Claymore: Human Life, Human Death

Claymore Recap: Teresa and Clare have been hunted down by four top-ranked Claymores who have instructions to take Teresa's head. One Claymore is a young novice named Priscilla who has been severely traumatized in her short life and now has to come to grips with the realization that she's not as strong as she previously thought. 

Claymore, Episode 8: Awakening

In many ways, Episode 8 is a microcosm for the Claymore series as a whole: we see the evolution of Teresa's mercy and how it both strengthens and weakens her, as well as the life and death of a Claymore.

Episode 8 starts where Episode 7 left off; Teresa is surrounded by her four opponents and is facing death. Her opponents release their yoma power in preparation for the fight and attack as one.

Teresa, who perfectly exemplifies why God Mode Sue isn't necessarily a bad trope in fiction, handily side-steps her attackers without so much as breaking a sweat. The three experienced fighters she wounds to the point of immobility, but at the same time she is careful not to mortally wound her opponents -- just as she didn't mortally wound her execution squad earlier in the series. Teresa does not waste the lives of her comrades when she knows she can just as handily defeat them again and again.

Priscilla, on the other hand, represents a real threat. The young girl broke off early in the battle to tend to Ilena (who repeated her ill-fated command to "do everything in your power to take Teresa's head!"), and since then she has not rejoined the combat. She is, in fact, frozen in terror at Teresa's awe-inspiring strength and battle prowess. After Teresa sends Clare off to get their things and conveniently clear out of the area, Teresa considers killing Priscilla here and now and ending the threat she represents -- if Priscilla goes back to her training and becomes stronger, there may come a time when Teresa can't best her in battle.

After raising her sword for the killing blow, Teresa reconsiders. Having humanized Clare as a helpless little girl instead of an obstacle in her path, she now finally humanizes Priscilla similarly. Ilena is astonished and comments that the "old Teresa" would never have let such a threat remain alive.

A very real problem here, though, is that Teresa has humanized Priscilla too little, too late. Teresa's first fatal mistake in this battle was when she first met Priscilla: instead of reasoning with the girl and explaining why Teresa killed the bandits to protect Clare (a mission that Priscilla might well have been sympathetic to, given her own past), Teresa scoffed at the girl and haughtily announced that Priscilla's feelings were the result of "indoctrination". Teresa's second fatal mistake is in her dismissive treatment of Priscilla in the moment of the girl's defeat: Teresa needs to either take the girl seriously as a threat and kill her or take the girl seriously as a person and communicate with her. To just walk off and dismiss her is the worst possible response Teresa can do at the moment.

Priscilla is frozen in terror because she is reliving the worst moment of her life. Like so many others in the series so far -- Raki, Clare, and various nameless others -- Priscilla suffered the trauma of watching a loved one turn out to be a yoma in disguise. In Priscilla's case, a yoma took the appearance of her father and ate her family in front of her. Priscilla had the survival instincts to kill her 'father' while he was distracted and feeding, but the experience has left her understandably scarred and traumatized.

At this incredibly vulnerable moment, Priscilla could come to see Teresa as a protector if Teresa reached out to her and explained to the girl why she has chosen the path she now walks. What's worse is that Teresa knows that most of the children sold to the Organization for Claymore training have traumatized histories, and it seems unlikely (given what we know about the Organization) that most of the girls are giving counseling to work through their painful pasts. Teresa has provided comfort continually to young Clare in their recent travels together, but she still hasn't worked through the concept of empathy as it applies to the general and not just the specific.

So while it seems kind for Teresa to spare Priscilla's life, it's not a broad enough gesture on Teresa's part to bring Priscilla back from the pain she's re-experiencing. Priscilla has essentially already passed her limit; it's just that her body hasn't quite caught up with that fact yet.

We learned in Episodes 2 and 4 that when a Claymore unleashes too much yoma power in battle, it becomes impossible for the Claymore to turn back, and as a result they become a monster. We also learned that most Claymore fear this fate; to the point that they would rather die as a human than become a murdering monster. We've not yet really understood what all this means, though -- the process has been as theoretical to us as it is to the inexperienced novice Priscilla.

When Priscilla begins to relive the feelings of helplessness and anger that she felt as a child, she focuses her attention on what she perceives as the source of her problems: Teresa. The fight becomes personal and Priscilla chases after Teresa over the objections of her teammates. She taps into her yoma power more deeply than she ever has before, intent on killing Teresa at all costs. This is an incredibly unwise thing for her to do -- both Ilena and Teresa caution the girl that she is quickly exceeding her limits and that if she doesn't concede the battle and revert back to human now, she won't be able to return at all. And here we see the effect of inexperience on poor Priscilla: she simply hasn't fought in enough battles to understand her own limits or to realize how hard it is to back away from them.

