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"Claymore Chapter 1": Blood and Iron

Claymore Chapter 1: The Burden of the Blade contains the first five episodes of this action-packed tale of friendship and sisterly love for one’s companions. Claymores are females who have taken the flesh and blood of a Yôma into their bodies and thus become half-human and half-Yôma. Working for an as-yet untitled organization, these silver-eyed witches live vagabond lives, slaying Yôma with their giant swords, never receiving pay for themselves but only for their employer. Clare—a low ranking Claymore—meets Raki when she comes to his village to slay the Yôma who has slaughtered both his family and many others. Raki’s innocence and naiveté allow him to see past Clare’s cold demeanor, and when his village banishes him out of fear that he too is a Yôma, Clare reluctantly takes him on as her cook.

Golden eyes: Clare triggers her Yôma powers, or do they trigger themselves?

Interestingly, females are the only ones who get the Yôma-fied treatment, and so appear to be the only super-powered beings capable of slaying them some Yôma. This gives Claymore an interesting place in the shônen—’young boy’—genre, and might make one wonder if Raki could eventually become the first male Claymore.

The dynamic between Clare and Raki becomes steadily more complex during the first four episodes. At times Raki comes off as slightly annoying in his attempt to get to know Clare, and her attempts to disconnect herself from humanity may cause eye rolling in some. But matters begin to hit their stride in the two-part story that runs through episodes three and four. That story has the two of them trying to enter a city that is closed to Claymores, and reveals how Clare’s training can allow her to slip between personas easily, so that she can switch from acting as Raki’s sweet older sister to a comely prostitute, if need be. Perceptive viewers, though, will find themselves wondering whether and how often she uses this same training to maintain an ever-crumbling wall between herself and Raki and even her own humanity.

I won’t spoil some of finer details of the series mythology; however I must say I’m intrigued by Clare’s past, as by the end of the disc we find that history truly does repeat itself, however bittersweetly.

The action in Claymore is obviously still developing in these initial five episodes. So far the fights typically have Clare hacking a Yôma in half or taking it apart limb by limb, allowing for a copious outpouring of everybody’s favorite life-sustaining fluid. It’s not until the third and fourth episodes that Clare is finally forced to battle in longer fights against a special sort of Yôma, a ‘Voracious Eater’, in a battle that is not concluded without cost.

Madhouse has provided the show with solid animation, with some real liveliness and backgrounds that, though not spectacular, are still detailed. They’ve also given the viewer a lot of nimble, sky-surfing limbs, though there may yet have been budget limitations that led them to be shy about showing any full-on slicing-and-dicing. At any rate, enough humans get slaughtered that I didn’t even notice that the Yôma—like most of the non-humans—had been given purple blood until I was nearly four-fifths of the way through the disc.

Andrew Rye has penned an English dub that, though taking liberties, retains the spirit and tone of the original. While not always ear-perking, the dialogue has its moments, and is ably sold by the cast. Clare starts off being very reticent but, unsurprisingly, slowly gains more dialogue as Raki ever so lovingly (if annoyingly) chips away at her shell.

“It’s what’s for dinner.” Clare slays a desert crocodile

The music of Claymore is also quite spectacular. The rock-themed opening combines with the visuals to produce a mildly subtle energy-booster that really gets the viewer into the feel of the show. The background music is also notable for the way it ranges from the creepy to the creepier. Were I not such a cheap dog I’d buy the original soundtrack.

My copy of the so-called starter set came with the disc and case, which is quite pretty. In addition to the English and Japanese (with subtitles) versions of the shows, Claymore Chapter 1 extras include trailers for other FUNimation titles, a selection of cast auditions, and an audio commentary on the first episode with Stephanie Young and Todd Haberkorn (Clare and Raki), who also act as ADR directos. The commentary allows the viewer into the actors’ minds and details how FUNimation went about adapting the series while remaining faithful to the original.

All in all, I’m certainly looking forward to more of Claymore, though I must warn that this product is rated TV-MA for intense graphic violence. So if you’re squeamish ’round lots and lots o’ blood and body parts being sliced off, I suggest you pass. Unless you’re a masochist, of course, and in which case you’ll be able to enjoy Claymore on several levels.

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