Claymore: The Many Kinds of Sacrifice

Content Note: Violence, NSFW Nudity, Death

Claymore Recap: Clare has been rescued from Ophelia by Ilena, who has agreed to train Clare. This is the last episode of the Ophelia arc.

Claymore, Episode 14: Qualified to Fight

When we join Clare in Episode 14, she's training furiously in order to master Ilena's Quick-Sword technique and hopefully bridge the gap between the warrior-she-was and the warrior-she-hopes-to-be, and with her weaker arm, to boot. Finally Ilena tells Clare that rest and refreshment are as vital to training as practice is. (This seems like something Clare should already know, but the Organization training methods seem to be to just let the students do whatever they want.)

While they rest, Ilena discusses Teresa with Clare. I have to think this must be an incredible relief for them both, at least in some ways. Ilena left the Organization and fled because of what happened that day, and it's implied that she carries a huge burden for her part in the death of her friend. Clare has been carrying the same guilt and frustration and anger with her all this time, and yet has had no one to confide in. All the information she has about Teresa and that day was gathered quietly, without the approval of the Organization. In a world without counselors, finding a kindred soul carrying the same burden as you must be a bitter-sweet relief.

Ilena senses that Clare blames herself for Teresa's death, and supposes out loud that this is probably true from a certain point of view. By tethering Teresa to humanity, Clare inadvertently 'weakened' her -- as we saw when Teresa couldn't bring herself to kill young Priscilla. And yet, Ilena points out, Teresa died protecting the only person she loved and the only person who loved her back. "You gave her a better death than she expected," Ilena tells Clare, and this is true: Claymores die in battle on the side of the Organization or as an Awakened Being, and rarely are they mourned or even buried.

Clare's passion to avenge Teresa has kept her alive so far, but it also effectively prevents her from ever mastering the Quick-Sword technique. Ilena recognizes this, and in an instant she slices off her own arm and gifts it to Clare. There's a finality to this scene, that all Ilena's talk of survival and Clare's protestations that the arm is a loan she will return, can't diminish. Ilena is choosing to die, and in fact made that choice from the moment she used the Quick-Sword to protect Clare. She's being hunted by the Organization, and now that she's used her yoma power in battle, she can't hide any more.

Ilena knows this, and I wonder why she doesn't just go with Clare. She's still an incredibly powerful warrior, based on her interaction with Ophelia, the Number 4, and she could be a great aid to Clare in her battle for vengeance. Probably she would be more valuable to Clare by her side than as her new arm. And yet she chooses not to go with her. I think Ilena has been craving the peace of death one way or another since that last day with Teresa, but she couldn't bring herself to leave with the weight of her guilt still weighing her down. Now she can die protecting Teresa's child, and she does so with a rare smile on her face.

Clare flees through the forest, where she is accosted by an Awakened Ophelia. Clare draw back in alarm, gasping "An Awakened Being?" and Ophelia looks around in shock... and maybe a little fear. "Where do you see an Awakened Being?" she asks.

Ophelia doesn't recognize that she has awakened, and this is a new facet in our understanding of Claymore. Miria, Helen, Deneve, and Clare all hadn't realized immediately that they were awakened, but this was at least partly because their outward appearance didn't match with what they thought awakening brought. Now Ophelia has an outward appearance of awakening, but her mind is in many ways the same as its always been. Sure, she wants to kill and eat humans, but only the latter half of that statement is anything truly new -- Ophelia has been killing things for as long as she can clearly remember.

It's only when she sees her own reflection in the water that Ophelia recognizes what she has become. She's distraught and fights the realization: "I don't deserve this... I can't have awakened! I only wanted to avenge my big brother!" And in some sense, this is true. She's devoted her entire life to killing Awakened Beings, in much the same way that Clare has devoted her life to killing Priscilla. Indeed, though Ophelia doesn't know it, the Awakened Being she wants to destroy is the same person that Clare is after.

But Ophelia has been fighting her battles in pretty much the most evil way possible. In order to satisfy her need to slay awakened beings, she has been quietly engineering awakenings within the Claymore ranks, so that she can continue to self-medicate her pain with battle. Ophelia has demonstrated that fighting evil isn't enough to be 'good', and she's slowly become a much more evil monster than many of the Awakened Beings she's faced. She may look like a monster now, but she's been becoming a monster for a very long time.

Ophelia concentrates the core of her humanity at one end of her huge serpentine body and tells Clare that they'll play a game: if Clare can cut through her entire body and kill her, then Clare will win. But if she can't, then Clare was never going to be strong enough to kill Priscilla anyway. When Clare begins to cut, Ophelia muses at how foolish Clare is: "She could've ignored what I said and targeted me here directly." But the thing is, Clare accepts Ophelia's framing of their situation: if Clare can't get through Ophelia, she really isn't strong enough to kill Priscilla.

As Clare struggles to defeat Ophelia, Ophelia oscillates between contempt and cheering for her opponent. When Clare looks like she might be defeated, Ophelia yells "Are you just giving up now? Have you thought about what happens to everyone who depends on you if I kill you right here?" When Clare finally wins, Ophelia scoffs in her arms, "I despise people like you, who put their lives in jeopardy for some glorious, hopeless cause."

And yet... Ophelia really doesn't despise Clare. She dies giving Clare her blessing, saying that Clare fights "in my place". And her final realization is that her brother's last smile was for the fact that he's been able to save her.

