The Claymore manga debuted around the millennium, and the anime had one season in 2007. Depending on who you ask, that’s considered “old” for a franchise. The lack of merchandise or sequels, combined with the fact Claymore emerged when the former Big Three did–Naruto, Bleach, and One Piece–ensures it’s a franchise not many discuss. But I would be doing this blog a disservice if I didn’t discuss one of the best and all-female franchises I’ve ever read and seen.
As far as main characters go, Claire is initially a bit dull. The story seems to do this on purpose: all Claymores–fighters named for the swords they carry–are aloof as a result of their monster-hunting duties, rarely working in teams and committed to the bidding of their Organization. Like Jedi Knights, their unofficial code is that love leads to fear that weakens the mind. This changes when Claire takes on Raki, a kid who pledges his life to her in the very first episode. Claire doesn’t become lovey-dovey after this, but the spirit of self-sacrifice she demonstrates recurs throughout the story, and is largely attributable to the relationship she and Teresa shared. Who is Teresa, you ask?
Teresa of the Faint Smile is the most badass fighter I know, and I wish I’d thought of her for my Blonde Waifus post. In a world consumed by fiendish Yoma, she stands at the pinnacle of all warriors. I felt her power through the screen whenever she spoke or swung her sword. After episode four, Claymore is focused on the large shadow Teresa casts over Claire and everyone in the Organization. Her significance lasts well past the anime and into the final chapters of the manga, which ended in 2014. If you every get that far, I promise you’ll find one of the best twists in storytelling.
Claymore eventually becomes a revenge story I’ve never been able to get out of my mind. We learn early on that Claymores are created by mixing the flesh of Yoma–the demons that run rampant on the continent– with female children. Claire makes it her mission to hunt an Awakened Being–an ultra powerful breed of Yoma– that took the person most precious to her. This bloodlust leads Claire towards increasingly greater threats with little regard for her own life. Raki, for all his doting on Claire, kind of plays second fiddle to Teresa as the story goes on. It reminds me of Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003) of all things, a psychological probe of the character and how PTSD fuels Bruce Banner’s fury.
One of the things Claymore does so well is place women at the forefront of the action. It becomes clear that all Yoma are male, and many men who aren’t Yoma may as well be because they’re wicked and selfish. I don’t see it as a misandry soapbox for Norihiro Yagi (who is a man) but there’s moments that lead me to believe Yagi very much understands the politics of men and women. The explanation about why there are no male Claymores is humorously related to sexuality and male excitability. Moreso, there’s one almost-rape scene in the anime where a man clarifies he’s not interested in sexual gratification, but instead wants to humiliate and overpower his victim; it’s a power dynamic every feminist is aware of. Although current media discourse aims for depictions of women and other minorities that don’t rely on suffering as a major plot device, I think Claymore manages to empower its women in ways I don’t often see in the dark fantasy genre, focusing on their ability to overcome a shockingly cruel world by being even crueler.
I wouldn’t call any of the women in Claymore “waifus.” It’s a colloquialism understood by most otaku, but it’s also rooted in the consumption of fictional characters as fetish. This blog mostly focuses on PVC and ABS scale figures; in that sense, I’ve come to associate “waifus” with objects in a very literal sense. The female characters I most resonate with–Kusanagi, Senjougahara, Hachikuji, Teresa and Claire–are fleshed out enough to break free of the injection mould, so to speak. Most fictional characters require a lot of imagination on the part of the viewer to flesh them out, since the authors can only write so much detail. The characters in Claymore, on the other hand, transcend my otherwise flat notions of waifus. Maybe that speaks to how well Norihiro Yagi was able to breathe life into them.