Norihiro Yagi’s ‘Claymore’ (クレイモア) is a dark and brooding story chronicling the journey of Claire, a Claymore (a half-breed of Human and Yoma), through her miserable job of destroying Yoma, devious creatures who morph into humans and proceed, resolutely, to start slowly feasting on a habitation’s population.
This manga is a good springboard for Yagi to develop the reader’s understanding of the motivations of the empty Claire and whilst this emphasis is really this manga’s greatest strength; it’s also its greatest weakness.
Claire, the protagonist, is a ‘Strong and Silent’ type and Yagi does well to avoid spawning the same type of mistake that becomes of D in The ‘Vampire Hunter D’ anime. Yagi fully develops and moulds her as he takes her through his scenes (chapters). From scene one Yagi moulds Claire into a character much like that of D, who’s sole purpose is to seek, locate and destroy Yoma. He starts to unpeel not only the heart of her character, through the various encounters and interaction she has with the story’s characters, but also begins to unravel his character’s past and the motivations it in the present.
In many ways Yagi is as good at creating this peeling effect of Claire’s character as Lieber, Abrams, Lindelof are at developing their multi-faceted and fantastically complex characters in ‘Lost’. Yagi takes the reader on flash backs and invites the reader to explore the depths of Claire’s heart. In this way ‘Scene Four: The Black Card’ is a perfect example of how brilliant Yagi is at simultaneously unravelling his protagonist’s past whilst developing character. This poignant scene is highlight of the manga and is brilliantly charged between a human desire to prolong life as long as possible against Yoma resoluteness.
Wait! “When are you going to stop talking about Claire and talk about the plot?” I hear you say. Well, this is the story’s greatest weakness. Yagi forges a character that is so good that the plot is derived entirely from her. This means that the basic plot, which consists of Claire arrives, Claire finds Yoma, Claire defeats Yoma, Claire leaves, and the characters within that plot are cardboard and serve only to progress the growth of Claire’s character. This does not mean that the end product is not good. It is a good manga and its strength lays in Claire and her alone in this first volume, even Claire’s companion, Raki, who’s entire family is killed by Yoma (who disguises himself as, Zaki, Raki’s brother) is fairly undeveloped. He can cook and be hungry and cook again. Yagi’s problem is this, his protagonist lacks a strong supporting cast and plot. The only two characters of any depth are Rubel, another character who possesses a wonderfully mysterious edge, and the Yoma themselves.
The story is complemented by Yagi’s depiction of some strikingly lush images, which only add more to the atmosphere surrounding Claire, but is nothing radical. In terms of artistry ‘Claymore’ is very Shonen Jump.
In conclusion, a good read if you like dark, character driven stories with a real atmospheric edge. Conversely, the story suffers from the fact that the protagonist is the only thing of real substance driving it. This does not mean that the manga is bad, it is very good and has a lot of potential. Yagi must build upon his shaky foundation carefully in order that the onion be correctly peeled in order to ensure that his readers do not peel away instead.