Once Priscilla passes her limit entirely, there is stillness on the battlefield. Priscilla -- realizing she has gone too far -- begs for help from her opponent, but Teresa sadly comments that the only thing she can offer the girl is a human death. This is an ironic echo to what Teresa had hoped to offer young Clare: a human life. And this is the curse of a Claymore: they can't live human lives, and they can barely hope for human deaths.

Priscilla cries out, "Kill me while my heart is human," but her heart and body are as at war with one another as they have been since she killed the yoma in the form of her father. As much as a part of her wants to die to leave this cruel world, her survival instincts are as strong as they've always been. When Teresa lets down her guard to deliver the killing blow that she's no doubt given to dozens of changing Claymores, Priscilla strikes out unexpectedly and beheads Teresa in a single swing of her sword.

I said about Episode 7 that the tragedy of Priscilla is that she is treated like a tool and an obstacle by Ilena and Teresa -- women who should know better and should respond to the young girl differently based on their own painful histories and experiences. But, really, that's a simplification. The real tragedy of Priscilla is that she never should have been thrown onto a battlefield in the first place. The Organization seems to understand that intense trauma and the drive for revenge are powerful motivators for warriors who cannot hope to otherwise lead a normal life.

But what they don't seem to grasp is that fielding warriors with serious unresolved issues of betrayed trust, overwhelming fear, and survivor guilt isn't likely to turn out terribly well when an overwhelmed warrior stands a very likely chance of turning into Awakened Being the moment they lose their self-discipline in battle.


Inquisitive Raven said...

Okay, Teresa's initial mistake with Priscilla in the last episode is pretty clearly what you describe. I'm not sure I agree with your interpretation of what happened when she refrained from killing her. Yes, it would have been better if she'd reached out to Priscilla at that point, but I have the impression that she was still trying to resolve the tension between "kill her, she's a threat" and "I can't; she's a terrified child." Walking away is a way of putting off the issue, and until she does resolve that conflict in herself, she's unable to actually reach out to Priscilla. Unfortunately, she doesn't really get the time she needs.

Ana Mardoll said...

I think that makes sense, too. It may be a little of each, but I do wish Teresa had taken Priscilla more seriously -- both as an opponent and as a person.

BaseDeltaZero said...

"But what they don't seem to grasp is that fielding warriors with serious unresolved issues of betrayed trust, overwhelming fear, and survivor guilt isn't likely to turn out terribly well when an overwhelmed warrior stands a very likely chance of turning into Awakened Being the moment they lose their self-discipline in battle."

Admittedly, it's entirely TV Tropes derived, but my understanding is that...

Gur Betnavmngvba tenfcf gung cresrpgyl jryy... vg'f whfg gung gurve *npghny* tbny vf dhvgr sne sebz gurve fgngrq tbny, naq pregnvayl qbrfa'g vapyhqr *ceriragvat* gur perngvba bs Njnxrarq Orvatf...

Ana Mardoll said...

@BaseDeltaZero, is that so? I hadn't read that, so maybe I need to check TV Tropes again. I *do* know that they're building an army for a larger purpose (which is completely not touched in the anime, alas), but I'm surprised at the thought that Awakened Beings will suddenly help out and play nice when the time comes. Not all the ABs operate logically (as we'll see with Ophelia), and that shouldn't be surprising given that they're basically created through massive trauma, mad science, and body horror. Huh.

BaseDeltaZero said...

Like I said, it's just from what I recall from TVTropes. I haven't actually seen the series... but I seem to recall the whole business being a rigged game from the beginning.

I should probably watch it. I have a lot of series I should probably watch, though...

Ana Mardoll said...

I feel your pain -- I have a long list, too.

Best of my understanding, the Organization is trying to find the best way to create an army of warriors, because there's an upcoming invasion of... dragons. I think. TV Tropes isn't clear on that last part.

chris the cynic said...

What's with all the vicious racism against dragons? Think of all of the poor young dragons watching tv being constantly being bombarded with the message that they only thing they can aspire to be when they grow up is evil.

What if they want to be doctors or lawyers or saviors of humanity? Why must they always be typecast as evil?

Ana Mardoll said...

That's a good point. I should clarify that the dragons on the other side are apparently EVIL dragons. I would assume that the Good dragons have set up their own representative government and a very well-functioning society and would be happy to help out if only people would NOT run away long enough for the Good dragons to explain the situation. Poor things. :(

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