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Claymore #1
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Written by maehara   
Monday, 09 June 2008 16:00
ClaymoreClaymore's reputation has it somewhere alongside Berserk on the blood-and-guts scale, and like the other manga we've reviews this week (D.Gray-man) the anime adaptation has recently been picked up by FUNimation - so you can probably consider this a sneek peek of a forthcoming DVD release. But does gore really work that well on blakc-and-white pages..?

1 - Silver-Eyed Slayer
In a world where monsters known as yoma prey on humans and live among them in disguise, humanity's only hope is a new breed of warrior known as Claymores. Half-human, half-monster, these silver-eyed slayers possess supernatural strength but are condemned to fight their savage impulses or lose their humanity completely. When a village that's being terrorised by a yoma hires a Claymore to deal with the problem, the one they're assigned appears to be more beast than human. While almost everyone in the village is intimidated by the Claymore's presence, though, young boy Raki isn't - he just sees her as another cute girl, and makes an effort to get to know her. He's also hoping to see her avenge the deaths of his parents - but he's unaware that the yoma is hiding inside the body of his own brother...

2 - Claws in the Sky
Clare's latest job looks set to be a difficult one - a village where 27 people have been killed in the space of a month, too many to be the work of just one yoma. Her organisation has already arranged for her to be joined by other Claymores, to make the task a little easier - but it will take them time to reach her, time that will allow more people to be killed. Clare's not willing to allow that, and decides to do the job herself. When she reaches the village, she finds that the yoma there - 5 of them - have been expecting her - and unusually, one of them can fly...

3 - Memory of a Witch
Raki had been following Clare across the wastelands - somewhere along the way, he'd run out of provisions and passed out. Now, he's awakened to find himself in a tavern room, which according to the innkeeper was paid for by a Claymore - he doesn't know more about her, just that she left him there, paid for his lodgings, and went on her way. Determined to keep up with Clare, Raki's soon on his way again - but before he can catch up with her, he finds himself in the hands of a yoma, and with Clare the only person who can save him...

4 - The Black Card
Rubel arrives with a new job for Clare - no ordinary one this one, either. The instructions are contained on a black card, and even before reading them Clare knows it's not going to be a job she wants, even though her services were specifically asked for. You see, a black card tells her that her target isn't a yoma, but another Claymore - one who realises they're on the verge of losing to their yoma nature, and wants to be killed before that happens. In this case, her name is Elana, a friend of Clare's. Her only friend, in fact...

So, a little background to start us off. Claymores are all female - they're "created" by forcing yoma flesh and blood into humans, and many attempts have shown that males simply can't survive the process. It's no cakewalk for the women, either, as Clare alludes to at one point. The method of 'creation' does mean that Claymores understand human nature and urges - they're still human themselves, after all - but because of the way they're shunned by the people the fight to save, emotions are usually very deeply buried.

Clare is presented as being a little different from the run-of-the-mill, though. She's even less approachable than the average Claymore, but under Raki's sustained efforts she also begins to open up, and you get this interesting little disconnect between Clare the fighter - who I suspect could hand Guts' guts to him on a plate, in a straight Claymore vs Berserk fight - and Clare the young woman who has suddenly found herself with a child to care for. It gives every story two distinct sides, and makes sure there's more going on than blood & swordplay. Not that there's anything wrong with a little well-drawn gore.

Art quality for the book is quite good - there's not a huge amount of detail in the drawings, just enough to let you get a fell for the location, while the character designs are nice and easy on the eye. Clare herself is presented as a rather attractive young woman, with just enough "off" about her design to make sure that you know there's something unusual about her; Raki is your typical young boy, and nothing much to speak of in either artistic or story terms. He's a story tool, used to great effect to bring out Clare's human side.

Storywise, this volume provides the necessary background setup and introductory stories to get the ball rolling, with a few adventures for Clare providing the wrapping to do that. There are one or two surprises thrown into the story to keep you on your toes - I can think of two plot points (around the black cards and the Claymore who apparently saved Raki) that played out somewhat differently to what I was expecting. After having been reading manga and watching anime for so many years, that doesn't happen very often, and I always appreciate it when it does.

So a very promising start by this volume of Claymore, then. The danger is always going to be that the series will get into a sword-swinging rut, but this volume's been careful not to let that happen, which is hopefully a good indicator for things to come. Colour me impressed, and looking forward to the next instalment.

Rating - ****

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