Reviewby Theron Martin, Jul 5th 2008
Thanks to a catastrophic experiment performed ages ago by the Organization, #5-ranked Claymore Rafaela has long carried both a scar and dark secret, and both pertain to the Creature of the Abyss Luciela. As Isley seeks to defeat Luciela, Rafaela seeks her own confrontation with her onetime sister. In the wake of those events seven years pass, and a new generation of Claymores has arisen to replace the many lost (or presumed lost) at Pieta. Some of them, including the new and incomplete #47-ranked Clarice, journey north on an Awakened Being-hunting mission, only to catch a hint of another big secret. Clarice later finds herself reassigned to assist the current #4-ranked Claymore Miata, a young woman with a rather unusual problem. Meanwhile figures from the past are on the move, and past meets present in deadly battle.
Show of hands: how many people who have been following either the animated or manga version of Claymore since the beginning actually seriously thought that manga-ka Norihiro Yagi was going to leave most of his principle cast, including his main heroine, dead and just move on in the wake of the events of volume 11?
The improbability of such a move is so great that it should not count as a spoiler that he does not, in fact, do that. Although the time shift forward seven years does allow him to introduce a whole slate of new Claymores – most notably the seeming new centerpiece Clarice – he brings back many of the key players from the Pietà arc before this volume is even half-done. If any surprise exists here, it lies in exactly how the seven unaccounted-for Claymores managed to survive a seeming certain death, a flashback which also provides much of the volume's best dramatic content. They have even picked up a few new tricks along the way, which should gratify shonen fans. Based on the actions of Clare, Miria, and company in these chapters, they will still be playing an integral role in the main storyline for some time to come.
But while the Pietà survivors get a significant portion of the attention in these six chapters, they are hardly the only foci of attention. Chapter 64, the volume opener, definitively explains and resolves Rafaela's situation, which also partly deals with the results of the titanic battle between Creatures of the Abyss that ended the previous volume. In doing so it provides a nice little cameo of another prominent character from the past. The volume spends nearly as much time establishing Clarice, a Claymore whose weakness and retaining of her original hair color mark her as a warrior who has apparently not undergone the full hybrid transformation. Although she practically radiates an “I'm a wide-eyed-newbie” aura, her personality has yet to fully settle in by the end of the volume. She does form a rather unique, um, “relationship” with new #4 Claymore Miata, while Audrey and Ray, the new #3 and #5 Claymores, also make appearances. (The volume has nothing to say about what happened to the previous #3 Galatea, however.)
In general, though, the series still returns to its shonen roots: sexy women wielding big swords and using flashy displays of skill and power. This volume may have less actual action in it than the previous few, but still provides several opportunities for the ladies to strut their stuff. Crediting any of the material here with depth may be pushing it, but the writing does offer plenty of character development and a good amount of drama and scheming.
Whether drawing his ladies, the Awakened Beings, Elders, or background art, Yagi's artistic chops are as strong as ever. Few do as good a job (much less a better one) at portraying bleak landscapes, ruins, or rocky ground, and rarely does his artistry lack for background detail. He continues to work wonders at finding slight variations on character design to differentiate a vast cast of female characters who nearly all have the same hair color, although a couple of his newest designs are starting to blend into his older ones. Miria altering her hairstyle a bit in Clarice's timeline appearances does not help matters, either. The decidedly different apparel of the Pietà survivors does give him a chance to finally toy with some costuming variation, and he still stages his combat scenes nearly as well as anyone. If his artistry has a flaw, it's that, in some panels, it is not always clear who the speaker is for the dialog in the word balloons. The color cover art, with its light blue tones starkly contrasting the bleakness of the scene, provides a great advertisement for the volume, and the silver eyes of Clarice on the back create an interestingly disconcerting effect when viewed from different angles. The graphic content is not quite as high as in the last couple of volumes but still present.
As with previous volumes, this Viz Media release under their Shonen Jump Advanced label opens with a brief bio on Yagi and a brief story summary set against negatives of scenes from this volume. It has no ending Extras beyond a “next volume” preview page. Sound effects are invariably translated. The title's continuing $7.99 MSRP maintains it as one of the most economical manga purchases on the market, a pleasant surprise given that several prominent titles are now creeping into the $10.99 range for equal or smaller page counts.
Interesting story developments combine with new characters and all of the elements that have made earlier volumes a hit – action, clearly-defined characters, impressive artistry – to produce a volume which should easily maintain fan enthusiasm for the series. If you have only seen the anime version, though, you should go back and start with vol. 11, as most events portrayed here directly result from the different direction the manga version started to take there.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Price, excellent artistry, plenty of mature-oriented shonen goodness.
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