Content Note: Violence
Claymore Recap: The Claymore group in the North have won their first skirmish. Raki has joined with Priscilla and Isley, unaware of their true natures.
Claymore, Episode 20: The Carnage in the North, Part 3
Episode 20 opens with Raki being uncomfortably embraced by Priscilla. Isley approaches with some "found" horses for the three of them to ride, and assures Raki that Priscilla is acting the way she is because the smell of the southern lands retained on his clothing reminds her of her lost family.
Men traveling on the road appear and advise Raki and his companions to steer clear of Pieta because a large group of Claymore have gathered there. "Where there are Claymore, there are yoma," the man says, and he's right in more than one way. The Claymore gather to fight yoma; the Claymore are themselves part yoma; the yoma that the Claymore in Pieta are gathered to fight are Awakened Beings, their kindred Claymore.
Raki resolves to go to Claymore when he realizes that Clare -- the lowest ranked -- is among the party in Pieta. Isley convinces him that they can all travel together as a group, and the three set off. At camp, Isley asks Raki why he is looking for Claymore: "Nothing good ever comes from associating with them," Isley warns.
This scene is interesting because we still do not know what drives the Awakened Beings. Some of them are driven by impulse and anger and hunger, but Isley and Riful seem to be more nuanced than that. It seems evident that Isley cares somehow for Priscilla, and obviously the two are able to rein in their hunger long enough to travel with Raki without menacing him. Now Isley is pronouncing -- what? Bitterness? A warning? Concerns? -- to Raki about associating with Claymore. Is Isley genuinely concerned that Raki will be targeted and hurt in the cross-fire of the constant life of battle that a Claymore leads, or is he expressing his own pain and bitterness at having "associated" with the Claymore long ago?
Raki protests that he wants to travel to Pieta to protect Clare. "If it weren't for Clare, I wouldn't be alive today. She's always protected me." And this is true: Clare protected Raki from the yoma posing as his brother. And Clare has saved Raki's life numerous times when Clare's enemies have targeted him to hurt her. In return, Raki helped Clare retain her form and control in Rabona when she awakened.
Isley chides Raki, saying that it's easy to say he's going to protect Clare. "The weak cling to words. The strong die trying to protect them." And I wonder if we're not seeing some of the world-weariness that all Claymores must struggle with. The weaker humans talk and strut, but at the end of the day they can do nothing against the yoma. The stronger Claymore were created to serve the weak, but they all ultimately die or lose themselves fighting. Was Isley's awakening an attempt to take a third path, to leave the fighting behind?
Isley tells Raki that being helpless is a sin, and Raki quietly retorts that he is therefore a sinner. But he privately vows that he'll protect Clare all the same. The weaker party of the relationship is a common theme in fighting anime, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. Raki is physically weak, but he is emotionally strong. In the time that he traveled with Clare he brought a great deal of depth and emotion in her world, and reminded her of the humanity she'd slowly peeled away in her long road toward vengeance. He's saved her from herself, from losing control in her awakening. In the Ophelia arc, he was strong enough to be tortured without distracting Clare and he was brave enough to run the other way when Clare ordered him to. Raki is far from weak in any sense other than physical.
Yet even if he were weak in every sense, he would not be without value as Isley implies. And I think maybe there's a reason that this implication is put in the mouth of a man who is, no matter how sympathetic, ultimately a villain. Clare will not be saved by the strong before this story is over; she will be saved by the weakest members of the cast. Weak does not meant without worth. But now I'm jumping ahead.
We cut back to Pieta. The Claymore are recovering from the last attack and many of them share how afraid they are. Undine, the strongest of the group, chastises them all and storms out; Deneve follows.
When Deneve finds Undine hiding in an empty storeroom, Deneve questions her. Where did Undine get her second sword? Undine retorts that she took it from a weakling who died, and Deneve objects that normally Claymore swords serve as grave-markers. Undine says that the sword's owner was a low enough rank that no one cared, and that the dead have no use for swords. Deneve observes that Undine carries her friend's sword in her dominant hand, and that she never lost her grip, even when she was wounded in battle. And then Deneve pushes open the door and reveals Undine's true form: a small, slender, crying girl.
Undine, like Raki, was a weak warrior. She was protected by a friend, a stronger warrior who died protecting her. Undine took up her friend's sword and vowed to never again be weak, and began using her yoma power to appear more muscular than she actually is so that the Organization would sanction her use of two swords.
Deneve tells Undine that her story is a common one. Every Claymore has, simply by virtue of being a Claymore, seen their family and their friends killed. Deneve herself was saved by her older sister. When she became a Claymore, she was horrified that her hopes for revenge didn't manifest in her as a fighter; instead she became a defender because, deep down inside, she wanted to live. And for that she felt guilt and shame, and fought recklessly feeling like she didn't deserve to survive. It was only when Helen told her, "There's nothing wrong with wanting to live! We're human, you know," that she realized that there was no shame in surviving.
Episode 20 is the episode for the weak. Raki is weak, and no matter how he trains he will never be strong enough to protect Clare from every possible threat. Undine is weak, and no matter how much power she pumps into her veins, she will never be strong enough to prevent battle casualties on her team. Deneve is weak, and no matter how much she berates herself for being "cowardly" for wanting to survive, she can't -- she shouldn't -- suppress her natural instinct to survive. Jean, one of the top ranking warriors in Pieta, is weaker than Flora, yet still steps forward to defend Clare when Flora challenges her to a duel. The nameless Claymore awaiting the battle marching toward them are weak in comparison with the force they face.
None of that makes them "sinners" as Isley would say. Weakness does not make them worthless. Weakness does not make them incapable of making a difference. Weakness does not make them deserve death. Weakness means they are people, with all the possibilities and creativity and vulnerabilities that implies.
Isley, watching Raki practice by the fire, muses that "No matter how far they surpass their limits, the power that can be theirs is ludicrously small." But there is a disconnect there, for even Isley values someone weak: he values Priscilla. He just can't seem to generalize from the weak one he loves to understanding that his opponents are loved and love in return, by their friends, by their comrades, by people like Raki.
When Isley meets with his general, he issues a single command: "Wipe out all life."