Content Note: Violence, Light Nudity
Claymore Recap: The Claymore are preparing for the invasion of Pieta. Raki travels toward Pieta with Priscilla and Isley, unaware of their true natures. Episode 21 and 22 are very closely tied together, so I am going to handle both in one post.
Claymore, Episode 21/22: Invasion of Pieta, Part 1/2
Episode 21 and 22 cut back and forth between the Claymore and the three travelers, so let's take Pieta as a whole and then see how Raki is doing. The episode opens with the northern army of Awakened Beings on the move against Pieta with orders from Isley to eradicate all life, even down to the smallest insect. Isley patiently urges Priscilla and Raki to continue their journey, saying that the battle in Pieta will be over before they arrive. Raki follows quietly, still unsure what to make of his strange companions.
General Rigaldo -- the Silver-Eyed Lion King, as he was called when he was a Claymore and a name that he shuns now as bringing up painful recollections of his past -- moves the army in for battle. The Awakened Beings are 27 strong; the Claymore hold steady at their earlier number of 24. In the first wave of battle, the Claymore almost immediately lose 5 of their own, but the Awakened Beings lose 3. Though the Awakened Beings are more powerful, the Claymore are able to hold their own by virtue of their planning and teamwork.
Rigaldo withdraws his troops before he loses any more and takes to the field. He mocks the Claymore saying, "Here you are in an impossible situation and you are trying to carve out a path to survival somehow. However, I can no longer watch my forces be destroyed." And then the killing begins. In his first attack, he kills or seriously wounds all the Claymore leaders except Miria. When he wounds Jean by putting his arm through her chest, Clare responds by losing control and attacking angrily. She's fast and powerful, but compared to Rigaldo she is painfully weak and easily brushed aside. Clare prays for more power, more speed, more ability to stop this monster and save her friends.
Cutting back to the three travelers. Isley muses that far away from where they are now, fleeting lives are being exterminated one by one. He states a quiet longing to see the sight with his own eyes before moving on. Not long after this, Raki notices that Priscilla is gone. He hears a scream and sees a woman run by, her cry of "Monster!" whipped away on the wind. Concerned for Priscilla, Raki walks resolutely forward into a darkened cave, frightened but determined to do his best to save her from the yoma. To his astonishment, however, he realizes that Priscilla is feeding on a human corpse. Raki cries out and raises his sword to attack her, but hesitates when he sees that Priscilla is crying. He lowers his sword and begs her to stop eating. "Why are you doing this?"
Raki sees Isley enter the cave behind him, and realizes that Isley is not surprised to find Priscilla in this state. Raki turns on the older man and asks "What's wrong with her?" Isley calmly explains that Priscilla was once human and was then a Claymore and finally an Awakened Being. He tells Raki that what Priscilla is now is what all Claymores are destined to become. Raki begs Priscilla to stop eating, and asks her to fight her urge to kill and eat humans. Isley chides Raki, saying that Priscilla is doing what is necessary for her to survive. Her urges aren't evil; they're a natural need.
Later, with Priscilla clothed and quiet, Isley drives his point home again to Raki. "What she did was perfectly natural; you shouldn't be shocked. She needs nourishment just like you or I do." He informs Raki, "Priscilla feeds on the flesh of humans. I'm afraid it's something that she cannot help. As much as it may repulse you, it will never change." Raki asks quietly whether Priscilla even wanted to become an Awakened Being or not. Isley says he does not know but that "it's a fate that is all but inevitable for a Claymore."
Raki protests, anxious that this fate not be in store for his Clare. Can't Priscilla revert back to being human? Isley tells him that is impossible, that Priscilla is no longer human. Raki chooses to continue on with Isley and Priscilla, determined to reach Clare and protect her from becoming something like Priscilla.
Episode 21 and 22 are, I think, episodes about survival.
