Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 14th 2011
As the fusion of Rafaela and Luciela that has become The Destroyer continues to wreak havoc on the land of Lautrec, it is all that Clare, Helen, Deneve, Uma, and Cynthia can do to survive the barrages and outlast the horrific creatures which grow from the projectiles. Meanwhile, Riful, weakened from her battles with the Abyssal Feeders, faces her own desperate struggle against Alicia and Beth. The situation grows even graver when an immensely powerful newcomer enters the battlefield, one who is very hungry and has her own agenda. To her, everything else – the twins, the Destroyer, even Riful – is a mere nuisance distracting her from her true purpose: to track down the source of a scent that she has long pursued. For one person present, though, the newcomer is the answer to a life's dream.
No point in trying to disguise it; this is the volume that fans of the franchise have been eagerly anticipating ever since the original backstory arc concluded back in volume 5: the volume where Clare finally gets to confront Priscilla. Unlike in the anime or the flashback in volume 14 which showed Priscilla's decisive first encounter with Isley, this is not a batshit crazy Priscilla, either, but one that is in full control of her faculties (even if she is still suppressing some memories) and in the glory of her power. That makes her sheer might all the more fearsome; by midway through the volumes readers will be left with no doubt about why Riful shied away from fighting her back in volume 11. Within the power structure of the setting of Claymore, Priscilla's fighting prowess is as bad-ass as bad-ass comes, so much so that one has to wonder how Norihiro Yagi will even make Clare a minor challenge for her without having the insanity gimmick to fall back upon, as the animated Priscilla/Clare encounter did.
The answer to that question is not forthcoming in this volume, as the conflict has only progressed through its earliest stages by the end of Scene 101 and plenty of other distractions still linger, including Helen and Deneve's own involvement in the encounter. As much as Clare is the lead protagonist, and as much as Clare's hunt for Priscilla has played a big role in defining the series, the story at this point must also cover Uma and Cynthia's efforts to stay alive and Riful's own desperate struggle, and the story here deals with those threads in almost equal proportion until Clare meets Priscilla; even after then, Uma and Cynthia aren't forgotten. Raki also makes a brief appearance, but Miria is absent once again – although the Next Volume page suggests that she will figure quite prominently into volume 19. There is also a not-too-surprising guest appearance to look forward to at the end.
This volume shows that manga-ka Yagi is still capable of coming up with some new twists even while following standard shonen action storytelling structures. The concept of “no matter how greater your power is, there is always a greater power” has been firmly-entrenched in the shonen action genre since the days of Dragon Ball Z, as has the way heroes typically get their clocks cleaned the first time that they step up to that next power level, and Yagi does not step away from either. His spin here is the reason why Clare initially has difficulty and the way he still keeps supporting characters integrally involved this time rather than just mostly being bystanders, as he has done previously (see the fight with Rigaldo back in volumes 10 and 11). He also fleshes out Uma and Cynthia a bit more and even manages to make Riful, ostensibly one of the biggest bad guys in the setting, into a partly sympathetic figure. (However amoral she may be, she clearly cares for Dauf beyond him just being her lover and servant.) The Organization also seems to be up to further shenanigans, too, so there is no shortage of plot here even though these Scenes are dominated by their action component.
Yagi has always done a good job using hair styles to help tell his Claymores apart, but that trick is not enough anymore. He has too many long, straight-haired Claymores running around at the moment and they do not look sufficiently different enough to tell them apart without context, especially when their symbols are not commonly visible; granted, two of the three are twins, but there is little character design difference between them and Uma when both are wearing darkly-shaded clothing. Priscilla's droopy-eyed expression also gets irritating after a while, though her appearance is much more distinct. Otherwise Yagi is up to his usual standards: his visual emphasis on detailed terrain, fantastic-looking Awakened creatures, and bloody, limb-shedding mayhem continues. Action scenes still brim with clearly-defined senses of motion and power and even showcase a new trick or two, such as ripping a character's head off and slamming it to the ground in a single motion. He also uses some interesting visual shortcuts to show Clare in full sensory mode.
Viz Media uses the format that they have standardized over the past several volumes: a brief manga-ka bio and intro blurb, six full Scenes, a Next Issue preview, and no other fooling around. This volume has neither a single page of advertisements nor any bonus material or side stories, so nearly all of its 192 pages are main story content. The cover art, which features the Awakened version of Dauf and the human form of Riful, is one of the least impressive to date. Both it and a lot of the interior artwork have a faintly smudged look about them which makes them look a little less sharp than normal.
While the Clare/Priscilla confrontation has long been an ultimate destination for the series, this and the previous volume have also made it clear that it will far from mark the resolution of the series. Yagi still has all sorts of plot elements in play at this point, suggesting that the series will continue for some time to come.
Overall : B+
Story : B
Art : B+
+ Priscilla vs. Clare, the most action-intensive volume in quite some time.
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