Claymore Vol. 5 & 6 Review
Hiroyuki Tanaka’s adaptation of Norihiro Yagi’s dark fantasy medieval demon and swordplay manga comes to a strong conclusion that matches the consistent intensity and drama of the series so far, pushing it not unexpectedly to ever greater heights. The arrival in the north of bands of Claymores – half-human female warriors whose duty is to rid the land of Yoma monsters that terrorise small villages – at the end of the last episode was only a scene setter for the climactic Carnage in the North that forms the basis for the concluding episodes of the series in Claymore Volume 5 and 6. Appropriately, it’s a battle of epic proportions, the female warriors pitting themselves not against mere Yoma, but against the impossible odds of Awakened Beings and formidable Creatures of the Abyss, with no small amount of infighting among themselves either.
The concluding chapters manage to bring all the threads together well as Raki also makes his way north in search of Clare, but he has fallen in with bad company, with a weakened but still deadly Priscilla also heading in the same direction, Raki unaware of her true nature. But it’s more than just all the characters turning up for the last act of the play – their pasts, their backgrounds, their personal traumas and old enmities forged over the years all resurface and converge towards a culmination, making this more than just an endless sequence of flashing sword and spraying of blood on the snowy, wintry wastes of Pieta. Such as the overwhelming odds against the Claymores that even the majority of fight scenes that normally stretch across an episode or two are greatly curtailed, their resolutions swift and deadly.
Epic fight scenes however do still occur and it will be no surprise or spoiler to say that the series ends with the inevitable stand-off, the ante raised to outrageous proportions as it progresses. What makes it remarkable however is the consistently high standard of the animation and colouration which rises to the occasion with atmospheric depictions of the snowy locations of the North lit by the glow of firelight and wintry sunsets, always finding new ways to animate the explosive, dynamic battle scenes. The music score is also more than up to the challenge with alternately menacing and melancholic cues. In every respect Claymore has proved to be an outstanding anime series from the Madhouse animation production team, continually advancing an intriguing situation, developing character and matching the evolution of the plot with ever more brilliant design and animation.
The Disc: Manga Entertainment’s Claymore Vol. 5 and 6 set contains the final eight episodes of the series on a 2-disc set. Although the spread of episodes is the same – four across each disc - for some unaccountable reason, Vol. 5 is a single-layer disc, while Vol. 6 is dual-layer. This however doesn’t make any appreciable difference to the quality of the respective discs as neither use more than 5Gb of disc space. As with the pervious sets, the usual conversion issues apply, but other than the occasional interlaced frame causing some motion issues and some faint artefacting breakup of solid colours, the video quality is excellent throughout, the colour schemes in keeping with the tone of the series, the image appearing relatively smooth and stable.
The audio choices are between a Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 and an English 5.1 track. The Japanese track is unquestionably superior at finding the right melancholic tone in the voice acting for these final episodes, while the American English track is somewhat more brash. The English dub at least is reasonably well voiced with committed performances and it’s idiomatically translated, making it a viable alternative for viewers who don’t want to have to make do with bright yellow subtitles and a stiff, too literal translation – although formality of the translation does suit the seriousness of purpose of the series.
Apart from the useless Textless Openings and Closings and hard-on-the-ears Commentaries from the American voice actors, there is an informative interview, this time with Art Director, Nobuhito Sue (Kusanagi), and some samples of his work shown in 11 stills in the Production Art Gallery. The Original TV Commercials provide a condensed version of the premise and tone of the series.