Content Note: Violence
Claymore Recap: Clare has joined the Claymore campaign in the north against the army of Awakened Beings. The Claymore have been divided into teams of 4 for the battle.
Claymore, Episode 19: The Carnage in the North, Part 2
When we last left the Claymore, Team Jean and Team Flora were having a bit of trouble finishing off their assigned Awakened Being. The back-up teams -- Team Undine and Team Veronica -- leap in to help the two struggling teams.
The Team Flora opponent has Galatea's unique ability to control a warrior's yoma and therefore her movements. When Team Undine rushes in to help, Undine leaps forward and tries to take the Awakened Being on in one-on-one battle. The other team members protest -- they're supposed to attack as a unit -- and the opponent attunes himself to Undine's yoma and takes control of her body. He poises her to self-decapitate and it's only by brute force that she manages to change the direction of the blow to slice her face instead of her neck.
Clare and Deneve move in to help Undine. Clare distracts the Being while Deneve kicks Undine clear of his control radius. When Clare and Deneve draw on their yoma power, both the Being and the Team leaders are certain that both women have gone too far past their limit. Flora cries out, "No! They've gone too far!" and the Being gloats: "Trust me, there's no going back."
The Awakened Being is wrong, of course. It's entirely possible to come back after passing one's yoma limit. We've seen it done multiple times in the series, and the biggest barrier to managing it has largely been one of will. How much does the Claymore want to come back? Clare managed to come back when Raki held her in the cathedral at Rabona. Miria managed to come back because she didn't want to give Ophelia the satisfaction of witnessing the depth of her pain. Deneve managed to come back because her strongest motivation is to live. Jean managed to come back because she believed Clare when she said it was possible. We've seen half a dozen Claymore come back from Awakening, in some cases without realizing they had even done so, chalking the experience up to luck or good fortune.
The Awakened Beings hold as a matter of faith that they can't go back to what they were. Maybe in some of their cases it's true. But it's hard not to get the impression from these Beings that they enjoy being monstrous. They enjoy hurting and killing their opponents. Whether they enjoy it for the killing itself, or for the challenge, or as an act of vengeance against the Organization, the end result is the same: these Awakened Beings don't want there to be any going back. So we have to wonder: are they really unable to go back, or do they choose not to realize that they can because they don't want to?
When the smoke clears and Clare and Deneve are still in their human forms, the Being protests, "You can't turn back after awakening!" His protest is genuine, but his voice has the tone of someone complaining about a broken rule. He'd been anticipating the joy of seeing two more Claymore fall to the side of the Awakened Beings, and now they've cheated and retained their human form. No fair! Deneve calmly responds, "Either you're mistaken, or you've been imagining things."
It's a wonderful retort. The obvious meaning, the one that Deneve most likely intends her comrades to take, is that everyone on the field has misjudged Clare's and Deneve's limits. They've been imagining that Clare and Deneve have gone over their limits, when really they haven't. But the meaning the viewer knows to take is that the Being really is mistaken in believing that crossing one's limit is an event that can't be undone. Clare has crossed her own limit two or three times now and come back every time, as has Deneve.
How long has this Awakened Being been mistaken about the inevitability of his form and of his actions? He's a male Awakened Being, which means he was a male Claymore, and the Organization stopped making male Claymores so far in the past that only a few Claymore know about that history now. Has this Being never in that time questioned how much control he has over his destiny? Has he been using what he "knows" -- that he is 'stuck' as a monster, that he can't 'help' being a murderer of innocents -- in order to excuse actions that he simply wanted to do?
We cut to Team Jean where they are managing, with the help of Team Veronica, to defeat their Awakened Being. Jean uses her power attack to tear the monster apart from within while Helen uses her arm-bending abilities to take his limbs in one swipe. Veronica and Cynthia take the monster's head, while issuing one of the funniest exchanges in this series, which I will reproduce here:
Cynthia: "Miss Veronica, we [defenders] have such a thankless role, don't we? We risk our lives, drawing the opponent's attention to ourselves, sustaining injuries from head to toe."
