Claymore: Projection and Protection

Claymore Recap: Clare has won the battle for the city of Rabona and has narrowly avoided becoming a yoma herself. Now we skip in place and time to another Claymore and another child...

Claymore, Episode 5: Teresa of the Faint Smile 

Episode 5 is the start of an important flashback arc, and it's also the part where the Claymore story really takes off from a well-done "monster of the week" show to an fast-paced drama full of death, rebirth, and redemption. At the start of the episode, we're introduced to Teresa: the highest ranking Claymore in the Organization. Teresa is so powerful that she never needs to use her yoma power in battle, and thus her face is never transfigured into the yoma scowl that her comrades wear in combat -- thus, her nickname is "Teresa of the Faint Smile".

Teresa is also intensely cold. When she rattles off the usual Claymore spiel to give the payment to her handler from the Organization, she playfully warns the villagers to take care who they give the payment to. If the Organization is not paid, she warns them, then no Claymore will ever protect them again -- and, coincidentally, villages who don't pay are frequently wiped out within a few weeks of their defiance. The villagers are understandably terrified, and while this episode marks Teresa as having a cruel sense of humor for finding their concerns amusing, it also provides an interesting problem for the viewer: if Teresa is telling the truth, then is the Organization running a monster protection racket?

At the next town on her itinerary, Teresa destroys a yoma who had been traveling with a small human girl for protection. The small girl reaches out to Teresa -- apparently for comfort -- but Teresa rebukes her. "I kill yoma because it is my job, my purpose. It's not to save human life," Teresa explains. She is not a savior for the girl, and should not be lionized as one. Teresa's words are an ironic echo of Clare's own in Episode 1 when Clare explained to Raki that she is not there to provide him revenge or to protect him. The villagers' treatment of the young girl, too, is an echo of the villagers' treatment of Raki -- everyone has been too terrified of the little girl to clean her many wounds or wash the blood from her body. As Teresa rains down kicks and blows onto the little girl in an attempt to drive her away, the villagers watch mutely -- each unwilling to step forward and take charge of the girl.

Teresa leaves town and makes camp for the night in a nearby forest. The wounded girl follows her doggedly, until Teresa tires of the whole thing and offers to kill the girl. And here is an important point in the series: Claymores who kill humans must turn themselves over to the Organization to be put to death, without exception. There are exceptions, of course, because the death must be either witnessed by a surviving third party or the death must be confessed to by the guilty Claymore. So it is possible that Teresa's offer is a serious one and not simply a bluff: she and the little girl are alone, far away from any witnesses, so Teresa could kill the girl and bury the body and no one would be any wiser. It's a risk, of course, but one that other Claymores in the series will later be willing to take.

Their conversation is interrupted by a rustling in the forest around them. Teresa grabs the little girl and pulls her to safety as shadowy figures erupt out of the forest; Teresa swings her sword to decapitate the nearest yoma but stops short a hair's breadth from the target's face -- the attackers are human. By the rules of the Organization, Teresa should stop fighting immediately and submit to whatever her human attackers want, but a hand falls on the little girl's shoulder and Teresa loses her cool in an instant. Her sword swings, the man's hand is immediately severed from his body, and Teresa stands guard over the little girl, growling to the bandits, "Don't you dare touch her!"

What can we make of this sudden protective action? Only a few hours before, Teresa was kicking and pummeling the helpless little girl in front of a crowd of horrified onlookers; a few minutes before this very scene, Teresa was offering to kill the girl if she would not stop following Teresa. And yet now Teresa is risking her own life to protect the child -- not "risking" it in battle with these bandits, but rather "risking" it in the sense that if the bandit whose hand she severed dies, she will lose everything: her standing within the Organization and her own life.

This rule isn't some highly-kept secret within the Claymore Organization; the rule was instituted specifically so that the humans could extend some measure of trust to these powerful half-monsters. The bandit leader even has the courage to mock Teresa when she urges them to provide medical care to the critically wounded man -- if they allow the man to die, then Teresa will die too, and the leader realizes and relishes that fact. So why does Teresa risk everything to protect a girl that she would have beaten to death without thought a few minutes before? 

