Claymore Vol. #3/4 (of 3) (Mania.com)

By:Dani Moure
Review Date: Thursday, April 22, 2010
Release Date: Monday, August 31, 2009

The tasks for Clare and the other Claymore get even more perilous as the Organisation turns up the heat.

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. Whispers of conspiracy fill the air, but the gravest peril is not hidden. Enter Ophelia, a Claymore of joyful cruelty with a zealot's devotion to the massacre of all who have Awakened. And Clare will suffer as her prey. Flesh will fall from bone, but there will be no rest until Teresa is avenged.

The Review!
Audio:
Claymore has a solid 5.1 mix for the English language presentation, which I listened to
for my main review. Dialogue mostly seems to come from the centre but the sound effects and music make out better, having more impact than the Japanese stereo track, particularly during the intense action scenes and the opening and ending sequences.

Video:
Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the video quality is, in places, a little disappointing. Upscaled, the opening and ending sequences are bad, filled with a fair amount of blocking and dot crawl. The episodes are generally fine but occasionally show some similar problems, with blocking mainly apparent during scenes of heavy motion. For the most part though the bleak colours come across well and it looks decent if not exceptional.

Subtitles are in a nice yellow font, and I noticed no spelling or grammatical errors.

Packaging:
No packaging was included as this was a check disc.

Menu:
The menus are all static, taking their design cues from the cover art which is quite striking. The dark tone of the series comes across very well with the characters really standing out against the bleak backgrounds. Some background music plays over the menus. All the sub-menus load quickly and navigation through them is quick and easy.

Extras:
The first extra on volume three is a nice interview with Yasunori Honda (Sound Director), in which he discusses several interesting topics including casting the show and how he regrets some of the choices they asked the voice actors to make at the start of the show. The second disc features another nice interview, this time with Manabu Otsuzuki (Art Director), talking about some of the choices he made with the show. Both discs also include a commentary each, discussing the English language production of the show, and both discs also feature the texless opening and ending as well.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the end of the first two volumes, there were hints of a much larger story coming in to play, bringing Clare together with a few of her fellow Claymores. That story continues well into this volume, as Clare is initially separated from, but later reunited with, the rest of her kind who are looking to debunk the Organisations conspiracies.

The conspiracy theories begin as this episode completes the previous volume's story, with Miria raising questions about the four of them sent on this mission all having questionable reputations as somewhat troublemakers. She theorises that the four of them may actually have already awakened, and are slowly creeping towards being taken over. Although it seems surprising, the four decide to make a pact together to find out the truth.

Naturally Clare's next mission sees them separated, as she's sent to chase down yet another Awakened Being. Just when you're wondering if the show is turning into chase after chase, one of the other top Claymores - Ophelia - is on the scene as well. Although it initially appears they are on the same side, Ophelia quickly realises that Clare is part awakened and takes the fight to her. Clare ends up losing her arm in the ensuing battle with Ophelia and the Awakened Being, but another of her kind, "Quick Sword" Ilena, turns up to lend Clare a helping hand.

Clare learns a few new things about her past, and gets a new arm in the process. She ends up fighting with Ophelia, even after another Claymore arrives. This story leads perfectly into the next phase of the show, when the Organisation's leaders send a group of Claymores to a village to deal with an Awakened Being, although this one seems to have a different vibe and they appear to have other reasons for sending Clare. She is still on the lookout for Raki, who went missing during the fight with Ophelia. Arriving in the town, she finds several Claymores ravaged, and this is where the story turns interesting.

Following the trail of destruction, Clare finds a giant Awakened Being, but it is being ordered around by a young girl who is also having fun torturing the other Claymores. As it turns out, the girl is one of only three "Creatures of the Abyss", number one Claymores that have awakened. While two are women, one is from the age of men, and it is this man to the north that apparently has Priscilla. As Clare's past begins to catch up to her present, Clare helps stop another Claymore called Jean from awakening, and in doing so Jean vows to stand by her to the death.

With Clare, Jean and another, Galatea, fighting the giant, they eventually defeat it but find the girl to be another matter altogether. She does reveal that the Silver King Isley is the man Clare is after. When matters are concluded here, Clare is ordered north where she finds 24 of her compatriots, who split in to teams to lead an assault on a town of Awakened Beings. She soon meets up with her conspiracy theory friends, but the battle is just beginning.

What I really enjoyed about these episodes is how well they slowly built the intensity, not only of their own individual stories but of the overall story arc as a whole. Clare's past with Teresa and Priscilla is now really coming back in to play, and the build up to the reveal of the Silver King being the one she will need to get to is nicely done. We now know just how much of an uphill struggle this fight will be, knowing the power of all these Awakened Beings we keep seeing the girls fight and, of course, the one girl here who is also a Creature of the Abyss. With Clare only managing to land a single blow on her, you have to wonder how formidable Isley will be.

The other aspect of the story that is nice and refreshing is the feeling of camaraderie amongst the Claymores. Although many have their own agendas, and also appear to be totally devoted to the Organisation no matter what, it is nice to see Clare find some allies, and when they all meet up in the final episode here it makes a nice change to not have the lead being a complete loner (or loner with single side-kick), which is what Clare really started out as.

As you would expect, the fights are great if not always amazingly animated. Sometimes the fluidity suffers but in general we get a nice scale, especially during the battle with Dauf, and it's always well conveyed how hard a foe will be to defeat. The other aspect that really helped with these episodes was that Raki is sidelined almost immediately, and barely makes a significant appearance after that. I am quite happy to see him gone because it gives Clare another reason to fight on and continue her mission, but also because it stops us having to hear him whine so much. At this stage, he is still the only really annoying character so that is a big plus. The other girls all have their quirks, but I found Jean one of the most interesting, for the way she commits to Clare once she saves her from awakening. A few of the Claymores we haven't seen much of do come off a bit archetypal, but hopefully they'll be fleshed out in the final episodes.

In Summary:
The heat is really turned up in these two volumes of Claymore, with the story progressing very well and becoming quite addictive. The core characters, especially Clare, get a bit more fleshed out, with our heroine in particular having several reasons now to fight on and no doubt eventually go up against the Organisation. With these being the middle episodes of the series, most of what we get is building up and setting the pieces in place for the thrust towards the big finale, but these episodes rarely spend much time meandering and are really enjoyable on the whole. Again, getting eight episodes in one go really helps, as you get a good chunk of the story, which makes this set really good value. Hopefully it will build on these strengths for the final volume, but for now Claymore is definitely a show I'd recommend.stem.

Features
Japanese Language (2.0), English Language (5.1), English Subtitles, Commentary: Episodes #11 and #16, Interview with Sound Director Yasunori Honda, Interview with Art Director Manabu Otsuzuki, Textless Songs

Review Equipment
Samsung LE40M86 1080p HDTV, Sony BDP-S350 Blu-ray player (upscaling DVDs to 1080p via HDMI), Pioneer HTP-GS1 5.1 Surround Sound System.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: NA
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 15 and Up
Region: 2 - Europe/Japan
Released By: Manga UK
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 200
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Claymore