Claymore: Fatal Flaws

Claymore Recap: Teresa and Clare have gone on the run from the Organization. Teresa knows that the Organization will send others to kill her, but hopes she can rely on her superior fighting skills to stay alive and protect Clare as long as possible. 

Claymore, Episode 7: Marked for Death

Episode 7 opens with Clare and Teresa walking hand-in-hand into town. Their fates are inextricably linked together: Teresa has been sentenced to death by the Organization for killing bandits to protect Clare, and Teresa refused to submit to her execution when the Organization would not concede to care for Clare properly. Now the former Claymore and her adopted child are on the lam, hoping to stay one step ahead of their inevitable pursuers.

After a quick cut to introduce the pursuers, we return to Clare and Teresa. The two have been staying incognito in a town and are now faced with a yoma and its intended victim in the streets of the town. Teresa is concerned: if she reveals who she is in order to kill the yoma and save the boy, the townspeople will throw her and Clare out of the village and it's back to sleeping on the road. Teresa doesn't mind sleeping on the road, of course, but that's no way of life for a small girl like Clare. Clare assures her that she doesn't mind, however, and Teresa sheds her disguise and destroys the yoma easily.

What happens next is a surprise for both Teresa and the viewer. Rather than react with the customary hostility that the villagers in the series have traditionally shown to the Claymore, they pour out of their homes and cheer their savior. Teresa is shocked and momentarily forgets her role -- she's been so used to killing yoma as her job that she stumbles over her words as she refuses payment and accepts a gratis stay at the village inn.

What are we to make of the villagers' change in attitude? Teresa has not behaved or spoken notably differently in her fight with the yoma, nor did she turn down payment until after the cheering had already started. (So therefore we can't assume the cheering was in response to the refused payment.) My theory is that the villagers realize that Clare is with Teresa and that the presence of the human child humanizes Teresa in their eyes and makes her seem less like a traveling monster-in-human-flesh and more like a traveling mercenary-with-family-in-tow. Perhaps the best way to solve the Organization's P.R. problem isn't with some Death Without Exceptions rule for Claymores who kill humans and instead involve the Claymores more closely in human lives and activities. But, then, we may yet find that the Organization's rule is less about public relations and more about control.

Cutting back to the pursuers, we are introduced to our first real indication that Claymores are not all of one mind when it comes to their raison d'etre in life. Up until now, we have really only seen Teresa and Clare, both of whom are rather single-minded in their killing of yoma and protection of humans. Now we are introduced to another side of the Claymore lifestyle: rank striving.

Claymores are ranked by the Organization according to strength and battle prowess. On one hand, this makes perfect sense: the Organization needs to have a feel for their member's abilities in order to know who to send out for certain jobs. Tough yoma require tough Claymores in order to take them down; weaker yoma can be dispatched by weaker Claymores. It's efficient to rank the fighters. But instead of ranking them by, say, tiers of skill, the Organization instead ranks all Claymores on a single flow chart of best to worst. Teresa is Number 1, Ilena is Number 2, and so forth on down the line.

There's nothing wrong with this system in theory, but in practice quite a few of the Claymores become unnecessarily fixated on their number. This is unfortunate but understandable: when your entire life consists of boredom and loneliness on the road, punctuated by short brief battles, and eventually culminating in your inevitable death, it seems reasonable that you'd find something worth striving for in all this deathly monotony. The practical upshot, though, is that some Claymores are more interested in fighting and defeating each other than they are in fighting and killing yoma.

The other problem inherent in this system is that by elevating fighters based on, say, strength in combat rather than, say, experience over time, we wind up with the current bad situation: a newly graduated-from-training Claymore by the name of Priscilla has shot up the ranks to the Number 2 position in a matter of months. Priscilla is young and inexperienced, only very recently out of the torturous training that Claymores go through, and has not had much actual combat experience with which to work through the complex emotions that come with realizing that hey, this person is trying to kill me. And now she's been sent on a mission to kill another Claymore. I can't see how this could possibly go wrong.

Ilena, the previous Number 2 Claymore and leader of this mission, actually can't see how this could go wrong, and this is telling. Ilena is Teresa's long time friend, and she's now been given the order to take Teresa's head. The situation is tragic, and it is perhaps not surprising that Ilena signs off on this disastrous combat plan with Priscilla in tow: Ilena knows Teresa's combat weaknesses enough to know that Priscilla will be a valuable asset in battle and she is emotionally propelled to find someone else to be responsible for her friend's death. All other considerations regarding the wisdom of this plan are swept aside.

