Reviewby Theron Martin,
Desperate and with her body at its limit, Clare has finally realized that she has been going about it all wrong: Rafaela's example has taught her that by awakening the one within her, rather than herself, she might achieve a more stable and powerful transformation than she could ever manage on her own. Thus Teresa of the Faint Smile reemerges into the world by transforming Clare's own body. For Clare it is a tearful reunion within her own mind, while for Priscilla she is the source of her hate but also the one who might finally be able to completely end her enormously powerful but also enormously wretched existence. For everyone else it is a chance to meet the most powerful Claymore who has ever lived and see what she can do with Clare's gained experience when she finally lets loose. For better or worse, the saga of the Claymores will come to its conclusion.
While many fans of the franchise have insisted that the anime version of Claymore spoiled things at the end by deviating from the manga, I have always insisted that the anime's ending was the better and more satisfying option at the time. Sure, the manga continued on and explained a lot of things that the anime did not, but it often seemed too impersonal in the process, too often dropped the ball on maintaining Clare as an interesting character, and set aside the guiding themes about regaining lost humanity which were so prominent in the anime and so important to the anime's quality. For most of the “seven years later” arc, which began with volume 12, my conviction on that has held firm. In presenting the final climax, fittingly titled “Silver-Eyed Warriors,” Norihiro Yagi has demonstrated that he might not have lost his narrative way after all. For the first time in several volumes the story is not even partly a disappointment, and that results in a climax and conclusion which should satisfy any long-time fans of the franchise.
The key to the success of the climax is that it feels like it has been planned since the beginning, as it brings up so many things that have happened over the entire course of the story and melds them into one composite form. The masterstroke is having Teresa turn out to be Clare's awakened form (which is not a spoiler since it was revealed in the final panels of volume 26), a true treat for fans who have long felt that more could have been done with her. It is an entirely logical development given how Clare became a warrior, but more importantly than that, it brings the manga version of Clare to emotional completion. She became a warrior because of Teresa, has always been driven by her death (which she felt responsible for), and has been heavily emotionally stunted since her death. Seeing that all pour out as her girl form bawls in Teresa's arms in her mindscape was the final necessary step for Clare to regain her humanity under the approach that the manga takes. Having a Teresa powered by and drawn from Clare is also an enormously fitting way to handle the final battle, as her first fight with Priscilla was the trigger for what Priscilla became – though not, as we learn in a surprise revelation near the very end, the impetus for Priscilla's progression down this path. (And my, does that short but savage revelation succinctly explain why Priscilla was so screwed up even back when she was in human form.) Seeing that Clare's merging with Rafaela has a major linger impact is also a relief, and watching Teresa briefly get to interact with Clare's peers is quite fun.
Of course, the centerpiece of the story is the Teresa/Priscilla battle. The actual combat and choreography is an amalgamation of moves and stunts which have appeared throughout the series, but seeing someone who has been so irritatingly overpowered as Priscilla finally meeting her match adds an extra layer of thrill that battle scenes in the series have not had for some time now. For a rare change the long-standing shonen action illogic of letting an opponent fully power up before finally putting the opponent down actually makes sense, as Priscilla at this stage is practically a walking embodiment of hate, and for things to truly be finished that hate must be overcome in its entirety. Seeing Teresa's awakened form (or at least how Clare imagines it) is also a special moment, as it harkens back to references made as seemingly-casual comments back in the early chapters of the series.
Artistically speaking, Nagi maintains high standards through to the end. Teresa is every bit as strikingly beautiful as she was in her original appearances and the twisted and horrifying forms which Priscilla adopts during the final battle with Teresa are every bit as biologically insane. Battle scenes are still crisp, dynamic, and full of movement, although occasionally a frame needs a little examination to make full sense. This time around the sharp cover art, which contrast the white and blonde of Teresa and Clare with a yellowish background, is essentially the title frame for the next-to-last chapter taken from a different angle. As always, graphic violence abounds and there is some nudity, too, though not in a way that could by any stretch be considered titillating.
Viz Media's release of the title is a basic one, containing all six chapters of the final arc and no extras. As always, it starts with the typical brief summary of overall and recent events.
One of the few flaws in the volume is that one aspect of the aftermath is quite cheesy and is not supported well by any earlier content. Otherwise the epilogue feels proper and even includes one pleasantly surprising revelation in the final panels. Overall, whether or not the final volume elevates the comprehensive evaluation of the manga to the level of the anime is a point which could be debated forever, but it definitely rescues a series which had been failing to impress much for some time now.
Overall : A-
Story : B+
Art : A-
+ Teresa reappears, surprising but welcome revelations up to the end, very satisfying overall.
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