Claymore Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, April 11, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Norihiro Yagi
Translated by:Jonathan Tarbox
Adapted by:

What They Say
A village is gripped by fear and paranoia when a Yoma claims six lives. The Claymore who is sent to slay the creature isn't what the villagers expect at all. In fact, she seems more monster than human.

The Review
A title that definitely stands apart from most of the Shonen Jump material, Claymore is an action fantasy manga that displays a lot of great potential with this debut volume. Keep your silver eye on this one!


Packaging:
Ooooh, I like this cover! The cover illustration is a headshot of Clare posing with her big sword, which does a nice job at filling up the entire cover with no white or empty space. The subdued orange and tan colors are dead on for this title. The added touch with silver glossy inlays for the reflective eyes and title logo is perfect! Even the back cover illustration uses the same technique for the eyes as well. Nice work!

Inside the book, this release is pretty much bare bones. The print reproduction is decent, with a few small issues of moiré tones and a couple dark pages. Unfortunately VIZ didn't go with the color plates for the opening chapter, which they did do in the magazine preview in a previous issue of Shonen Jump. There is a small preview for the next volume, due June 2006, but no extras.

Art:
If you were to quickly flip through the book, it's possible the character artwork would be a put-off, which would be doing a big disservice to this title. With most shounen titles, drawing girls in suggestive or ultra cute ways is usually the standard, which is not the case here (even though, yes, there is a bit of nudity). Norihiro Yagi's characters take on a much more realistic approach with a certain fragility to them, especially the Claymore. Looking past the character designs, the backgrounds tend to be very nicely done although they are a bit dry most of the time. Yagi's composition is also quite striking, putting together some sequences that feel quite cinematic. There are even a few one to two page spreads in here that are quite nice! The form may be somewhat lacking, but the function most definitely is not.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated with overlays, which try to mimic the original style of the hand-drawn effects. I like the effort, but I'm still not quite sold on how they integrate with the artwork. The English script is solid. I really enjoyed has this one read, highlighting the subdued mood and harshness that underlines the story.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Had all of VIZ's Shonen Jump imprints and ads been removed from the book, I would have been hard pressed to determine the origins of Norihiro Yagi's history fantasy manga, Claymore. From the opening couple pages, the artwork and subdued nature of the book feels more like something out of a toned down seinen magazine rather than the monthly version of SJ it was originally serialized in, and still remains to this day. The main protagonists of the story are also female, who so far are not reduced to rom-com fanservice bait, the blunt end of perverted jokes, or set up as the heroic rescues of some boy wonder. Are you sure this is shounen!?

Claymore takes place in a fictional medieval world where Yoma have wreaked havoc on the villages and their inhabitants. In order to survive, humanity has developed a new breed of warriors that they call "Claymore"--half-human, half-monster hunters with silver eyes who harness the Yoma half of their being for supernatural powers. So far, for an unknown reason, this genetic breeding only works on females, with the male specimens ending up as total disasters.

The Claymores align themselves with the humans, but are feared as abominations and are never really allowed to fit in with the rest of humanity. Instead, their only job is to take orders and kill Yoma for a fee, collected after the job is finished by mysterious men in black. They walk the land in solitude, emotionally detached from their environment and saddled with the possibility that someday that other Yoma half of their body could take over completely. Losing what makes them human means forfeiting their life, a ritual which includes picking another Claymore whom she wishes to perform the execution.

As you may discern from the title, there are big swords to be swung in this story. Our first Claymore we meet is Clare, who hops from job to job with a blank stare and empty heart. Along the way she picks up a human boy named Raki, who is not afraid of Clare and reminds her of herself when she was abandoned by her village when she was still full human. She allows Raki to follow her as her cook, a job that is later revealed to be quite irrelevant as Claymores don't need to eat very much at all. Having Raki along is a way for Clare to try and remain in touch with her human side, always fighting off that other Yoma half that eventually will take her over completely.

While the story in this first volume is mainly structured around Yoma hunting jobs with little to no background story, as a whole Norihiro Yagi succeeds is introducing us to this fantasy world and the harshness of the Claymore life. Given that this is originally a monthly title, chapters are more in the 40-60 page range, allowing the individual stories to have a bit more meat to them. At first, I thought the final chapter's story came a bit too soon, with quite the dramatic event taking place, but looking back it served as a good way to explore the dark and emotional ties and relationships that Claymore have with each other. As with most introductory volumes, you'll find yourself with a lot more questions than answers, but the potential of this story is quite great.

Comments
A medieval world filled with monsters who are slain by solitary, emotionless warriors wielding giant swords; it's easy to have images of Berserk thrown into your mind, isn't it? Well, Claymore is nowhere near as expansive, or graphic for that matter, but for those looking for an new fantasy title that features sword wielding women instead of brutish men, give this one a shot.

This first volume is definitely an introduction, so don't expect a lot of back story or information surrounding the Claymore; this first book is just there to get your appetite wet for what I hope to be a fresh Shonen Jump title. There is a good amount of well illustrated Yoma-slicing action, but overall I'm still perplexed that this title came from SJ's monthly magazine. It definitely feels much more like a seinen manga, only very much toned down (which may or may not be good thing depending on the reader).

I came away really pleased with this first volume. There is a lot of great potential here, and as far as debut volumes go, that's what I definitely look for. I hope Norihiro Yagi will deliver.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1-4215-0618-1
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left