Claymore Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 16 and Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Claymore

Claymore Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     April 13, 2009
Release Date: March 24, 2009


Claymore Vol. #4
© FUNimation Entertainment, LTD

The danger level is high as the mystery of events starts to unfold and Clare finds herself working towards the same goals as the Organization. For now at least.

What They Say
A brutal scourge stalks the land. Yoma, monsters driven by a hunger satisfied by only one quarry: Humanity. The dark breed knows but a singular foe: Claymore. Human-Yoma hybrids of extraordinary strength and cunning, the Claymores roam from skirmish to skirmish delivering salvation by the edge of a blade.

Thus continues the twisting tale of Clare, one such sister of the sword driven by pain in both victory and defeat. Three beings of myth have risen from exile to open a new front in the war between monsters and men. Clare's march to battle is brisk, for on the killing fields awaits the one she has lived to destroy. Vengeance is coming to the snowy wastelands of the North.

Contains episodes 15-18..

The Review!
Audio:
FUNimation’s release of Claymore is spot on as it’s one of the few releases that they’ve made the bump up to a 5.1 mix for with the English side. The English language track gets a solid 448kbps 5.1 mix that has some solid moments throughout, more from overall impact than directionality, with the opening and closing sequences being the strongest. The action scenes make out rather well also and it helps to give it a decent boost over the Japanese track. The original Japanese stereo mix, at 192kbps, is no slouch as it serves the material well and is problem free, but it lacks some of the impact with the sound effects and music that the 5.1 mix provides.

Video:
Originally airing throughout 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. FUNimation’s encode here is rather solid as it spends most of its bandwidth in the sevens through nines and these episodes fare a bit better than the first volume did. Colors look a bit stronger and not quite so plastic like and the grain comes across as reduced. It also helps that there wasn’t any really big red scene sequences here that are difficult to work with. Though the first volume left me feeling rather disappointed, this one comes across a fair bit stronger and more pleasing overall.

Packaging:
The keepcase for this release is once again really nicely done and quite appealing. The front cover has a very engaging piece with one of the Claymore’s leaping out into action while the background has that of the eyes of evil to fill it out. The dynamic nature of it, combined with the foil that gives it so much more, really gives it a very powerful feeling. The logo is provided in two forms, one in its English language version that’s seen on the manga along the upper right which is pretty small. The other is the larger logo that’s done sideways in silver and red foil along the left which stands out a lot more and is far more appealing. The back cover is done in a soft white with a few shots from the show that uses the foil paper to good effect. The summary is well done in covering what this volume is about without giving away too much. The discs extras are all clearly listed as are the episode numbers and titles. The rest is rounded out with the standard production information and a very small technical grid that covers the very basics. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menu design for Claymore takes its cues from the cover artwork which is a real positive. The use of the characters from the cover in the standard colors is really appealing as it has a certain vibrancy to it that doesn’t feel overly done. Combined with the dark background and the instrumental music used with it, it sets the mood nicely, even if it is a bit busy. The navigation along the bottom is standard design for FUNimation and the submenus load quickly and without problem. The disc doesn’t read our players’ language presets though and defaults to English language with no subtitles. While not a standout design, it’s one that takes some good elements from the cover design and incorporates it well.

Extras:
This release has a couple of English language oriented extras to it as well as the standard inclusion of the clean opening and closing sequence. The single episode commentary included on this volume is actually located in the extras section which is nice to see. For Japanese language fans, we get an extra this time around as well with a nearly seven minute fluffy interview with the art director for the series, Manabu Otsuzuki. Claymore certainly has a definite style to it and he does have some good things to say but it does feel like a lot of basic press junket kind of interview pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the fourth volume plays out and I look over the past reviews, I still find myself in much the same place. Each episode and story arc is interesting, this one more so because of the lack of Raki, but there still isn’t a feeling of a real connection with Claymore. The story is solid, the action is good and it’s certainly violent enough, but there’s a lack of a particular chemistry or magic to make me eagerly anticipate the next volume. Part of that likely revolves around the knowledge that the series is still ongoing in manga form and that there won’t be any true resolutions going on here anytime soon.

That said, we certainly get some wonderful teases with these episodes. The opening storyline covers three episodes in fact, entitled “The Witches Maw.” Clare’s attempts at finding Raki after he went off to prove himself haven’t netted her any results yet but she continues to look diligently for him. When she ends up in a slightly better than usual town, she’s surprised to find a group of Claymore’s there. As it turns out, they’re headed into the mountains to deal with something nasty there and she ends up getting caught up in all of it when one of them comes back with about half of her body missing. Though she’s ostensibly left the Organization, she can’t leave fellow Claymore’s in a situation like that and she’s compelled to go and help them out.

Taking place mostly inside a cave, it’s an interesting enough piece where an Awakened Being has decided to start capturing Claymore’s and torturing them until they turn themselves into Awakened Beings that she can then control. With some helpful people along the way, including one very big lug of a man under her thrall, she’s setting her plans into motion. Clare stumbles into this and ends up helping the survivors try to deal with it and escape from her clutches. What makes it personal for Clare is that the witch has information about the male Awakened Being in the North who has Priscilla in his grasp. Normally Clare would just do what she could to kill her, but the witch gives her quite the challenge with information as a prize first as she tries to turn Clare to her side for her army.

The intriguing part of this is what the witch reveals about how the dominant Awakened Beings, the most powerful of them all, have set themselves up over the years with their locations and the way they aren’t aggressive with each other. Things are changing on that front, with her amassing an army to deal with the male from the north, and watching the little nuances hint at something bigger going on as well. This storyline also has one of the Claymore’s that Clare rescues becoming her follower of sorts as she has given her life in service to Clare after the events with the witch. It’s amusing to see another puppy of sorts following her but there are some really good moments with it, especially when others realize what’s going on in seeing a single digit ranked Claymore acting like that to Clare.

The remaining episode on the disc is the start of a new storyline so we only get one episode but it’s one that is very much an engaging one. With the knowledge she has now about the male in the north, she starts heading there only to discover that her mission lines up with that of the Organization. A deal is offered and she learns that there are some twenty plus other Claymore’s being sent north as well to deal with the issue. This brings her back into contact with the others, led by Miria, who have decided to be more cautious about what the Organization is doing. The small group gains a new member in this setting and it’s nicely building on what’s come before with what they learned about Awakened Beings and their own ability to surpass their limits while still being able to pull back from going all the way.

In Summary:

Claymore continues to be a good series but it’s still missing something I can’t put my finger on. When I get a new volume I find myself putting it into the player rather quickly, but it’s not a release I find myself anticipating. There’s a whole lot to like here and it’s a very well put together show with some fascinating themes and angles to it. This set of episodes brings in a good bit of new information with a good bit of action and violence as well and it sets the stage perfectly for the next volume as several different aspects are now coming together into one bigger piece. Swords and sorcery anime fans tend to get the short end of the stick because there’s so little out there but Claymore feeds that need just right.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, Episode 16 Commentary, Interview with Art Director Manabu Otsuzuki (Kusanagi)

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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