Claymore Complete Series (of 1) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, February 16, 2010
The only thing that can take of the evil Yoma monsters roaming the countryside is a mysterious organization that uses women that are half Yoma as their weapons.
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 begins the twisting tale of Clare, one such sister of the sword driven by pain in both victory and defeat. A child silent and suffering hidden in her past, Clare's march toward vengeance unfolds along a path marked by violence, solitude and scorn. In a land where even the predator is prey, the haunted hearts of hunter and hunted alike wear the scars of the age.
Contains episodes 1-26.
The audio presentation for Claymore mirrors much of what FUNimation is doing with their TV series releases these days in that the stereo mix gets encoded with the lossy Dolby Digital codec at the maximum of 640kbps while the 5.1 mix gets the lossless Dolby TrueHD encoding. There are certainly significant differences between the two, though it is worth noting that the stereo mix makes out far better than the DVD mix, but even a lossless stereo mix would sound much better than what we get here. The English 5.1 mix shines pretty well with a fair bit of directionality during the action sequences and quite a few scenes of good placement and depth when it comes to numerous characters on screen conversing. It's not a standout mix but it is a good one that conveys the original intent well. Both tracks come across as clean and clear though as they're free of problems.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This upscaled release has twenty-six episodes spread across three discs in a nine/nine/eight format. Unlike Heroic Age, which came out at the same time, this release varies the bitrate more with a lot of moments in the high twenties instead of hovering in the high teens and low twenties. Claymore is very reminiscent of Basilisk in a way as both of them had dark and noisy DVD releases, some of it attributable to the source materials. Claymore's upscale is one that helps to eliminate a lot of the noise but not all of it as you can see a fair bit of movement in a lot of solid colors. There's some stairstepping visible in the details of the characters, particularly around the eyes of some of them when panning shots are involved. This release utilizes DVNR (digital video noise reduction) which does smooth things out and can eliminate some detail, but with this being an upscale of standard definition materials I'm not sure how much is being lost. This isn't a true high definition title but it's much, much better looking than the DVD releases.
Claymore had some really engaging DVD covers and I really like the starkness of this Blu-ray set. The set is standard fare with a thin cardboard slipcover which has the front and spine all in white. Clare takes the front of the slipcover and it's very striking with her silver and gray colors against it, especially with the shadows. The logos look good and I think the Blu-ray stripe along the top gives the cover a bit of necessary color without feeling too out of place. The back of the slipcover has a lot of white but it's a big strip overlaid on the main background of a church interior from the show. The white strip covers a lot of ground with a breakdown of the overall plot and a nice section of six small but nicely framed images from the show. The rest is given over to the breakdown of the sets disc and episode count as well as the extras while the bottom has an awkward gray and white technical grid that reflects the various specs of the content.
Inside the slipcover we get a pair of standard Blu-ray cases that flow well with the amount of white space available on each of the covers. The first volume has a great illustration of Teresa standing proud against the cloudy sky with her sword out while the second cover has a red filled piece with a serious looking Riful looking out over all of it. The back covers are wraparound pieces for the backgrounds which is nice but there's a huge white strip through it, similar to the back of the slipcover, that has the episode numbers and titles for the discs on that set along with listing the volume specific extras. There are some really well done reversible covers here as well with different Claymore's presented on them while the back sides feature the same kind of episode number and title listings.
This release makes out really well with a full color booklet included that has a lot of information in it. It breaks down most of the main cast of characters with profile pages for them, there's several pages of interviews with the creative staff behind the show and a lot of artwork and production sketch and design material as well. It's pretty standard stuff in its own way but it's well put together and adds a really nice element to the set as something that shows more care and attention to detail to things. It's definitely a good value-added item.
The menus for this release are very, very simple with only a touch of thematic elements to it. The upper left corner features the navigation bar, which for most of it is just the play, audio and episodes selections, while the third disc gets the extras as well. The pop-up menu uses the same thing so there’s not much distinctive about it since it uses what you could call a fantasy era font for the text text and just some of the colors from the show. The majority of the main menu sections showcase clips from the feature with lots of action, very fast paced material, which works well with the intense and busy instrumental piece that plays along to it. The animation choices are really very well chosen and it came together really well but the navigation itself is where they can really make it unique and they’ve not followed through on that outside of a token nod. The discs did not read our players’ language presets correctly as they defaulted to English language with no subtitles.
This release has a good deal of extras to it that are almost all on the last volume outside of the commentary tracks. Each volume has two tracks to it which has the cast and staffers going over the show and plenty of unrelated silliness that populates many anime commentary tracks, both in the US and Japan. On the third volume we also get a few of the cast auditions which are short snippets of a few of the lead characters done with a static image and the relevant audio. The numerous interviews from the DVD releases are here as well as it deals with the director and various production directors. Add in a batch of TV commercials and the clean opening and closing sequences and you have a good set of standard definition extras here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the ongoing manga series by Norihiro Yagi, Claymore is a twenty-six episode series that plays up the swords and babes angle pretty well but does it with a growing and intense story involving a conspiracy. Set in a traditional fantasy oriented setting similar to what we’ve seen with the series Berserk, it deals with plenty of violence, fear and superstition while mixing in some decent action, choreography and set design.
The world that this show inhabits is a dark, dank and dangerous one for the most part, even if you are part of the religious side of things. Mankind faces the challenge of the Yoma, a breed of monsters that devour the delicious innards of people. They’re able to take on the form of people that they kill so they’re able to mingle in well enough. Some are smarter than others, some work in groups while others work alone. Their end goal at this stage of the show seems to be nothing more than satisfying their base desires. They thirst for the innards but they also appear to really enjoy the violence and stalking people through the night in order to feast on them.