Priscilla herself is a fascinating character. She's driven by idealism and absolutes, but not in an unrealistic way -- she's an utterly traumatized little girl who has been tortured throughout her childhood (first by yoma and then as part of her Claymore training) and who has been set apart as a great warrior when she should have been nurtured as a wounded child. She's latched onto the Organization as a parent figure and has comforted herself with the absoluteness of that world -- a world where people are constantly ranked, rules are simple, and any deviation or question is punished with instant death. When she confronts Teresa, this idealism is apparent; Priscilla berates Teresa for killing the bandits and making it harder for the Claymores to operate. The rules are absolute for a reason and what Teresa did was an unforgivable act!

Teresa, rather unwisely, calls Priscilla "indoctrinated" and says that the world isn't black and white like the girl wants it to be. This is true, of course, but not phrased in a manner that is likely to win friends or influence people. And while it's a nice humanizing detail that Teresa is annoyed and stressed enough to verbally lacerate her young opponent in battle rather than try to reason with her, this is going to be the fatal flaw that leads to Teresa's inevitable defeat: she failed to let her empathy for young Clare carry over to young Priscilla at this early crucial stage of battle.

If Priscilla were living in an environment conducive to questions and emotional growth, she might realize that Teresa's execution of the bandits wasn't the P.R. nightmare that the Organization claims it to be. It is crucial for the Claymore cause for humans to support the Claymores in their work, yes, but it's a fallacy for the Organization to claim that a Claymore who kills humans is automatically tainted in the eyes of humans and a Claymore who doesn't kill humans is automatically tolerated by humans. Teresa has already demonstrated in this very episode that killing yoma or humans in order to save sweet little boys, innocent young girls, and/or adorable puppy dogs will pretty much put you on the side of Good as far as the villagers are concerned. On the other hand, walking into an unsuspecting village, paying for the inn you're about to unexpectedly rip to shreds, and then raining destruction (but not death) on the village before leaving (as our pursuers have just done) is probably not going to make humans less frightened when they see you coming.

As strong as Priscilla is, she's simply not strong enough to beat Teresa single-highhandedly. This realization rankles Priscilla for two understandable reasons. One is that this is her first time to meet a genuine obstacle that she can't overcome in battle. Given that -- like most Claymores -- she has a painful past and is driven to overcome that past through battling, this is an extremely emotional issue for her. Prior to this, she has been stronger than every Claymore and yoma she faced: she could literally fight her way through life. Now she has to reconcile her world-view with the realization that she is not self-sufficient and that there is at least one creature on this plane of existence that can overcome her.

Secondly, the idea of facing Teresa in a group rankles her because it doesn't mesh with her sense of morality. Priscilla thinks in absolutes: the Organization is always right, and battles should be fought fairly one-on-one (as the Claymore ranking battles are fought). Now she is being told to gang up on Teresa and fight in a manner she considers dishonorable -- and the order is given by Ilena, the leader of the mission. "Don't let your misguided sense of honor cloud your judgment," Ilena orders. "You think of nothing else but to kill Teresa with all your might." Priscilla will follow these orders, but the attempt will utterly destroy her spirit entirely.

The saddest thing about the story of Priscilla is that she is shaped by the flaws of those around her. Teresa fails to humanize Priscilla until it's too late to bring the girl over to her way of thinking. Ilena fails to consider that her own misgivings about killing Teresa might not be equally present even in a girl who barely knows Teresa as personally as Ilena does. Both women -- Teresa and Ilena -- are concerned with their own pain and their own struggles, and they see Priscilla as nothing more than a weapon to be used or overcome. In this way, Teresa and Ilena reflect the flaws of the Organization that uses them all as weapons and nothing more.


Hyperio said...

Thank you for this post. In my own reading of the story I didn't focus on the effects of the Organisation's teaching on their own members (and ex-members), and now I see that many things are the result of it.

Inquisitive Raven said...

I can think of a reason to forbid Claymores to kill humans, and their reputation isn't it. Given that they're part yoma, my concern would be that killing humans would strengthen the yoma nature, making it easier for that nature to take over. Is that ever brought up as a possibility?

Ana Mardoll said...

You know, that's a good question. I'm really not sure if it's brought up in the series or not... later we'll meet Ophelia who is implied to kill humans (she points out that killing witnesses is easy, while she tortures Clare and Raki for giggles) and she does turn into an Awakened Being extremely easily... on the other hand, it's strongly implied that she's one of the most disturbed Claymore in the existing ranks, so both her Awakening and her killing of humans could stem from the same issues...

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