Reviewby Theron Martin,
With Priscilla at least temporarily neutralized, Deneve, Helen, Cynthia, Uma, and Deitrich head back to the holy city of Rabona, only to discover it suffering from an apparent onslaught of Awakened Beings. With their help, Galatea, Tabitha, Clarice, and Miata manage to defend Rabona and fend off the onslaught, but all signs point to the Organization as being responsible, and as an apparent retribution for Miria's failed attempt to take down the Organization, to boot. The disturbing patterns that some see in this action and/or loyalty to Miria convince all but Galatea, Clarice and Miata to set out for the Organization, but will the team of warriors that they meet along the way help or hinder them? Meanwhile, the Organization's most prominent members plot anew in the wake of Miria's attack, but they may not be as fully in control of the situation as they had surmised. . .
Claymore began and ran through its first eleven volumes with Clare firmly ensconced as the series' lead protagonist, but as the series advanced into its teens it showed that it was far from being a one-woman story. As new supporting and ensemble cast members emerged and the scope of the story expanded, the side characters proved that they could not only carry the story in Clare's absence but also do it at least as well as she could, perhaps even better. Because of that, the series has shown the ability to survive quite nicely in her absence, as volume 20 proves once again. What is Clare's reward for finally getting a chance to confront and (at least temporarily) shut down Priscilla? She effectively gets removed from play for this volume. And the story is better-off for it.
As the story spends more time focusing on the other ensemble members, the greatest weakness of the manga version becomes increasingly evident: absent her struggle to reclaim and retain her humanity, Clare simply isn't that interesting a character. Although she showed some signs of regaining that interest factor in volume 18, it faded again with episode 19, and without that she has a fairly dull personality. Most of the other named warriors are more fully-realized personalities than she is; even the relatively recently-introduced Dietrich is more clear-cut and distinctive, and Clare pales in comparison to regulars like Helen and Deneve. Now that the “cool” factor on Priscilla's reemergence has faded, she has also proven to be an irritatingly boring character, a passionless killing machine so powerful that nothing fazes her – in other words, the polar opposite of what she started out as. Bring saddled with frightfully bland dialogue doesn't help, either. Thus the best thing the series could have done is to have these two neutralize each other and thus keep each other out of action, even if it is only for the short-term, while the other major plot thread gets resolved.
And that other major plot thread – that is, Miria's attempt to bring down the Organization – is the more interesting one anyway. The scar-faced Elder seen in the previous few volumes has one final perversion cooking up which should prove to be a suitably ugly surprise for the rebels (it gets talked about here but does not yet make an appearance), but that is ultimately just another step along the power escalation curve typical for a shonen-grounded series. The real juice in this meat comes from watching how fragile the allegiance of the warriors is to the Organization. Almost since the beginning the Organization has been portrayed as being compassionless, exploitive, vindictive, even outright cruel in its handling of its warriors, and more recent revelations about its shady behavior involving the general populace bring the word “evil” into the equation, too. Given that, is it any wonder that the warriors' loyalty is fragile enough to be shaken by them merely being told simple truths and treated with respect?
Although the artistry is mostly up to Norihiro Yagi's usual high standards, his quality control does show signs of slipping. A few panels in this set, especially in the early scenes, show some distortions of body limbs that cannot be accounted for through warrior power use. These are more anomalies than regular occurrences, however, and he balances that out with continuing creativity in monster design and the interesting angles he takes on presenting Dae, the scarred Elder who looks perfectly normal on his right-side profile and perfectly horrific on his left-side profile. One great double-panel shot towards the end even shows a dozen assembled warriors, each of which has her own distinctive hair style and slight fluctuations in figure and/or build – a remarkable effort, given that they all have the same color hair and so can show no shading variations. Background art is still solid and battle choreography, while, not at its peak, at least does not disappoint.
Yagi has shown a talent for ending volumes on big cliffhangers, and this volume offers another great example of that. The direction that the series is taking at the end of the volume is one of the most promising ones yet, and a possible continuation of Clare and Priscilla's long-anticipated showdown actually has nothing to do with that.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Promising plot developments, ensemble cast members show that they can carry the series just fine.
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