In order to combat these Yoma that roam about, a mysterious Organization was formed to deal with them. The people behind it manipulated others in order to produce fighters that could compete and overpower the Yoma. Their experiments proved that only women were capable of this as they turned ordinary humans into half breeds with Yoma. Giving them the power of the Yoma but the control of the woman, they’re able to keep that power in check and use it wisely. The downside is that the continual use of the Yoma side eventually does lead them to losing control, and at that stage only another fellow warrior would be able to take them down. These women don’t have any name, much like the Organization doesn’t, but among mankind they’re known as Claymores, the silvery-eyed witches.
As with most series of this nature, the first few episodes work through the idea of introducing the concept and the main characters that we’re dealing with. The series opens by introducing us to Clare, a Claymore who has come to a village where a Yoma is causing quite a lot of trouble. With her abilities, she’s able to detect it easily enough once things get explained enough and she ends up killing the thing that has taken over the body of a young man whose parents were killed by it. The downside is that this was all done in front of the brother who is now all that’s left. Raki is stunned by this as he’s now lost his entire family to this beast, but he’s at least seen it completely destroyed. What makes the situation worse is that he’s now exiled from the village because of what happened and has nowhere to go. So when he seeks out Clare, he does whatever he can to stay with her for as long as he can.
Managing to convince her that he can work as her cook, the two start traveling together as she handles her jobs as assigned to her by the organization. They’re all very simple at their core – kill the Yoma. It’s figuring out who the Yoma are and the possible issues surrounding it that makes these first episodes engaging. The introductory nature of it, seeing her work through the eyes of Raki, is standard procedure and it works well. Learning how she became a Claymore is given some initial talk as is the way that a Claymore’s life must end. How they live, sleeping only against their swords and eating no more than a handful every few days, sets them apart from everyone else and is disconcerting for many. But these little nuances are the things that let them stand out beyond their abilities to fight and kill.
It's from here that the series takes some unusual turns, especially as it spends several episodes taking us to the past where we see Clare's introduction to the Claymores themselves and how she was basically in the same position as Raki was at a younger age. This is an element that you'd normally write off because it's predictable but they tie it into the story later on in a rather fascinating way where it has large implications. This bit of background looks to set up why she takes up with Raki but it also explains Clare's motivation for becoming a Claymore and what her larger mission is as one, one that defines her life pretty strongly.
Much of the show involves Clare and other Claymore's dealing with the the Yoma they come across but also creatures called Awakened Beings. These creatures have a more complex history to them that is gradually revealed and is what the series turns on as it adds something more sinister to all of it. The conspiracy angle of it is where Claymore won me over more as various members of the organization start to realize that there's something more going on to their jobs and the lives they're leading. One battle against an Awakened Being has Clare and others realizing that there's a series of connections between them that raises a lot of red flags with no real evidence. Circumstantial as it may be, the possibility that they're being used in ways they hadn't thought of before and the motives of the Organization may not be what the think adds a lot to the show and becomes a huge part of the focus going into the second half.
Another big appeal of the show is the structure of it all. While it has its origins in manga, it doesn't play with the story of the week model and its translation to the anime side of it works exceptionally well. The show is broken into several arcs that run for multiple episodes and it has no problem with shifting back in time to provide context for what's going on. Giving each story time to play out, even if it does stretch out a fight a little longer sometimes, allows for it to tell more involved material when you add in the subplots that carry through. I [particularly liked how they went to a flashback story so very early on in the show in order to showcase Clare's past. Normally this might come at a later time in a series but getting it out of the way early allows for them to build on it naturally and without trying to use the revelations there as a surprise later. The surprises instead come more naturally from other areas, unexpected areas, as the Claymore's start admitting some things that they've learned and begin to work together.
The first time I had watched Claymore, I was unsettled a bit by the character designs for the Claymore's. They were given an otherworldly look and coloring to them to set them apart from normal humans who haven't taken on Yoma power. They were intended to looking disturbing and off-putting and they felt that but they also felt unappealing in a way that kept me from really connecting with it completely. The eyes are windows to the soul but these were cloudy windows that kept too much hidden and made it very hard to connect. The show is very dark overall and these silvery gray characters make it even duller in a way. This time around, knowing what to expect, I was less bothered by it but it still had an edge to it that while it does work for what they are, I still find it somewhat unappealing.
There's a significant difference in how this was viewed compared to my first time back when it was in bimonthly singles. Claymore is a show that really has a much stronger feel when taken as a total work, a complete story (with an open ended nature) that stands well even as you know there is more out there with the manga. The story arcs here build up an intriguing world where you want to know a lot more. There are things I didn't care for, such as Raki even though I get his significance, and I disliked some of what they brought into the end of it as it felt a little forced with Isley of the North, but by and large Claymore is a good strong fantasy style show that has a lot to offer. This Blu-ray edition is a mixed bag in a couple of ways when it comes to the technical, but if it's a toss-up between this and the DVD if you haven't bought either, the Blu-ray is a no brainer. It's a decent upgrade in some ways as well, particularly for the dub fan, but less so far the Japanese language fan. This is a release that's hard to recommend in some ways but easy in others. When it comes down to the content, it's definitely worth the money.
Japanese 2.0 Dolby Digital Language, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD Language, English Subtitles, Actor Commentaries, Cast Auditions, Original TV Commercials, Textless Songs
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.
Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 17 and Up
Region: A - N. America, S. America, East Asia
Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
Running time: 620
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 1080p
Disc Encoding: H.264/AVC