The stakes were raised for Claire and her companions at the end of the previous volume. With the advent of a god-sized Yoma, I was a bit concerned that mangaka Norihiro Yagi had raised the stakes too high and left nowhere for the story to go without some deus-ex-machina intervention. I should’ve had more faith in him as he serves up a surprising twist in the second chapter that raises the stakes by drawing on an ongoing subplot. We also get some surprising deaths and a last-minute rescue to set up the next volume with enough momentum to make the wait until the next volume in September seem interminable.
As much as I enjoyed all that, there’s still a reason I’ll never be able to stop referring to this series as “Berserk Lite.” That’s because there’s a lot of shonen tropes popping up here, from the all-powerful antagonists being smacked down by an even more powerful antagonist who doesn’t even bat an eye. Claire’s “power block” in this volume also pops up almost out of nowhere and lets us know that even after eighteen volumes of training and fighting, she’s still has a long way to go. Also, that twist I mentioned, it pops up so far out of right field it hardly makes sense at first. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a great surprise, but it also demolishes one of the more interesting relationships and sources of dramatic tension in the series.
So Guts and company still have nothing to worry about from an artistic standpoint. However, until vol. 35 reaches these shores, “Claymore” will continue to be a more than acceptable substitute for fans of medieval fantasy action.