Claymore 20 – There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope.

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“There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope. Our enemy is ready, his full strength gathered…” Gandolf, from Lord of the Rings.

I’ve never seen such a close to realistic war drama in anime. NEVER. In movies, sure. The first thing that comes to my mind is Saving Private Ryan. Even for that, I was told that if a human is shot with these machine guns he’d be charred meat (as told by my army and marine friends; this was back in States), instead of just having his guts cut open. Another “war drama” was Lord of the Rings, written by someone who’s been through 2 world wars, one he fought, the other one he witnessed.

The odds are so stacked against these claymores, so much so that it looks like even Miria’s command ability will not matter in the least bit. 3 awakened defeated? So what! Try to defeat 27 of these including one Priscilla and one Abyssal.

However, is there hope after all? I really don’ know.

One very strange event greatly puzzled me (PLEASE, I know everyone who has kindly left comments are pretty restrained but once again I will ask please NO SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS SECTION) : The reaction of Priscilla and (obviously) Isley toward Raki.

I thought the same way with probably most people, Raki is now food for the Awakened/Abyssal One. But very strangely, Priscilla hasn’t even tried to eat Raki at all (neither did Isley). She…almost seems to really like him similar to the way a character from peanuts likes his blankie. Why? Priscilla’s behavior kind of reminds me of when she first became an awakened. She skipped past Clare without so much as to acknowledging Clare’s existence. There was Clare, having fresh and young guts. But Priscilla didn’t even bother to look at her. And here’s Raki, having fresh and young guts, and Priscilla isn’t treating him as food at all. But her feelings toward Raki is stronger. Isley’s explanation is that Raki smells like the south, where Priscilla comes from. I just can’t quite buy it.

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There’s something about Priscilla…

I read in the manga that Clare thought (we don’t know what went through Priscilla’s mind except perhaps – “want…guts…now”) that she was so insignificant and worthless that Priscilla probably couldn’t be bothered with her. OK, I don’t know if that’s true, but this time around, Raki, who looks like a healthy boy, should be a decent meal for her.

Not at all. Priscilla is glad to hold on to him and be comforted like a little girl next to her older brother or even her father. Because of that reason, even Isley, the demon king of north, is willing to teach Raki how to fight with a sword. Not that it will matter at all – since it takes a lot of yoki in the claymore world to be effective against anyone. Unless the author pulls off a classic shonen stunt – that the weakest character in the show often has the greatest hidden powers. But, somehow I don’t think Norihiro Yagi (the author of the manga) and studio Madhouse’s director for this show would be that conventional. Anyway, Clare is kind of like that character already. So in the end I suspect that it won’t matter how strong Raki’s sword technique will become. But at that moment, I almost wish it would.

So what’s the significance here? I guess I’ll find out soon. My theory is that somehow, Raki’s encounter with Isley and Priscilla will save at least Clare. Although that may not be the case at all.

Let’s go back to “the close to realistic war drama in anime bit.”

Everyone’s scared, just in different ways, no surprises here. What is surprising is why different people got scared. The people who seemed most daring or indifferent (stoic) or have it all together, turn out to be the most scared or worried about (gasp) death! Some of the rest, however, are more afraid of something people in real world aren’t afraid of – having more power and turn to mindlessly violent…wait, I take that back. I’m sure some soldiers in Vietnam, Iwajima/other Pacific fronts in WWII, and even Iraq were or are afraid of turning into killing machines without conscience.

Mike will probably do a better analysis about powers and God and other stuff in the future. Here, I offer my observations and thoughts.

I was simply shocked (though I suspect a lot of other people saw this one coming) at what Deneve discovers in the back of the supply house – that Undine is really scared of death, and she has a really frail and feminine body just like most other Claymore ladies!!! Holy Shit I was just shocked!!!

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To me, Deneve plays 2 roles: 1. The role of the curious audience – who wants to see what’s wrong with Undine. 2. The person who truly understands and knows that Undine has to be confronted and talked exactly at her weakest moment. I never thought I’d say this, but (blush) the real, vulnerable Undine is kind of…cute! No, I’m not strange. You have seen the episode, you know. As part of the curious audience, Deneve barged into the backroom, and she found Undine sitting on the floor crying and shivering, without her bulging muscles. She’s just a scared young woman, ooooh (just kidding).

