what makes them so enjoyable.
- The twists; In animes like Deathnote, you may not always be able to predict the twists, but you generally know when twists will be happening, in Claymore, scenes that I didn't really think could be played anything but straight get a twist thrown in to great effect. When you turn the page, the twist really hits you with a visceral feel that makes the so damn enjoyable.
- Anyone can die; In the world of Claymore, if you have a number that is anywhere from 1 to 47 associated with your name, then don't rely on plot armor to save your sorry ass, you can get killed, or at least seriously injured, very easily.
- The art style and setting are fresh: The Characters have a rough, medieval European feel to them, they're not Bishoujo and Bishounen, they have (occasionally) rough facial features, and are anything but moeblobs, which isn't to say they're all ugly, they're just not using a typical style, which is nice because it adds a distinctive feel. Second, this is not set in Japan, or the fantasy equivalent of Japan, which is always nice, seeing as nearly every anime and manga is set in Japan.
I like this, and I generally hate shonen action series.
This review covers the manga only. Claymore is surprisingly deep and interesting for a shonen combat series, a genre that I frequently find bores me in short order. Partly it's because the titular Claymores are Hot Chicks With Swords, a known fetish of mine, but I don't think that's the majority of it. One part of it is that there's a consistent, overall plot that has clearly been planned from the beginning and kept to through 90 manga chapters so far. New things introduced mesh with what's already there, and don't feel like RetCons, but rather planned developments as the layers of the onion are peeled back — and there are quite a few layers here. It's a dark series in which anyone can die except, so far, two lead characters, and there are few truly good guys to be found. Leashed evil is set to combat unleashed evil, but the true, deepest evils lurk in the hearts and minds of men, which meshes with my personal world-view very well. It's not the kind of series where we pause to peer into the hearts of the characters very much, but the characterizations are good, with perhaps one exception. Except for a few main characters, there is a large cast, which does require a bit of keeping track of. Making that harder is that visually distinguishing the Claymores is a little difficult, since they (realistically) wear very similar armored uniforms and are all, thanks to the creation process, pale-haired and pale-skinned. Fortunately the faces are very distinct, and each one does have a trademark hairstyle and a unique identity symbol, but the latter is small. In slow scenes it's easy; in combat, not so much. The series' art gets better over time, but combat scenes in the manga can be confusing; demonic horrors are just visually busy no matter what, and sometimes it takes some effort to follow. And there's a lot of combat. Most long-running manga degrade into having a high density of filler; Claymore is notable in that it does not. Every chapter counts, whether it's to progress the plot or fill out the backstory. The story is far from over; at my most optimistic I'd say it's two-thirds done, and a pessimistic estimate is more like half-way. And it's monthly, so expect a long wait for resolution. If you can stand that, highly recommended!