Since the passing of legendary mangaka Kentaro Miura, creator of Berserk, I’ve thought a lot about dark fantasy and grim tales. Many have much to offer, exploring themes such as healing from trauma and found family, through stories filled with characters who forge ahead, not always because of their trauma, but often in spite of it.
For me, Claymore embodies these themes clearly.
Claymore is a grim, dark tale filled with terrifying monsters able to mimic humans, monsters that don’t need to bother with the human-camouflage, and a lot of humans and Claymores who suffer greatly. Like those that came before it, such as Berserk, Claymore isn’t simply a story filled with suffering and bad guys doing bad things.
This is a tale filled with hope, love and found family, despite its darkness and terrifying monsters.
Claymore’s world is dark—a place where people live in constant fear of monsters called youma that prowl the night. Youma are able to appear human at times, tricking locals or replacing a beloved family member who they’d already killed, as they wait for the opportunity to strike again.
Both youma and Awakened Beings—stronger, more terrifying creatures—are a combination of humanoid and monstrous, often falling solidly into the realm of body horror. Their strength and abilities far exceed those of normal humans, tough for even hardened warriors who’ve spent their whole lives defending their homeland.
The only ones who can defeat these creatures are the Claymores. These women were taken in as young girls by a mysterious organization that fights youma—and merged with the very monsters they are destined to fight against and defeat.
Now, the Claymores are half-human and half-youma, their two sides constantly warring against one another. Their inhuman abilities let them fight toe-to-toe with the youma, as well as the Awakened Beings, monsters so powerful they are more campfire legend than beings the Claymores typically find themselves up against.
Clare is a Claymore, a young woman who saw her family killed, and the Claymore she traveled with was murdered by her former comrades-in-arms. Like all Claymores, she travels alone, easily identifiably with her silver eyes, armor and the giant, two-handed sword—the claymore—she carries.
That is, until a young man named Raki, whose family had been killed by youma, joins her on her travels.
Loss and loneliness
Loss and loneliness are universal. We’ve all experienced them at one time or another. Like us, the characters of Claymore, no matter who they are, experience loss.
Raki’s family was killed in a youma attack, suffering further loss when the terrified inhabitants of his town cast him out. Likewise, Clare’s family also fell prey to youma before Theresa, the strongest Claymore of the time and Clare’s new mother-figure, was also killed.
Every Claymore has lost someone—a family long ago, a friend more recently or fellow Claymores.
A pervasive loneliness seeps through the story. Each character experiences their own sort of loneliness. Awakened Beings—former Claymores who had once fought against the youma—now wander the world alone, doomed to become the very beings they had spent their lives fighting against. Townspeople remain in fear of youma, unable to even identify if one of their friends or family was replaced by the youma that had killed them.
Finding light in the dark
Yet, this isn’t a story that’s overtly sad. Despite its frightening monsters, battles with significant casualty counts and the constant possibility of Clare becoming a youma herself, the anime isn’t only a display of despair and sorrow.
Claymore isn’t a dark, depressing tale, contrary to its dressings. It is a story of finding family and friendship, strong bonds, and above all, it’s a story of hope.
Loss can shape our lives. The hole left by those you’ve lost, no matter the manner, can feel impossible to fill. Moving on can feel impossible, and getting stuck in a dark place is all too easy, even without the threat of literal monsters that want to eat you.
Claymore isn’t about the loss Clare, Raki and the others have experienced. It’s a story of what they do with what comes next. Do you move forward, build a new community around yourself and do what you can to protect it? Or do you become consumed by your pain, focused solely on revenge.
Discovering family in sisterhood
Despite the seemingly insurmountable loss the Claymores and Raki have suffered, they don’t give up. Even though Raki isn’t accepted by the townspeople he once called friends, he finds others who do.
Claymores almost always fight alone, but as they are pulled into multi-person missions, Clare begins to form a sisterhood with her fellows. Teresa may not want to take on a motherly role, doing all she can to avoid this at first, yet she forms a family with young Clare nonetheless.
This is the true heart of Claymore.
It isn’t always about fighting monsters or the dealings of an organization that may not have the best intentions. Claymore is the story of strong women fighting against odds that can appear completely insurmountable.
It is the story of those who have faced incredible loss, the grief they hold and what they do with it. It is the story of those who have sought vengeance for vengeance’s sake, only to realize that fighting to protect and built a kinder future will yield a much different outcome.
Claymore tells us that even if you surpass your limits, you’ll still be all right. You don’t have to change. Pain and suffering won’t turn you into a dark, monstrous reflection of who you used to be—not if you don’t want it to.
There are people willing to stand and fight alongside you, even if they weren’t exactly who you’d first expected. Family and love can be found in unexpected places and amid dark and trying times. And even though monsters still stalk the night, there is always hope for a brighter dawn.