I was so shocked that I almost fell out of my chair. Undine acts so fearless in the last episode that I didn’t think anything would faze her. Not true. There are two reasons why she seems so brave. Reason 1 has something to do with her past. But, let’s look at the second role that Deneve plays.

Deneve knows a scared person when she hears one. In a war, it’s very important to help a comrade, especially if that comrade happens to be your captain. Deneve goes to the store house. Inside, she hears Undine yelling at her and commanding her to get out.

Knowing what a person sounds like when she pretends to be commanding and tough but in reality needs a lot of comfort and help, Deneve takes a chance and walks into the backroom, with the other sword that Undine has in hand.

Undine has two swords. However, one of these isn’t hers. Deneve figures out why.

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In this sequence, I learned why Claymore is such a good drama. It portrays fear realistically. No some guys with their jaw dropped and utters “uh…uh…uh…” for 50 seconds. No “OH MY GOD HE’S IMPOSSIBLE! I MUST FIGHT HARDER, LET MY BLOOD BOIL!” crap. Just some realistic fears against impossible odds and an almost certain death.

Without a God or any other deities to help out. Not at all. You’re on your own and no amount of good luck is likely to get you out of this one alive.

In short, Deneve shares her story with Undine with a somewhat flat voice. Half of the story involves the death of her family, the other half involves her best friend, Helene, who’s very realistic about fear.

Oh god (or Mr. Yagi) please don’t kill Helene or Deneve!

What Undine says in some way mirrors the sentiment of an older soldier who lived through WWI, even though it’s not quite the same. The old soldier said (about his experience about the death of his friend): “Yes, we were war buddies. But when the shell blew up my buddy and not me, my first thought, as disgusting to me as it’ll be later, was that I was glad that it wasn’t me.”

Deneve, after the death of her family, specifically her sister, who used her own life to protect her, decided to become a defensive Claymore and not an offensive one. Those who know the show enough just think about it and you will realize her cowardice.

Or maybe she’s not a coward. She’s just human. Just like Helene said.

Let talk about our protagonist next.

Here’s another good scene that I just have to talk about – Flora confronting Clare. The character I want to talk about isn’t actually Clare or Flora. It’s Jean.

It seems like Flora have been wondering about Clare, specifically Clare’s right arm for some time, and she isn’t going to trust Clare without some good explanation, or at least a good fight. She thought Clare got the arm of Irene using dirty methods.

I can’t blame her. Clare never bothered to explain how she got Irene’s only remaining arm to anyone. I’m sure since Irene had only one arm left, that arm must be precious to her. Yet Clare has that arm now. Therefore I can’t blame Flora being very suspicious about why Clare has that arm.

Thinking that Clare used an improper method to obtain that arm, Flora decides to challenge her.

Jean steps in. Her reason for stopping Flora from challenging Clare is simple.

“Clare saved my life and therefore I can’t forgive anyone who pulls a sword on her.”

I don’t know what to say except old fashion values still touches my heart, even though I’m the demon king (Ma-oh) of cynicism and jadedness. Jean is the perfect portrayal of a classic warrior. I applauded again.

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Knowing that trusting and working in harmony with the others is important in this war, Clare tells the whole story – It seems obvious to me that Clare still thinks that Irene is still alive, and Clare is trying to hide that fact as long as possible. Clare has no intension of telling the story until Flora tells Jean and her that she simply can’t fight with a person who she can’t trust, and that she is going to get Clare kicked off the team.

After Clare tells her story and her intension, which is to make sure she doesn’t lose what she wants to protect and for making up for what she has lost, and she wants to cut off Priscilla’s head. She gained the trust of Flora. Whew! That’s a relief. The three (Clare, Jean, and Flora) crosses their swords a swears an oath that they will survive. This scene happens thanks to no small part of Jean stepping in. Clare probably didn’t want to get Jean involved in a senseless fight. Although here, Clare is definitely not the best character.

This moment is so touching in a warrior kind of way that I can’t help but be touched. I also can’t help but wonder if Yagi-sensei have read novels like Lord of the Rings or some kind of samurai stories after all.

Even someone as jaded as I am is a sucker for these types of stories. In LotR, when they send Boromir’s body away by the boat I shed silent tears. There, I said it.

