Claymore: Basilisk for Girls? Well…Not Exactly

I’m a big fan of shows with dark settings. I’m also a big fan of shows with intriguing plots. Some fast-paced action here and there doesn’t hurt; neither does excellent art.

That said, I’m not particularly picky when it comes to genres. If you’ve got a sci-fi epic, a tale of modern-day espionage or a fantastic tale of swords and sorcery, I’m pretty much good as long as you manage to include some or all of the above. Considering my roots in Record of Lodoss War, though, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for shows that manage to pull them off in a medieval world.

Fortunately for me, Claymore has managed to combine all of the above in just such a setting. Now about half over (or at least the first season is), the show has consistently maintained a level of quality that makes me wonder when we’ll be seeing more of the manga on shelves here. Indeed, when I go looking to see which shows have had new episodes aired recently, it’s the first one I check. (Or at least, ever since Code Geass went on its extended hiatus.)

So, what does this show offer that makes it so appealing to me? Well, it’s a bit difficult to explain, honestly. The continent on which Claymore takes place has had a problem with demons – known as yoma (personally, I thought that was monsters, but it’s a word that seems to serve double-duty) – that can disguise themselves as humans. The problem is, they also eat us, and they’re stronger, faster and more resilient than us.

In other words, if you see one coming, you’re pretty well boned.

However, they’re not invulnerable. A good decapitation usually does the trick on them, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that, given enough people, one could be overwhelmed. To avoid detection and death they take their victims’ identities as often as not and proceed to devour more and more of us. (Don’t blame them, it’s just their nature.)

On the other hand, it’s our nature to survive, and to do so by working out solutions to problems with our big, tasty brains.

In this case, the solution involves the creation of “The Organization,” a shady group of folks who employ a group of women who wield large, two-handed swords. These women have, by taking the flesh of a yoma into themselves, attained a measure of their power (not to mention blonde hair and silver eyes), as well as the ability to channel the “yoki,” or demonic power that the yoma use.

Understandably, the people are scared stiff of them. However, The Organization dispatches them as yoma-hunters whenever a request is made – for a sizable sum, of course. The people of the continent have come to call them Claymores, after their massive weapons.

f you’re especially slow on the uptake, yes, that’s where the show gets its name.

The setting, definitely medieval, isn’t really friendly to “magic” beyond that performed via yoki, which, so far, only allows someone to augment their own abilities (though the girls who use it to do a Mr. Fantastic impression bend that rule a bit). Demons and half-demonic swordswomen aside, it could be a semi-realistic medieval world.

But those things we just set aside, though not integral to the physical setting, are certainly necessary to capture the mood of the show. The people are fearful – of both the yoma who eat them and the women who “protect” them. Villages have not only these to fear, but attacks by bandits as well, while towns and cities, no matter how well-organized, can’t help but worry whenever something out of the ordinary takes place.

It’s a dark, dark world, where human lives are cheap and even the Claymores are expendable, so long as The Organization doesn’t lose face.

Reflecting that atmosphere, the art of Claymore is full of shadows and dark tones. It’s a good thing the Claymores dress all in silver and have pale skin, hair and eyes, or it’d be easy to miss them in many of the action sequences. As it is, you’ll probably want to turn off any surrounding lights you might have before watching, and turn up the brightness on your screen at some points.

For all that it’s a bit too dark sometimes, it’s quite good. It strikes something of a middle line between the sort of “dirty” art you see in Lodoss and the “cleaner” look of most shows today. It works well and easily lends itself to action sequences that have to include “speed lines,” as the combatants are frequently moving faster than your average Olympic sprinter.

You’ll also see plenty of blood in a typical episode, both human and yoma, so if you’re a bit squeamish you might want to set Claymore aside. It’s most definitely a seinen show (as compared to shounen).

The music is, similarly, fitting. The intro and closing songs are wildly different, but both have a driving beat and stick around in a minor key to keep viewers cognizant of the fact that this show isn’t about the power of believing in yourself. Some of the sound effects are a bit much at times, particularly the metallic clanking of steel greaves on stone, but it’s a nice touch to show that they went to the trouble; so many other shows seem to think it’d be no different than rubber-soled shoes.

Overall, I’d say this show ranks pretty high as far as things coming out today. It has an intriguing storyline (that you’ll notice I was careful not to ruin), an internally consistent world and a mood that makes you glad you live in the 21st century, with all of its accompanying luxuries.

Of course, it also makes you glad you don’t have to worry about demons coming to slake their thirst with your precious bodily fluids, but I think we can all agree on that being a matter of course.