There are a few thankful things I learned after watching this show (especially after watching this ep 3 times in 4 days and giving it a lot of thoughts):
1. It’s produced by Madhouse. Only Madhouse can completely translate the awesome sword motions and the fights perfectly into the anime medium (I’ve finished reading the first 5 manga), and still have a good plot. I can’t imagine any other studio does a better job. I mean, I shudder to think if Gainax were to do this with Anno at the helm…the flying heads! The cowardly protagonists, the overtly introspection! Or if Gonzo were to do this…the super bright colors! The degrading animation in later eps! The ugly renderings! Ugh!
2. The author of the original manga is very smart and he can write a story as well as draw. He writes an excellent story as well as knowing how to make different arcs and plots work, without making anything way too complex, oh and don’t forget that he knows his priorities when it comes to character developments and these that should be forgotten aren’t portrayed much in the manga and in its extension, the anime.
3. We see a shonen convention gets used but not over the top and things make sense. Sure, people gain experiences in battles, but we don’t see something like few characters get their asses kicked over and over and over and over and almost endlessly for 5 or more episodes before they finally see the weak point in their opponent’s attack. With Miria’s arrangement, nobody dies and everyone gains some experience points against the awakened – as Flora points out to Wendine (Edit: Undine, thanks for the correction). Miria has to work with a lot of weak people, so she divides the teams so well that each team has at least 2 experienced fighters and she knew that it’s actually the best idea that she takes on the 2nd weakest of the 3 awakened. I’ll explain that later.
I don’t know the names of the lessor important characters well, even having watched this ep 3 times, so bear with me and please correct me if I get the names wrong. But here we go.
So far, no real surprises except for Miria, who seems to have gotten A LOT stronger. But what I’m most impressed with is her strategy. Instead of grouping all four of the pact – Miria, Helene, Deneve, and Clare (that’s right, Clare is just one of the characters in a war, rather than being the “ace fighter” or “ace pilot” or whatever. This is the real “common man” character, not like Nadie the incompetent ditz from El Cazador) into one team, Miria decided to spread themselves out into different teams to give each team an X factor to help the team captains. Here are the 5 captains – Miria, Flora, Jean, Undine, and Veronica. Each team has an awakened-but-pulled-back Claymore – Miria has herself on her team, or rather, I don’t know if she awoke before that but she’s very strong. The Flora team has Clare; the Jean team has Jean herself, the Undine team has Deneve, and the Veronica team has Helene. Looking at the opponents and the teams, we have these match ups – The Flora team against the Turtle Guy (sorry, I really don’t know and probably don’t care about his name); the Jean team against the Blind Fold Bug (same reason), and the Miria team against the hot headed dude who charged first – I’ll call him the Hot Head.
There is a reason that Miria, being the strongest, actually fought the possibly (in my view) second strongest of the 3 awakened. But before I begin discuss the strengths, let me show you what I thought was the rankings among the 3 awakened (all these thoughts are my theories):
The strongest: the Turtle guy – he’s got a thick and impossible to crack skin much like Duff’s, and he’s got a yoki control skill as well as appendixes that he can use to attack enemies.
The second strongest: the Hot Head. He didn’t seem to do much and he charged first without using his head. He’s got appendixes that he can shoot out of his body as well.
The weakest: The Blind Fold Bug. He seemed very smart but doesn’t have superior attributes except he seems fast with his attacks.
The match ups are (before the support teams comes to help):
Team Miriya VS Hot Head.
Team Jean VS Blind Fold Bug.
Team Flora (with Clare) VS Turtle Guy
And the support teams are Undine (with Deneve), and Veronica (with Helene). Try to bear with me here, I’m getting to my theory and my point in a minute.
There was a story in China about a master (A) with 3 horses, and he raced against another master (B) with 3 horses. Master A was smarter, his strategy was
1. Use the fastest horse against Master B’s 2nd fastest horse.
2. Use the 2nd fastest horse against Master B’s 3rd fastest horse.
3. Use the 3rd fastest horse against Master B’s fastest horse.
Master A ended up losing only one race. Race number 3. Go ahead, take some time to think about this logic…
OK, you can say the story with that situation was contrived or the situation was a pure set up. But consider the situation that Miria and the rest are in. It’s a set up as well (by the organization who’s practically using these claymores as cannon fodders). And it looks like there’s a very good chance that everyone including Miria will die, with perhaps Miria dying last. But it sure looks like everyone will die. So, what’s a intelligent character like Miria to do?
She has to make the best out of this group.
If Team Miria were the best team, she has a pretty good chance of defeating the the 2nd best awakened – the Hot Head.
If Team Jean were the second best team, Jean has a good chance of defeating the 3rd best awakened – the Blind Fold Bug.
If Team Flora were the third best team, Flora has a not so good chance of defeating the strongest awakened – the Turtle guy.