Veronica: "I agree, Cynthia. But as defenders, it's the job we're best suited for. It can't be helped."
The exchange is a much needed piece of comic relief after a battle that has been emotionally fraught, but as with all things Claymore, I see a deeper meaning here. The Claymore themselves, as a group, do have a thankless role in this world. They start as marginalized orphans and castaway girls. They gain ultimate power, but... for what? There are no accolades outside of the competitive ranking, no rewards or acts of appreciation. The humans shun and fear them; the Organization issues orders without tenderness or love. They live as outcasts, and they die in battle. The luckiest among them get their revenge and die a good, clean death. (Truly, Teresa was the luckiest of them all, for she found love and a sense of peace before her head was taken off in a surprise attack.) And even now the Claymore are risking their lives drawing the attention of the Awakened Being army onto them, buying the Organization time to put together a strategy.
It's not fair. It's not right. But as the only people in the world capable of mounting a defense against the monsters, it is the job that only they are suited for. It can't be helped.
When the battle wraps up, the Claymore turn to counting the wounded and getting them under cover and into shelter. Undine verbally lashes out at Miria and asks why she deliberately placed weak and inexperienced warriors on each team. She contends that bloodshed could have been avoided if the weaker warriors had been placed in reserve and the stronger warriors allowed to handle the job properly. "The weak ones only hold us back," Undine says angrily.
Flora intervenes to point out Miria's strategy: Some of the Claymore were wounded, but none of them died and all of the wounded should recover quickly. As a trade-off, as it were, now every Claymore on the field has first-hand battle experience with an Awakened Being. They've all learned something, and they all have a little bit more confidence than they had before. They've faced, fought, and survived one of the hardest battles a Claymore can expect to endure.
Undine belatedly recognizes the value of Miria's strategy, but scoffs nonetheless that she's "prefer not to die for a training exercise."
When they are out of hearing, Clare questions Miria. Won't someone notice that they have no real chance for survival in this war? Miria shrugs off the question: "Where you get down to it, we have no way out of this." Once again, an ironic echo of before. It can't be helped. The Claymore aren't stupid or stubborn in their failure to acknowledge their fate; they're simply resolute about their utter lack of options.
In a ghost town not far from the Claymore, Raki wanders desolately. A grave has been erected with Claymore swords marking where they have fallen. He is relieved to see that none of them bear Clare's insignia. When he sees a crumbling wall about to strike and kill a young girl, he yells and pushes her out of the way. The girl gazes at him in astonishment, tells him that he "smells good", and then nuzzles her face into his shoulder adoringly. The girl's name is Priscilla.
A man approaches and gently explains to Raki that if Raki is from the south, then Priscilla must be smelling the scent of the south, the scent of her home and her family, on him. The man -- Isley -- asks Raki if he would like to travel with them. Raki hesitates. He asks about the town they are in: was it decimated by monsters?
Isley smiles. "I wouldn't worry much about it. You're the closest thing to a monster we've seen since we arrived."
He's being ironic, of course. Isley and Priscilla are Awakened Beings. They feed on the flesh and blood of humans they have murdered. It is because of them and others like them that the town they walk through now is a ghost town devoid of life. They are infinitely more dangerous than any single human, let alone a human like sweet, caring Raki.
And yet I wonder if he's not serious in his own way. Every Awakened Being that has ever existed has existed as a direct result of the actions of the Organization. They choose to take a dangerous being -- the yoma -- and use that being to create a weapon, a half-human half-yoma hybrid. Their intentions were perhaps good, to fight fire with fire, but in the end they created a greater evil than anything they had faced before. A single yoma kills dozens, maybe hundreds; an Awakened Beings easily kills hundreds, if not thousands. In the world of Claymore, who is the real monster? The yoma creatures who kill in order to survive, or the humans who carelessly create beings of massive destruction in response?