Miria wonders at the start of battle how she and the others can keep going even knowing that they are doomed, and she ultimately decides to push the worry aside and reach for hope as the only way she can get through the battle. Clare silently vows, "I will make it through this, no matter what it takes. I will survive," echoing Miria's thoughts. Each one of the Claymore is driven, not so much to win, as to stay alive at least a moment longer. If they can stay alive for enough of these moments, will the battle finally be over and won?
Isley has always been something of a puzzle to me, because the anime never really lays out his motivation in black-and-white terms. He is capable of self-control, tenderness, and admiration, as we see in his allowing Raki to travel safely with them and teaching him sword-fighting and marveling at Raki's determination to pass his limits. And yet he wages war with ferocity and his scorched-earth tactics make it clear that for him there are no neutral parties in war. He and his Awakened followers are on one side and the world is on the other, as far as he is concerned.
So I wonder if the theme of these episodes -- survival -- isn't a clue to Isley's ultimate motivation. It seems strange to think of someone so powerful as worried about survival, and yet I think it's something that he's been forced to face since meeting Priscilla. He was at the top of the heap in this world, but then faced a difficult battle with Priscilla when she went on her rampage after awakening. I think he now has doubts that he'll remain the toughest forever. I wonder if his scorched-earth campaign is motivated by a belief that his need for survival requires him to wipe out the Claymore and the bulk of the new Claymore stock -- the humans.
In the midst of this, we have Raki and Priscilla, our Moral Compass and our Moral Quandary. Raki cares about Priscilla because he's seen that she can be a sweet, tender, caring person when she's not giving into the urge to feed on human flesh. And the viewer knows that Priscilla has a tragic past that is almost untouched by the slightest bit of joy. Raki wants to reform Priscilla, to bring her to a state of existence where she can fight her urges for human flesh and live a "normal" life, and it's obvious that he wants this in large part because he wants a "normal" life with Clare and fears that she will ultimately become a monster if she doesn't fight these same urges. But Isley maintains that Priscilla can't and that she shouldn't have to; his opinion is that for an Awakened Being to eat humans is natural and neutral. The viewer is left wondering: Has any Awakened Being ever even tried?
Clare is awakened, as is Miria and Helen and Deneve and Jean and possibly a dozen other Claymore. They initially called their state "partially awakened" because they have control over their form, but as the series has progressed, that distinction has been so eroded as to now be meaningless. These women seem to be, for all intents and purposes, awakened -- and yet they've not dropped dead from lack of human innards to feast on.
If the human-yoma hybrid creatures -- the Claymore and the Awakened Beings -- really do not need to eat human flesh in order to survive, then this whole battle is unnecessary. The Claymore are tasked to help humans survive; if the Awakened Beings choose not to prey on humans, then there need be no quarrel between the two groups. And, indeed, the Organization has taken a pretty lenient stance with the awakened: they don't go after them unless the humans put out a contract for them to do so.
The lines drawn between the Claymore and the Awakened Beings have always been portrayed as ideological, a question of survival ethics. Claymore who value their morality over their survival submit to be killed by their comrades and receive a "human death". Those who value their survival above all else eventually turn away from the Organization rather than submit to death, and they survive however they can. Way back at the beginning of the series, when the Claymore were the protectors and the Awakened Beings were the killers, the morality of the two groups was easy to assign. Now that we've seen Claymore act as killers and Awakened Beings who are clearly wounded victims, the waters are muddied.
Are the Awakened Beings fighting under Isley fighting for survival, or do they just think they are? Are they fighting because they want to fight, because they enjoy eating human flesh and testing their limits against the Claymore? Where should the line be drawn between natural urges and ones that can and should be fought, and how much responsibility does someone like, say, Priscilla have for her actions? She who has been told all her life that monsters eat humans, who has been infused with the blood and urges of a monster, and who succumbs in moments of weakness to these urges even as she weeps, what can someone like Raki do for her? How much of what she does can be excused under the umbrella need of "survival"? How much of what Clare has done and will do can be excused under the same?
These are not questions I can easily answer, but they're questions we have to face.