Content Note: Intense Torture, Strong Violence, Sexualized Violence
Claymore Recap: Clare has stumbled into a hunt for an Awakened Being and now hopes to rescue the captive Claymore. This is the second episode of the Riful arc.
Claymore, Episode 16: The Witch's Maw, Part 2
Reaching back into Episode 15, we follow Clare on the road as she walks towards the nest of the Awakened Being. She is accosted by a group of low-level yoma and her suspicion is piqued: yoma rarely fight in such a coordinated style, and they've clearly been studying Claymore and learning their tactics. This is surprisingly organized of them.
In the lair of the Awakened Being, we learn that the Claymore are being tortured near to death in an attempt to force them to awaken. Jean encourages her comrade not to give in -- "You don't want to become a monster, do you?" -- but the pain is too much and her comrade awakens. The Awakened Being judges the newly awakened Claymore too weak to be of any use, and has her destroyed.
None of this is inside our realm of experience with this world.
Clare arrives at the cave at the opening of Episode 16 and hesitates. There are yoma signals everywhere, and she soon realizes why: the cave has been carefully strewn with pieces of a yoma -- poles torn from his own body -- in order to mask and confuse Claymore senses with a thousand tiny biological signatures. It's a trap, designed to blind the Claymore from sensing further inside.
Again we cut back to Jean. Jean asks what the Awakened Being -- Riful, is her name -- is after, and Riful tells Jean that she'll be happy to tell her just as soon as Jean has awakened and joined them. Jean balks, saying "I'd rather die than become a monster." Riful finds this amusing. "To normal people," she explains, "you are a monster."
This is true. We saw this a single episode ago, when the innkeeper warned Clare to stay away from the Claymore. He said -- and we aren't given to think his viewpoint is unusual -- that though the Claymore fight on the side of humans, they're still monsters just like the yoma. And he can perhaps be forgiven for thinking such things: we saw in the Teresa arc that Claymore have no problems with sailing into a town and ripping up buildings in pursuit of their own. And we know from the Ophelia arc that at least some Claymore kill humans and then kill the witnesses in order to get around that pesky "no killing humans" rule. And, of course, Awakened Beings themselves are ex-Claymore, although the humans aren't supposed to know that.
Still, even so, Riful has a point that Jean is a 'monster' for certain definitions of the term. And what Riful will eventually be offering -- the chance to fight a more dangerous awakened being, but at a power level and on a team that might actually be able to take him on -- is not terribly different than what Jean does on a day-to-day basis as part of her current job. Indeed, working for Riful might be a bit less stressful, because there's always the possibility that Jean can retire after the final battle -- an opportunity denied to Claymore, who must fight eternally until they die. Would working for Riful be so different from working for the Organization? Sure, some humans would die along the way... but don't they already? And wouldn't it be for the cause of the greater good?
Jean chokes out her answer over the pain: "Maybe you're right. Maybe I am a monster. But you're wrong to think I'm anything like you."
Clare is rescued from her predicament by Galatea, Number 3, who is conflicted in her own duties. She's been sent to retrieve Clare, but she was given the strong impression that the Organization would be more than happy to have Galatea report back with Clare's death. Things would, in some sense, be significantly less messy that way. But Galatea can't stand by and watch Clare die; she rescues her and then later -- when Clare is on the verge of awakening -- she uses her control over yoma auras to help Clare revert back to her human form.
When Riful lets drop that her intended opponent -- a male Awakened Being in the north -- has a one-horned woman by his side, Clare strikes a bargain: if she can land a blow on Riful, then the Awakened Being will tell Clare where she can find Priscilla. Clare goes on an all-out offensive, striking as hard and as fast and with as much yoma power as she can. At the last second, Galatea yanks her away, and chides her: "You came close, you almost awakened." The match was part of Riful's game.
If there's a lesson to be taken away from the Ophelia arc, it's the lesson that fighting evil doesn't mean that you, personally, are good. But I'm not sure it's a lesson that Clare takes fully to heart. It's too easy to see Ophelia in terms of black-and-white, a damaged girl predestined by some cocktail of genetics, experience, and brain chemistry into being uncontrollably evil. It's in the Riful arc that Clare has to really acknowledge the fact that she can awaken even while she thinks she's doing good.
This is the most seductive and most common path to evil: the path you walk thinking that your choices serve the greater good, that the limits you push are necessary ones, and feeling completely unaccountable for your actions. Galatea holds Clare accountable; her desire to stamp out Priscilla once and for all does not justify the reckless use of her power to the point where she endangers herself and others.
The lesson from the Riful arc is that awakening can be approached from many angles, and just because she's not being tortured into it doesn't mean Clare can relax her guard.