So, I’m a bit behind on getting into this fantastic series, but now that I’ve just read volumes 1-3, I must admit: I’m hooked.
The story takes place in a medieval fantasy world filled with monsters called yoma which can hide their true nature to go amongst, and feed upon, mankind with impunity. The secret organization Claymore, nicknamed such because of the large swords its members wield, fights these monsters to protect humanity. Members of the organization are all silver-eyed human-yoma crossbreeds, having been fully human, but melded with monster blood and flesh to become super-powered warriors. All of these monster slayers are also female, since all men die during the process of joining yoma and human to make a Claymore. Neato.
All of this would be enough–awesome battles, blood, chicks with big swords, scary monsters–but Claymore does so much more. It hints at a rich history to its world and its characters, including the Claymore organization. From the role of the “Black Card” hidden in the slayers’ swords, to the men in black following the Claymore with new jobs and collecting payment on jobs completed, to the indications of what the young girls go through, and why, to become yoma hunters.
Claymore is well written, combining classic motifs of the “tough-guy character” and the “innocent follower” with a richly detailed dark fantasy world. The first two volumes introduce the reader to Clare (a Claymore) and Raki (a yoma attack survivor) and their compelling storyline of compassion, friendship, and adventure admist blood-soaked battles. Raki’s puppydog-like demeanor may at times be annoying, but its ultimate impact upon the cold, unfeeling Clare (while perhaps a bit cliched) is no less affecting. Volume 3, interestingly, leaves Clare and Raki behind to tell the story of another Claymore, Teresa of the Faint Smile, who like Clare is a well-trained, emotionless killer, but also “acquires” a stray orphan tag-along (whose identity I will leave for you to find out).
Another really cool point to make about this manga is that it features some extraordinarily powerful female characters. While this was a Shonen Jump title (because it’s an action title rather than romance), it’s main protagonists (other than the young, sometimes whiny Raki) are all butt-kicking women. It’s definitely got some grrrrl power.
As of right now, 10 tankobon of Claymore are in print stateside (volume 11 will be available in March 2008) and 13 in Japan (and counting). Also the anime recently wrapped in Japan, and hopefully will be licensed for the U.S.