Next, after Undine surly forgives and purposely forgets what her team members have said, we get to see Helene and her seemingly silly way of comforting a scared Claymore (I feel bad I don’t even know who this one is). Helene talks about food.

But you know what? Sometimes you just have to cheer someone up with seemingly really silly things. In a war where death lurks very near in every corner, even simple things can be so encouraging. Even if it’s just an apple.

Just as Helene says, “Of course, we’re human, too!” While trying not so obviously to comfort that scared Claymore.

Again, the author somehow knows something about war. Next, we come to Miria.

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she doesn’t show much emotions after all. But she whispered a silent prayer, to…nobody? She prayed “If possible, let not one soldier here perish.”

(I cried again. There, I said it again.)

It’d be nice if God were real. Alas, at least in the Claymore world, there is no God. Only the fighting spirit of the warriors are keeping them alive. Their only hope is their own strength.

Miria is a little embarrassed and self conscious about her prayer, and saying something about that even though there is no God to pray to.

So why bother then?

Miria discusses the bleak possibility, which is coming into truth, that these claymores have no chance if Isley gets serious.

He does.

With Raki passed out, Isley meets with the scout who reports back, and then he issues an order to utterly destroy the town of Pieta.

Leave nothing alive. To sum up what he says. Nothing living is allowed to be left behind.

The future is looking impossibly bleak indeed. I know this is only an anime but I’d pray for these Claymores if they were real people.

But prayers won’t save them.

This episode is 100% recommended for your daily anime diet even though the only action is Isley demonstrating his sword fighting skills and Raki practicing his useless sword technique. I can’t be more impressed with this episode even if I tried.

P.S. one issue that a lot of recent shonen anime talk about – one person tries to do everything on his (in this case her) own, because someone he (she) really cared died because he (she) was powerless. The solution? Deneve said it the best: “Your comrades are here. what you can’t achieve by yourself, we’ll help you achieve it. So don’t force yourself too much, Captain Undine.” (tears again for me. There, I’ve said it for the 3rd time.)

P.S. 2 I really hate to predict this (DON’T read if you don’t want to feel I gave you the spoiler) but Jean, Miria, Helene, and probably Deneve is probably not going to come out alive. I’ll probably scream like Shinji when Jean dies…Man, that will suck so bad…

11 thoughts on “Claymore 20 – There never was much hope. Just a fool’s hope.”

  1. Wow, you really put things into perspective. I’ve been following Claymore, and it has progressively become my favorite Anime, but I never have thought as deep about it until I just read your Summary. Your comparisons to war and LOTR are incredible. I’ve read lotr, and after reading this, I’ve become to realize some striking similarities. J.R.R. Tolkien had the amazing ability to suck every last bit of hope from those on the side of good, and Claymore has done the exact same thing. It really makes you feel for them because the author has developed the characters and the environment in which they live so incredibly, that it really makes you “feel” like your there. If I could use on word to describe why I like Claymore above the rest of the Anime’s I’ve seen, the word would be “realistic”. I’ve put my brain to the test, and I can’t see a way out of their situation, so it really makes me wonder what happens. This is like candy to me ^_^. Hey thanks Raymond, have a great day! Bye.

    Brett

  2. I think the author of the manga have read about enough wars, and maybe even interviewed a few people that have been through one. I just thought his portrayal of war is quite accurate, at least emotionally.

    “J.R.R. Tolkien had the amazing ability to suck every last bit of hope from those on the side of good”

    Yes he had. I think being through 2 wars where it looked like the good side was losing all hopes helped him writing his works.
    I also wonder if Norihiro YAgi, the manga author has read LotR.

    I’m hoping that they will try not to make up an ending, and just wait sometime and comeout with a second season…One can always hope. Though it may be a fool’s hope.

  3. I know I’m mean but… I was hoping the author was trying to write off Raki lol!!!
    I mean most of the time he was just *there* and it was a bit annoying… Anyways I was glad to see he was taking a stand and starting to *try* and learn the art of sword fighting. About Priscilla’s clingyness… it appeas she has lost her conscious memory but if he ‘smells’ of the south then it probably stirs something in her sub-conscious considering smell is so tightly linked with memories. Another theory to why Priscilla considers him as a bitc…I mean a ‘girl’ hanger is if I’m not mistaken because one of the reasons why she became a Claymore was because her brother was killed. (though the episode is ‘haruka’ in my memory I vaguely remember something along those lines) so even though she doesn’t acutally remember that, her subconscious once again might associate Raki with an onii-san figure.

