Claymore: Standing On The Shoulders Of Jean

Content Note: Intense Torture, Strong Violence, NSFW Nudity

Claymore Recap: Clare in on a mission to help Jean, but she arrives too late. This is the last episode of the Riful arc.

Claymore, Episode 17: The Witch's Maw, Part 3

Clare arrives to find Jean awakened, and is shocked to hear Jean beg for her death. Her body has awakened, just as fully and obviously as Ophelia's had been... but her mind is still clearly her own. She's not swearing revenge or craving human innards, she just wants the same thing she's always wanted: to die human, as a good person, in full control of her faculties. And yet... by wanting that, isn't she still human, at least in the philosophical way that the Claymores use?

Clare grips Jean's face and begs her to revert back. Jean sobs out, "What are you saying? Once you surpass your limit, there's no turning back. You can never revert back." "That's not true! I've done it myself!" Clare shouts, and between the two of them, they manage to revert Jean back into her human form.

We've talked before that the Organization is hazardously founded on secrecy and fractiousness. The Claymore training seems to be all about instilling the basics into the students and then setting them loose to figure out their own specialties on their own. The ranking system discourages sharing and creates a competitive environment where secrets and breakthroughs are closely guarded. How many Claymore could have learned the Quick-Sword technique if only the concepts of a fully-awakened arm had been taught to them? How many would be better equipped for fights against Awakened Beings, if they were trained in the Teresa-and-Clare method of sensing yoma aura not only to track their foe's location, but also their foe's very movements?

Clare didn't know she was partially awakened until Miria told her she was. She didn't know she could now pass her limit at will and still have a hope of returning back until Deneve took the leap and tried it for herself. And now Jean didn't know that she wasn't lost for good until Clare confided in her that she's come back from awakening! Several times now, in fact!

How many Claymore in the past have surpassed their limit and then never even tried to revert back because they held it as an article of truth that such a thing wasn't possible? The atmosphere within the Organization discourages sharing this fact in every way possible; it's almost certain that anyone who came back claiming to be both awakened and 'human' would be cut down on the spot. Jean is able to revert back by her force of will and by Clare's help, yes, but ultimately she never would have even tried if Clare hadn't been there to tell her it's been done before.

Once Jean is back to her human form, Clare tells her that they need her power for the battle. Jean levels her gaze on Clare and says: "My name is Jean. I will be happy to help." No sentimentalist, this one. Once the two rejoin Galatea, Jean takes up an offensive stance. "If [the strategy] is to keep them occupied while you escape, I would be happy to oblige," Jean offers. "My life is yours to use as you please, wherever you want."

Jean swears a blood-oath to Clare: for helping Jean to regain her life, the remainder of her time is Clare's alone. (And isn't it nice to see a blood-oath that isn't in a Noble Savage context?) And she takes this oath seriously; after the battle is over, when Clare refuses to go with Galatea and Galatea warns Clare that she will take Clare back as a corpse, Jean levels her sword at the stronger woman. Galatea stares at her.

Jean is wounded, and near dead. Her arm is twisted and sore from the battle. She can barely hold her sword. After nearly dying, nearly awakening, she has her life back and she's going to throw it away and sentence herself to death just to protect Clare? Jean stands firm. "My life was once lost to begin with. I have no intention of compromising my honor just to extend my time."

"Claymore" is the story of Clare, and yet... it's not. Clare isn't the Chosen One. She wasn't prophesied by the ancients, and she doesn't rise to power by good breeding or proper parentage. She's unique within the Organization as a quarter-yoma with the blood of Teresa, but this uniqueness manifests more as interesting quirks and bursts of creativity than any sort of traditional Ultimate Power. She's not the strongest Claymore, or the smartest, or the fastest, or the cleverest. She needed Miria's help to defeat the male Awakened Being, she needed Ilena's help to survive Ophelia, she needed Galatea's help to revert back to her human form, and she needed Jean's help to survive the encounter with Riful.

Jean would be dead -- or awakened -- if it weren't for Clare. Clare would be dead-or-awakened if it weren't for Jean. And much the same could be said for almost every Claymore in the series: each and every one of them brings something special to the table, and each and every one of them would be lost without the help of their friends.

Clare doesn't win because she's Clare. She doesn't win by being plucky or by being good-hearted or by being right all the time. She makes mistakes, she has errors in judgment, and she is motivated at least as much by 'selfish' reasons as she is by any love for humanity. Clare wins by standing -- repeatedly -- on the shoulders of giants.

Clare wins by standing, literally, on the shoulders of Jean.


Asha said...

This is one of the reasons I like Clare. She's not perfect. Other anime heroines tend to be pure as the driven snow despite being lazy, or crybabies. Clare is badass because she wants to be a badass- and got lucky in who trained her. She reminds me more of anime heroes than heroines. She's also quintessentially Japanese: she might not be perfect, but with the help of others who are her betters, in a group, she can succeed. That was one of the most comforting things about being in Japan when I was there- they wanted your best out of you, but they also understood that your best might not be perfect. But you had to show that you were doing your best. Clare is NOT perfect, but she is doing all she can and others who can do better are helping her succeed.

And I can't remember the last time I saw a badass female character out for revenge and nothing but revenge. You see guys like that all the time. No really noble intentions, just out to kill whomever even if it kills them and doing some good along the way despite herself. I LIKE that. She's imperfect, she's certainly not your typical female anime heroine. Me likey ^_^

Bificommander said...

Interesting analysis. I admit that the series never really facinated me, and by this point I was watching it on autopilot. I never put all that much thought into the 'reverting back' thing. But your points are interesting and make a lot of sense. I'll be curious what you think of the last few episodes, which I didn't care for much.

Anthony Rosa said...

It makes me realize that Ophelia, and the friend that Clare killed in episode 2, could both have been saved. If only Clare knew that it was possible for the latter, if only she knew the technique she learns from Galatea in the former.

But that's just putting faces on the thing you were talking about, Ana. So many of them could have been saved...

chris the cynic said...

So mostly I'm here so that I can look at how you did this to see if there's any space for me to steal your style for my posts on .hack, but one of the things I've been thinking about is that that series is basically entirely the story of, "I get by with a little help from my friends," which seems an appropriate thing to say in this post as well. Though in .hack the main character is emphatically not badass, so the parallels do break down.

Ana Mardoll said...

That's exactly true, though (how did I miss this comment before?)! So many of unnecessary deaths, not only of the Claymore who turn, and the Claymore who send the black cards, but also of the people they sometimes take with them as Awakened Beings. It's tragic.

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