Have you ever wondered how reviewing works? When a series has shapeshifting demons (Yoma), a Euro medieval setting and a secret society of warrior women from the Joan of Arc finishing school for badass demon slayers with an armour dress code that suggests a feudal Britney Spears – sight unseen that is a (6). When said series is produced by Madhouse, creators of the original and genre-defining demon-slaying fest Ninja Scroll, you’re looking at least a (7) up to (9).
Madhouse does not disappoint. The action sequences are all high contrast freeze-frame/ speedline kineticism. The Yoma come apart like action figures and blood sprays as if it’s been attached to a sprinkler system. Art-wise, the series has all the hallmarks of a Madhouse production with inky thick linework. Color desaturation like emo is still all rage with Claymore appearing to have suffered a particular severe machine-wash leaving everyone pale and wan and the purple colour palette reduced to an anemic mauve.
Story-wise, the biggest danger with a series like Claymore is that if your lead is a little too awesome at introducing the demon to the long edge of a broadsword, then there is not a whole of threat or tension to be had. The series neatly avoids this by having its remorseless, female Claymores being half-Yoma themselves. And the more they use their powers to identify and defeat the Yoma, the more they return to their demonic state until it ultimately consumes them.
It’s good to see this at the fore. After a first episode where the Claymore Clare dispatches a Yoma with clinical efficiency, the second pits her against a fellow Claymore and friend Elena who has turned into a Yoma. Clare’s cold and indifferent exterior is no longer a cheap conceit but imbued with a resigned melancholy from the knowledge that friendships are doomed and that down the track, inevitably, a similar fate awaits her.
This theme is no one-off. Clare’s introduction to the sisterhood is explored through the eyes of another Claymore and the origins and perpetuating cycle of this dysfunctional sisterhood become all too clear. Claymores may be ice-cold killing machines but they are well screwed up because of it.
Less successful are the mystery plots of, ‘guess the demon-disguised-as-a-human’. It is key that the series develops this aspect and provides an intriguing police line-up of suspects for the viewer to mull over. Claymore here tends to take the easy route and focus on its action sequences rather than investing properly in its mysteries.
With its powerhouse action sequences and the psychological inner workings of the Claymores, the first five episodes lay a rock solid groundwork for the future. Claymore really is the thinking person’s action series.