Claymore Recap: Clare, Miria, Deneve, and Helen have confronted the Awakened Being, but are astonished to learn that the Awakened Being is far more powerful than they had been led to believe... and male.
Claymore, Episode 10: Those Who Rend Asunder, Part 2
Today's episode is a difficult one for me because it represents some of my favorite things about the Claymore series as a whole, but it also contains a pretty big Epic Fail as far as I'm concerned that thankfully doesn't taint the series too much past this specific episode. So let's dive into the Fail and get it over with.
The big reveal of Episode 9 was that the Awakened Being the team had been sent to kill was male. This, coming on the heels of the opening stinger that all Awakened Beings are ex-Claymores, was intended to be a bit confusing: if all Awakened Beings are Claymores and all Claymores are female, how can there be male Awakened Beings?
Now, I understand the tension between planning and execution. I suspect that the authors of the series started out with the idea of a super-cool, totally-badass Organization of half-human, half-monster warrior women, and not much time was wasted on explaining why only women would be allowed to join. Why not? You don't want to get too hung up on the concept before you've even been optioned for 20-something mangas and a tie-in anime series. But then suddenly you do get picked up for said anime and manga series and now you've got to explain your world-building choices. Enter the gender essentialism.
So here's the in-universe explanation for (a) why the Claymore we've seen are all women and (b) why male Claymores were around long enough to give us male Awakened Being monster-villains, and it's that anyone can be a Claymore, but the male Claymores inevitably turned into Awakened Beings after only short periods in the field, and the vast majority of them weren't even conflicted enough about it to send out black cards and submit to execution. The reason for this accelerated awakening, or so this episode claims, is that the release of yoma power is almost sexual in nature and only the women were able to resist full release effectively. The men, in contrast, built towards awakening almost inevitably. *sigh*
So, here we have the "fact", according to Claymore, that women as a group are either better at arousal-control or orgasm-control (depending on the interpretation of the in-universe analogy) than men as a group, and thus the men weren't able to keep themselves from awakening early and inevitably. It is a major disappointment to me to find gender essentialism in a series that I otherwise love immensely, and the one saving grace I can offer is that the subject will thankfully never get brought up again in the anime.
And here's Ana's tip-of-the-day for budding new authors: if you really must have something that only one gender can do despite what the audience might reasonably expect, don't resort to sex stereotypes to justify it. I would have liked it much more if male Claymores were barred because a few key male Claymores awakened in the early days and management in their prejudice and bias (wrongly) decided that men as a group were too risky to depend upon. And then as a side benefit, you have a sexism angle you can explore if you ever run out of ideas for the series! Everybody wins.
Moving past the gender essentialism, this episode reveals that there is more to our team -- who was shaping up to be throw-away characters after their nasty behavior towards protagonist Clare -- than meets the eye. Deneve has her arm sliced off by the Awakened Being, but manages to completely grow a new arm from scratch; Helen is able to extend her arms and legs to phenomenal lengths. Miria, our tactician, is shocked: these techniques are extremely advanced and would tax other Claymore to the limits of their power, yet here they are using these techniques as though it comes naturally.
There is a foreshadowing here: Helen and Deneve are both more powerful than their current rankings would imply. Clare, too, is ranked as the lowest warrior in the Organization, but we have already discussed that ranking might be false. Now the Awakened Being prods Miria, telling her that she has missed something critical in her analysis of the situation: Why have the four of them been chosen to fight such a powerful being by themselves?
The male Awakened Being, merely by virtue of being male, is not newly awakened -- the Organization hasn't made male warriors for a very long time. The Organization therefore must be aware of the Awakened Being's existence, and it's very possible that they knew his identity and strength before dispatching our team to his territory. The male Awakened Being points out that he has lived on the mountain for some time and that "I kill the warriors who are sent to me... I do what I must in order to survive." A timely cut to Raki in the nearby village reveals that Claymores have a habit of going up the mountain to do battle... but that none of them ever return.
Is the Organization deliberately sending teams to face this powerful being, knowing that they are not equipped to win? Are the Claymore being sent to their deaths intentionally, or are they being tested? Can the male Awakened Being even be trusted to tell the truth? He gloats over Miria: a warrior must be clever to survive, but being too clever can get you singled out and killed.
When the monster goes on the attack, Miria is able to hold out with her "phantom" speed, but she is no match for the creature in a one-on-one battle. Clare -- the weakest of the Claymore -- slowly comes to her aid. "I've faced a far greater opponent and I know what true despair is," she announces wryly, before walking slowly through a shower of attacks that all mysteriously fail to strike her. Her comrades are surprised; Clare is moving as though dodging attacks before they are launched.
We cut to Clare's point of view and are told that Clare is using the same technique that made Teresa an unsurpassed warrior: yoma suppression and yoma sensing. Clare can see the flow and web of yoma within the limbs of her opponent and when an opponent is using a lot of yoma power -- as is the case with Awakened Beings -- every move is telegraphed to her so far in advance that she can dodge long before a blow can come near her. Miria realizes that Clare has chosen to hone her skills to the singular purpose of fighting Awakened Beings. Clare is the ideal fighter... for fights that comprise possibly 1% of a Claymore's total battles. Talk about specialization.
What I like about this reveal, though, is that Clare isn't necessarily good at her chosen technique yet. It's a smart technique, perfect for her life plan of fighting Priscilla and ties nicely in with her history with Teresa, but it's not a silver bullet. Clare has a stellar defense mechanism, but she can't yet fight effectively because any time she gathers her own yoma in order to attack, she loses her concentration on her opponent's movements. Her own influx of yoma essentially burns out any competing signals. Miria chastises her and tells her she needs practice or else her trick is functionally useless; Clare wryly agrees that the lesson is painfully obvious.
One of the hardest things to accomplish in a series about unstoppable warriors is maintaining a semblance of weakness for the main characters -- with them winning (or at least limping away from) every plot-relevant battle, it's easy for the crucial tension to drain from the series. It's nice, therefore, to see a protagonist with a winning trick that is nevertheless realistically handicapped and which needs significant practice in order to effectively wield. It's nice, also, to see a reasonable discussion on the importance of training and the drawbacks to specialization: Clare's yoma sensing isn't a one-size-fits-all killer move that will win every battle for her. It's a specialization that will come very much in handy against Awakened Beings as the series progresses, but she will still need loads of training and lots of battle support in order to win her fights. She is, essentially, a strong character who is also frequently and realistically very weak.