While we’re on the subject of series that are marching towards their end, “Claymore” has reached its penultimate volume. Regrettably, as has been the case with the last couple of volumes, there’s more bland action than exciting plot revelations here. This series has always been “Berserk Lite,” but it nevertheless managed to conjure up an impressive amount of momentum through its middle part with the changes to the status quo and plot twists it kept piling on in quick succession. Save for the very last page of this volume, I read through it out of duty rather than enjoyment marveling only at one point where it looked like mangaka Norihiro Yagi was going to undermine most of the progressive goodwill he’s built up by making a series focused around badass demon-fighting swordswomen.
If you like battles where the antagonist completely evades and outclasses her opponents until the very end, then you’re going to love the majority of this volume! I’m not that kind of person, so seeing Clare and the rest of the former Claymores (plus Raki) finally take on Priscilla in her human form left me distinctly underwhelmed. Yagi’s fight scenes are clear and his monster designs are cool, but there’s only so many time you can see the ground below Priscilla demolished and witness the instantaneous regrowth of her limbs from nothing before it gets old. “Claymore’s” fight scenes have never been its strongest point in my opinion. Maybe if I had come to this as an “older teen” like the age recommendation on the back I would’ve been more impressed by all this fighting. After being spoiled by the likes of “Blade of the Immortal,” “Akira,” “Vagabond,” and (of course) “Berserk” the action here does nothing for me.
Reading through it is no problem at all for me. I’ve come this far so I might as well see it through to the end. What I wasn’t expecting to see was Yagi almost ruining the great female-empowerment vibe that his series has had since the beginning. There’s a climactic moment during the fight with Priscilla when it looks like she has finally met her match in a team effort between the two characters with the most history between them in this series. As much as the mangaka clearly wants the scene to work as a moment showcasing the glorious power of that relationship, it doesn’t read quite that way.
Given that one of the characters involved is a man, it reads like the women of “Claymore” weren’t able to take down the big bad themselves. They still needed the help of a guy to finally do it. That’s… not satisfying at all. I’ll admit that the logic behind his involvement is interesting, yet it’s nowhere near as awesome as it would need to be in order for me to overlook this particular issue. For a series that passes the Bechdel Test on a regular basis without breaking a sweat, having the women secure this final victory themselves should’ve been a no-brainer. No Y chromosome should have been necessary here.
Except that it’s not the end. Much like an endboss in “Resident Evil” Priscilla is able to survive just enough to regenerate with some new abilities and resume her attack. While it gives Clare and her comrades the chance to seize victory for themselves, I wasn’t really looking forward to MORE fighting after first three-quarters of this volume. Then you get to the last few pages and Clare comes to a realization about her ability to awaken. It turns out that Yagi has one final twist up his sleeve and he’s reaching deep for this one. There’s the chance it could wind up robbing Clare of her victory, but the image on that last page gave me goosebumps as I realized that the means by which she became a Claymore were about to finally pay off after a very long time.
That’s where this volume leaves us. To wait for the finale in October. Yagi took a really long and not-particularly-well-thought-out way to get there, but he finally made me eager to find out how it’s all going to end. Mind you, I prefer the constant stream of cleverness, imaginative visuals, and (numerically) greater plot twists that we’re getting in “Chew” to what’s on display here. This penultimate volume of “Claymore” is ultimately more of an example of how not to build up to your finale than a treatise on how it should be done.