Ilena believed that Teresa had no regrets, giving her life to protect Clare. Ilena herself gave her own life willingly, that Teresa's legacy might carry on. And Ophelia's brother died to protect his little sister. Ophelia's moment of redemption comes in realizing that these acts of sacrifice are not weak. Clare's moment of motivation comes in realizing that sometimes the act of living is the greater sacrifice.


Ivan Mous said...

I can't quite remember, but wasn't Priscilla kinda like that too? I think she remained a bit in denial that just because she felt like eating human guts, that didn't mean she was a Youma or anything, perish the though.

I don't remember thinking that Claire accepted the reasoning, but it was kind of funny to see Ophelia cheering on Claire, then asking herself why she was cheering her on since it meant getting killed.

Anthony Rosa said...

Spoiler Alert:



Considering later events, it was probably possible for Ophelia to come back, now that I think about it. I don't honestly think I would WANT her to come back, but if she accepted Clare like she seemed to here, she might have made a powerful ally.

The Belkar of partially awakened, so to speak. (the picture at the top is relevant, since that's Belkar himself. The quote really explains everything.) Honestly, it would have been fun, in a weird way, to have her with them. Keep the mania, especially the honestly hilarious "just kidding" sort of parts, but point her in a more constructive direction. It would have made things interesting later, that's for sure. Heck, you could still have her die, just another one of the-

Even more spoilers



-casualties of the Northern Campaign. Though alas, she probably would have stolen some of the spotlight from characters like Undine and Flora. Hmm... tough call.

This sort of thing, "what if character x hadn't died" has been on my mind ever since the Walking Dead tv adaptation. Characters who died in the original comic... haven't died yet, way past the point where they were undead and buried. It really changed the dynamics of the situation, and added new dimensions to the conflict. Plus the statements about Irene in this post... and I have to admit I'm very curious how it could have gone down. Not that the Northern Campaign would have changed, the broad strokes would have stayed the same, but other details would change.

Having both the incredibly loyal Jean and the in-it-for-the-lulz Ophelia travelling with Clare and meeting up with the others... it would have been a wildly different dynamic. But, Ophelia is probably a tad too far gone, characterization-wise, for that to ever have worked. Maybe.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's a good question. I didn't think she did, but I guess it's a bit ambiguous -- she says "is this what all the fuss was about" which I thought meant awakening but could have meant passing the power limit.

Now, when we meet her later, she seems to have forgotten she's awakened, but that's after she's been beaten in battle by the Northern General and she's suffered severe memory loss from a head injury.

Asha said...

I enjoyed Ilena as a character, and I would have loved seeing more of her. What I took away from her was that she had sensed Teresa's youki in Clare, and made that decision to come out of hiding. She had to have known that using the Quick Blade was effectively a death sentence for her, and she only had a limited amount of time before she was found. Clare might have learned the Quick Blade in time, but that was time neither woman would have. If anything of Ilena was to survive, giving Clare her arm was the only way for both of them.

Ophelia, I felt, was almost a mirror of Clare. Both of them had trained extensively to fight Awakened Beings. Both of them lost their loved one to Awakened Beings. Ophelia, however, had chosen to slaughter indiscriminately and had forgotten her love for the person who had sacrificed himself for her. We see in her what Clare might have been without Raki, and without Teresa.

Ana, do you think that most of the Claymore warriors are tragic figures, or (beyond the organization) if there are any clear villains/heroes?

I've enjoyed reading this deconstruction! Please continue!

Ana Mardoll said...

I like that: Clare is Ophelia but with the humanizing influence of Raki and Teresa!

I absolutely think most of the Claymore are tragic figures. There's a line in the manga, and I think it's echoed in the anime, that Clare is the only one to join willingly. The rest are orphans that wouldn't be taken in by others because they were 'tainted' by association with yoma (think how Raki's village threw him out) and some have been sold to the Organization by slavers. They have tragic past and they're being used as guinea pigs in biological experiments in order to build a perfect army. *shivers*

Beyond the Organization... it's hard to say. Obviously we'll get into some heavy players later, but I'm not sure any of them are more or less moral than the Organization...

And thank you!

Asha said...

My first impression of Priscilla was quite unfavorable, but that might just have been due to the shock of Teresa's surprise beheading. Hence it has been hard for me to see her as tragic or worthy of pity. There had been nothing so far to show that she was intelligent enough to pull off a wounded deer gambit, and she had tried so hard to obey some kind of rules of fair play- when she killed Teresa, who was trying to save her (even if it was by giving her a human death) it just ruined any sympathy I might have had for her.

Weirdly, I had more pity for Ophelia than Priscilla. Probably because when Ophelia realized what she had become, she allowed herself to be killed. In hindsight, Ophelia was a far more monstrous character but that moment of sacrifice did more to redeem her for me than any speeches about the right to survive coming from Esley about Priscilla later on. Perhaps it is how death as a human is treated in this universe, but Priscilla's delusions at the end just robbed me of the ability to see her in a sympathetic light. Dunno what that says about me, though. *shrug*

Like you, Ana, I agree that the Organization is... creepy as all hell. Are you going to continue this deconstruction into the manga when the anime stops?

Ana Mardoll said...

That's a good question! I have all the mangas, but I'm not sure how well I'll be able to follow them once they move past the anime. I've been reading the mangas while I've re-watched the anime, and there have been several scenes so far where I wouldn't have understood what was happening had it not been for the anime -- it's a very "active" series, in the sense of things and people moving around a lot, and that's hard for me to follow in print.

Asha said...

Ah. Thanks. I got to the end of Claymore and still felt hungry, as it were. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get out to buy the series.

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