We know a few things so far about the Claymore Organization. We know from Episode 2 and Elena and Clare's flashbacks that the girls are turned into Claymores at a very early age, and that the transformation and training process are brutally painful. We can also guess that these girl children are not volunteers who have other, better choices for their future: the girls are either given to the Organization as orphans by villages that have cast them out, or they are sold to the Organization by bandits and slavers.

I think that Teresa sees herself in this little girl, and is protecting her not from a "motherly" instinct but rather from an instinct of displaced self-preservation. A clean, quick death is a mercy that Teresa is willing to offer -- that, perhaps, she wishes had been offered to herself as a child -- and is a service that she sees as an ironic piece of kindness. In this regard, Teresa is offering to be a savior to the girl: she's offering to permanently remove the girl from this dreadful world of monsters and pain that Teresa dwells in.

On the other hand, a prolonged life of misery at the hands of bandits -- being raped and tortured and sold as an experiment subject to the mad scientists of the world -- is something that Teresa cannot consign this child to. She'll die before she allows that to happen, not because she cares about this particular child, but because having lived through a life of pain once already, she can't bear to allow the same thing to happen to someone else all over again. In this regard, Teresa is a savior, but she was being truthful when she said she doesn't fight to save human life: instead, she's futilely trying to save her own childhood. That's my theory, anyway.

Skipping over the almost-rape because I want to deal with it in the next episode, Teresa and the child find themselves alone together after the bandits leave. Teresa returns quickly to her animosity of the child, and when the girl throws herself off of a cliff to follow Teresa, the Claymore coldly leaves the girl there to die. Some time later, though, she comes back to collect the girl, reasoning that since the bandits can place her with the girl, if the girl dies, Teresa may be held at fault. Teresa washes and feeds the young girl, and promises to look after her until they reach a town where the girl can find an adoptive family. The girl resists -- she wants to stay with Teresa -- but Teresa is firm in her plans. When the girl falls into an exhausted sleep, Teresa admonishes her: "Following me will only bring her grief... You have chosen poorly, child."

When the girl awakens the next morning, Teresa announces that it is time to find a name for the little girl. After a lucky guess by Teresa and an eager nod from the girl, they settle on the girl's name: Clare.


Anthony Rosa said...

I don't really have any insightful comments, like I'm sure will be coming soon enough from future comments, but I did want to say that I started watching this show a few months back. I was really busy, so didn't get very far, but even so it was pretty interesting. It felt to me like it was in the same genre as another series I liked, called Berserk.

Berserk is a pretty interesting series itself. The anime adaptation never got passed the long flashback story arc, unfortunately, but the manga itself has a lot of interesting things going for it. I dunno if you've heard about it, but if you haven't, I would recommend you give it a try. The beginning is incredibly grim, and the art early on, while detailed, is honestly kind of ugly, but the author eventually makes some of the best art of any manga I've ever seen. Further, he grows into the storytelling as well, as the beginning of the story, which starts [i]in media ras[/i], shows a rather two-dimensional protagonist. By the time the flashback has concluded, though, and we're back to where we left off, this is no longer the case.

Of course, it's a really, [i]really[/i] long flashback...

Ana Mardoll said...

Hmm, that's the second time I've heard good things about Berserk, so I may have to add it to the watch list, thank you for the recommendation. :)

Rexx said...

Just finished getting through the series on Netflix. Very much enjoying your deconstruction. Please keep them coming. Claymore was a totally unexpected surprise for me - beautiful, and heart-wrenching. My only wish was that there could have been 26 additional episodes.

Ana Mardoll said...

Ah, Rexx, thank you! That means a lot to me -- Husband is on record as asking what one can possibly say about Claymore besides "Claymore! Watch it! Seriously!" so I'm thrilled to hear that some people are enjoying these. That's the motivation that gets me to write these posts when there are perfectly good seasons of True Blood on the coffee table waiting to be watched. :D

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