    Other than that I saw the raw for this even though I barely understand japanese, and managed to understand various things if not only by speech, by ‘body language’, tone etc. 2nd degree conveys a lot more of the subtle thing than language which is why this episode somehow felt quite emotional to me.
    I had stumbled upon the Claymore manga completly ‘par hasard’ and eagerly waited for the anime to come out and it became an instant fav along with El Cazador (though I’m careful not to mix the 2 because they are way out of each other’s leagues in their respected catigories, it is useless to try and compare them and each El Caz especially have to be taken for what it is) but there is mch more depth in Claymore. Suprisingly I heard that it wasn’t popular at all in Japan, I wonder why…

    I don’t know many war animes but this is really realistic in the human-relations-emotions aspect which is why I enjoy it so much.

    A few side notes: Undine would be cuter with a different hair style (the parting in the middle bothers me lol), I don’t think that Jean will survive but I’d be suprised if BOTH Helen and Deneve were killed off. (Though I don’t think Claire wille be the last man-I mean woman, standing. (Plot design, vous savez?)

    And I know we haven’t heard of her in a while but I think Teresa has much more to do with the show. Though I doubt she comes back from the dead and announces herself as the messiah and glaring at Miria saying that there IS a god, there is probably
    a) more to her than what we were shown
    or b) a ghostly figure of somekind?
    I mean she’s defo one of the most awesome claymores, and she IS a part of Claire (literaly) but she has too much time in the OP and ED for her to be just a ‘side’ character (unless they really wanted to give us false hopes there).

    Oh and calling Claymore a ‘shounen’ show is perhaps a bit much… Of course it’s mainly a war anime where you see lots of blood and guts (me likes it) but for some unknown reason *cough**cough* it appeals to a lot of girls (who aren’t tomboys or lesbians or any other simili-boy label you can think of)

    I still think Flora’s soft very girlie voice is a bit odd. And I thought I was crazy but when I watched this episode I though I heard Helen use ‘boku’ from time to time.

  4. This one was a really incredible review.

    Just a thought got… Maybe the comparison with LOTR is bigger than we expected.

    I mean, in LOTR there was no hope to the good side. But thanks to Frodo Baggins, a little and weak hobbit, the most unexpected of all the creatures, they got to won the war against the evil.

    Who in Claymore is the most little, weak and unexpected of all the creatures? Raki! Raymond is right. Maybe somehow he will become the key of the survival of many Claymores… or at least Clare’s. But i hope the other girls can survive too, specially Miria, Deneve, Helen and Jean.

  5. Gilberto – Wow! Good thinking. That’s basically the only reason I can think of if somehow the Claymores, especially Clare, can be saved. But again, because this show, based on the manga, is so well written and always manage to keep me in suspense that I really don’t know the significance of Raki’s encounter with Isley and Priscilla.

    Amaya – Yeah, we all want Teresa back, but in the Claymore world, the author isn’t afraid to kill one of the coolest character for the sake of plot development and drama. I’m afraid Teresa probably won’t come back. I’d be rather pissed if she comes back and actually saves everyone.
    Curious, though. Claymore appeals to a lot of women? Perhaps because it’s got a good plot?

  6. Well, we manga readers are in the same boat when it concens what Priscilla wants with Raki. In other words : Your guess is as good as ours. ^^; What we do know is that Priscilla, by the will of Yagi-sama, has an immense attraction for him – by ‘immense’ I mean that it is overpowering her appetite and that is no small feat in of itself. Maybe he does remind her of her brother. Anyway, it’s still too early to really pinpoint just what sort of attraction is at work here. Although many will have fun speculating.

    And Miria… ::Warning-Fanboyism ahead::
    Truly a great warrior/leader – the intellectual understanding and knowledge of a general to wage a war, yet the grity, on-the-spot thinking of a captain to try her best to keep her people alive while doing so. It’s a rare combo to see in people but if someone does have such potential, it’s evident for all to see. Her little prayer gives a surprising amount of light on her true character and it’s one of the little things I applaude Madhouse for.

    As for the ‘hopelessness’ that many of the Claymores are experiencing, showing how our Fab 4 are dealing with it themselves and helping others through it is really really awesome.