(Note: again, these are only my theories).
Consider, however, that Flora is strong only second to Miria, so even against someone like the Turtle Guy, it seemed like she has a good chance.
Again, consider that because the Blind Fold Bug seems weaker, Jean has a pretty good chance of defeating him anyway, with some help.
Miria knows that the Hot Head wasn’t strong enough to be her match. We see that Miria easily defeats him.
So guess what? Now they all have a chance! Oh, and there are 2 back up teams standing by!
Technically by ranking, Jean isn’t stonger than Flora, however, Jean awoke before, which makes her an X-factor, so perhaps with that advantage, Team Jean could be considered the second best team. Except we saw the Jean is a terrible leader. But wait, here comes the back up team! That what these back up teams are for! They come to the aid when the primary teams are losing.
Exclude Miria, who seem to have no trouble dealing with the Hot Head even by herself alone, we now have two matches with 4 teams on the Claymore side, and 2 male awakened:
1. Team Jean (medium strength in my view) and Team Veronica (with Helene, the team’s X factor) against the Blind Fold Bug.
2. Team Flora (low strength in my view, with Clare, the team’s X factor) and Team Undine (well, she’s rather “strong”, with Devene, the team’s X factor) against the Turtle Guy.
All of the sudden, the odds aren’t so totally overwhelmingly stacked against the Claymores now are they?
Team Veronica, with the lowest ranking captain among the captains, with Helene, who’s a weaker X-factor than Devene, helps the second strongest team (from what I think) – Team Jean, and Team Undine (would you look at that muscle chick Undine? It’s like Revi took steroids or Chyna from WWF shaved off her manly jaw and became an anime character) with Deneve, the somewhat Stronger X-factor, helping the the third strongest team (from what I think) – Team Flora (Clare is actually the most difficult X-factor to determine for me at this point).
Now these ladies have a chance.
As we see in about the 2/3 point of this episode, Hot Head moans about how strong Miria is before he dies. By the way, here’s another reason why this is different from your average regular shonen anime. By this point, Clare is still not that strong. She knows it and she seems disgusted at how she’s not as strong as number 6, Miria.
You still have a long way to go, baby.
Anyway, Jean, with the help of her comrades delaying the Blind Fold Bug, uses her spin/drill sword attack (I’d rather call it the “helicopter” sword or the “grass cutter”sword) and does a disabling damage on the Blind Fold Bug, with a big help from Helene. Then, to the satisfaction of two “tank characters”, I mean, defensive Claymores, Veronica and Cynthia, who spoke about their duty and the pain doing their duties, which is to attract the enemy’s attention while getting hurt in the in the process, they get to take out the Blind Fold Bug, who I can’t help but perceive as supposedly the smarter (or sneakier since he was hiding on a roof) but definitely the weaker among the 3 awakened.
We get to see a lot abou Undine (I can’t imaging any Otaku that likes her…Oh well, I’ve met some folks back in college that thought muscle chicks were hot…), whose verbal bout with Deneve provides some comedic moments. They sound realistic enough, just like two soldiers who dislike each other in a war but glad to help each other out nevertheless.
Deneve seems to fight pretty fast. Is this her power? I can’t remember. Oh wait, her power is to repair herself super fast, a defensive ability. She smugly tells Undine, “I use skills, unlike some people who only use muscles.” Hahahaha.
Like shonen anime, people gain skills by getting their asses kicked and then upgrade, but unlike regular shonen anime, everyone in this episode learned and survived through the first fight. Now they all have skilled up, even the nobodies. All thanks to Miria (and the author’s) intelligence and battle smarts in ancient style – good ol’ fashioned sword fighting, and women slashing the crap out of mo*beep*erfu*beep*ing monsters. What Miria does is a good leader suppose to do for her crew – trying her best to keep everyone alive and hope that with no way out, by fighting near the edge of death, they’ll step up and cut their way through.
There is one character in this episode that isn’t so smart or so impressive – Raki.
Gee, let’s see. Raki sees a village destroyed by monsters. Raki sees a girl walking around without much fear. Usually people don’t come back to an area full of potential danger, if the people are still alive…Gee, there’s that girl who doesn’t seem to notice that something is very wrong about this village. Well, could it be there’s something not quite right about her, Raki?
How about the fact that she says: “Hmm, you smell good.” Like she’s hungry. But Raki must be Lucky (har, har, har nice mixed language pon), because it seems like our girl in question doesn’t like to eat most humans, strange. Then, a bisenen (good looking adult, in this case a man) shows up, and oh wait, he’s not worried about monsters roaming around. Because he somehow knows that they are not roaming around. Come on, son! Can’t you see that something is not quite right here? Damn…
OK, so maybe Raki is the trusting type, but geez, at have some sense of danger! Oh boy…
98% recommended for the smarts in kicking monster asses with strategy, Claymore style.