Reviewby Theron Martin,
Rigardo, the Silver-Eyed Lion King, has already wreaked havoc on the command structure of the Claymores assembled at Pieta, leaving Clare, Deneve, and Helen to desperately attempt to protect overall leader Miria from him. Ultimately that requires Clare to push beyond her limits, but without Raki or Galatea around to help her this time, what can stop her from fully awakening? As the situation in Pieta reaches a “final stand” stage, in Sutafu the organization hurries to prepare its #1 and #2 warriors, Alicia and Beth, to face the Awakened Being horde approaching them. A second horde heads towards Riful and Daug, while Isley himself goes after Luciela, the third of the Creatures of the Abyss. Meanwhile Raki remains oblivious and Galatea learns more than she cares to know.
Haven't gotten your fill of fantasy-style power-mongering fights in previous volumes? If this one does not satisfy you than nothing probably will. Claymores partly and fully awaken, Awakened Beings fight said Claymores and each other, and even Creatures of the Abyss get in on the action, climaxing with the Isley/Luciela showdown where both eventually go toe-to-toe in their true awakened forms. That all of the Claymores already have blond hair only makes it easier to draw comparisons to Dragonball Z, but, of course, DBZ never used big swords or featured so many sexy female action figures.
On a more serious note, this volume wraps up the Pieta story arc in an allegedly decisive manner (although it comes nowhere near resolving everything) and shows what else is truly going on, including why such a large assemblage of Claymores was sent on what amounted to a suicide mission. The truths both implied and revealed about the motives of the Elders only make the organization seem even more ruthless and despicable, but manga-ka Norihiro Yagi has never tried to make them likable, either. Alicia and Beth naturally have their own special gimmick, but this one is like nothing else previously seen in the series and provides a definite “cool” factor.
The last third of the volume also marks an important storytelling shift, as for the first time Clare is not only not the central character, but also (at least temporarily) out of the picture entirely. She does get her chance to star in the earlier chapters, where she ultimately must use every trick at her disposal to face off against Rigardo, the strongest foe she has yet fought. The aftermath of that battle offers some of the best pure drama in the series to date and one of the few extensive opportunities for character development in the volume.
But who needs much character development when you have so much excellent action at hand? All of the six chapters contain graphic violence and high-powered action content, with some consisting of nothing but that. The mayhem approaches epic levels at times and invariably moves along at a steady clip, never getting bogged down in overly protracted fights; even the battle against Rigardo only lasts two chapters, with Clare essentially being solo against him for only one of them.
Yagi shows a fair talent for pacing, plotting, and creating interesting characters and situations, but the strength of his work is definitely in his artistry. His human character designs show an advanced understanding of how to draw the human form and astonishing effectiveness at distinguishing between characters with just slight variations in hair and facial structure; the only characters you'll ever have trouble telling apart are the identical twins. Inventive awakened forms revel in exquisite detail and great variety (no two more than remotely resemble each other), with Rigardo's catlike form arguably being the weakest of the lot and Isley's being the best. Background art rarely shirks on detail, either, with Yagi seeming to relish depicting complex terrains like rocky ground, fields of grass with every blade detailed, or snow-filled skies. For all the speed lines, blurring to indicate swift movement, and dramatic staging, his fights sometimes fall just a little short of fully conveying the sense of movement they should have, but readers will never have trouble following them and certainly will not find them dull or repetitive. If his artistry has flaws, they are in the rubbed-down look of much of his shading and the overabundant use of splash pages, but these are nitpicks.
Viz Media's production of the title under its Shonen Jump Advanced label thankfully translates all of the sound effects, as many would have been incomprehensible otherwise, and handles dialogue acceptably well. A total lack of Japanese culture in the work (beyond use of common shonen themes) requires no translation notes, but Viz does include a brief “The Story So Far” blurb and an equally brief Next Volume preview. Best of all, its 190 pages of story content come at the discount price of only $7.99, making it one of the most economical major manga titles out there.
Claymore is not one of the deeper or more complicated titles out there. The one potentially emotional scene in this volume, though well-handled, is the exception rather than the rule, and it emphasizes action much more, and more effectively, than its drama and character development. What this volume does do is deliver a grim and bloody fantasy story loaded with great visuals and lots of action, and it does that exceptionally well.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Exceptional artistic detail, inventive designs, good pacing, lots of easy-to-follow fights.
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