    Whereas ‘300’ glorified ‘real’ men, honed both in body and mind for war since they were young boys, fighting and dying for the ideal of freedom in a true ‘one versus many’ fashion, ‘Claymore’ depicts insanely strong yet fragile young women warriors fighting for their lives, not for ideals, but for their own survival as they are thrown against an overwhelming force for the sole purpose of dying to slow it down. They hold up no lofty ideals as the supports for their bulwark opperation, but only their human will to survive truly overwhelming odds for a chance to hope.

    They are not out there because they wanted to be – they were forced, lied to. If I could, I’d gladly stand with these girls in their final hour, helping any way I possibly could. To stand with them and show just what sort of courage a full human can gather to fight the Awakened Beings. Because I would see the spirits of their dead brothers helping steady their swords and their dead fathers putting steadying hands on their shoulders. There’s no way that as a man that I could let them fight alone and that’s a setiment that I know is shared by many a Claymore fanboy. :D Sorry, did I get to much into that??? ^^;

    I’d gasam so bad if Miria repeated King Aragon’s last big war speech in LotR. “I see in you the same fear…etc etc.”

  7. Raki turning out to be the Frodo of Claymore and somehow saving the world would be one of the most stupid endings in the history of anime, IMO. Then again the odds seems so unbalanced against the Claymores that the ending will probably feel rather forced even if Raki ends up as Priscilla’s breakfast. Or maybe that’s just me being too cynical and criticizing every anime that’s too popular. :) I am enjoying the show but for some reason it very rarely hits me emotionally, I watch it in a rather detached fashion which sucks as I’d much rather symphatise with the characters or even get annoyed by some of them than be indifferent towards the vast majority.

  8. Matrim – it’s actually a good trait for a reviewer to feel detached while recognizing a good show.
    As for the current situation that the Claymores are facing, I’m reminded of the classic shonen situation – facing way too overblown-impossible-odds. That’s definitely there. However,unlike the classic shonen where the fear of the characters often are so much less well portrayed and a lot of times, so short-lived because then they just start fighting, I get to see the Claymores’ fears of facing their absolute terror – the awakened beings presented in fair ways. What makes it good for me is that I don’t have to listen to anyone whine or seeing a dragged out monologue or drawn out expositions of the feelings of any of these women. I get to see their fears in different and clear-cut ways. Some talk about it, some weep in fear of it in a dark room, some confront the others about it, some eat and give encouragement to sooth it as much as they can, some pray. hoping to see a faint glimpse of miracle somewhere but ultimately knowing there’s probably none. That’s what got to me in this episode. The emotional realism in this one is unquestionably one of the most realistic portrays in anime, dare I say.
    I felt after watching this show, that for some reason the situation they’re facing really reminds me of Lord of the Ring Trilogy books, and a little bit of the movies as well. I think it’s the emotional realism facing an impossible war that help made the connection. Let’s hope they can pull off a good end, or I’m actually hoping they’ll give us a second season.

    Arakan 7 – “I’d gladly stand with these girls in their final hour, helping any way I possibly could. To stand with them and show just what sort of courage a full human can gather to fight the Awakened Beings. Because I would see the spirits of their dead brothers helping steady their swords and their dead fathers putting steadying hands on their shoulders. There’s no way that as a man that I could let them fight alone”
    Thank you. You said what I wanted to express somewhere deep inside me. That’s not just plain fanboyism any more. That’s what us men were born to do (fine, flame me, ultra-feminists and all the others!). However, I think Raki (lucky bastard) has been assigned that role. He wants to protect Clare,who’s clearly way stronger than he is. He knows it and yet he simply doesn’t quit. Sometimes bravery is marked by not giving up. That’s why I don’t dislike Raki any more – he’s got courage. Sure, he gets scared, but he grits his teeth and steps up to the challenge. Perhaps he is stupid, I mean, he’s just a plain guy without any powers, but it’s that undying bravery and loyalty that makes me hesitant to be cynical about his efforts.

  9. Another scene I liked was when Isley said something like “Humans are weird. They go over their limits but they still don’t accomplish much” (right after he trained Raki). Raki knows he’s not as strong as Claymores but still tries his best to do something.

    This is probably the best discussion off an anime i’ve read. good job

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