Content Note: Violence, Partial Nudity
Claymore Recap: Clare and Priscilla have awakened and are fighting on the mountain outside Pieta.
Claymore, Episode 26: To The Successors
This is the last Episode of the Claymore anime, and we start with Clare and Priscilla locked in battle. Both the women vow revenge on each other, swearing that they can never forgive the other. Each blames the other for the loss of their loved ones, their deaths long in the past.
Raki reaches the battle and recognizes Priscilla through the layers of her transformation. He begs them to stop, asking what reason they have at this point to continue fighting. Priscilla, overwhelmed with fear in the face of Clare's rage, reverts back to a small, trembling girl. Clare stands ready to execute Priscilla, just as -- so many years ago -- Teresa stood ready to execute her. But this time Raki interposes his own body.
"Clare, please don't do this! Stop it!" he cries at her. Everyone here has lost something because of the yoma, he says, and he's right: there's not a person on that mountaintop who hasn't lost their entire family because of the yoma monsters and the machinations of the Organization. Don't they see? They're all lucky just to be alive. The survivors of all this violence shouldn't be turning on one another and killing each other. The other Claymore stare at Raki in shock, terrified that Clare will cut him down accidentally in her battle rage. "Please don't do it," Raki begs.
Raki throws his arms around Clare and begs her not to fully awaken. He reminds her of her promise, the promise that has kept him going in the hopes of meeting her again. Even when he felt weak, he kept going in the hopes of meeting her again. He loves her, and he just wants life to return to the way it was: traveling together, enjoying each other's company. "I'll protect you," he promises, "so you can live as a human being." It's the same thing Teresa wanted for Clare, the thing that Clare threw away when she pursued her plan of revenge instead.
Tears stream down Clare's face as she says his name, but her body is no longer under her control. The spines on her back poise to attack, but Jean pushes him aside and takes the hit. "Jean, why?" Jean smiles. "It's the opposite of what happened before, right, Clare?" When Jean had awakened, Clare brought her back to her humanity; now it's Jean's turn to do the same for Clare. She's happy to finally repay her debt, the burden that she has carried with her since that day in the Creature of the Abyss' lair. "Revert back," she pleads gently. "I know you can do it. Focus, and I'll pull your aura back."
Clare refuses. If they match auras in her weakened state, Jean will die. Clare doesn't want Jean to die at her own expense, she doesn't even want to live herself! "I have nothing to live for. If I can't kill Priscilla, I might as well die!" Jean shouts at Clare to break through the haze of her depression: "There will be plenty of time to find something to live for once you revert back." She reminds Clare that there are people in this world who want to see Clare live, people who have put their faith in her, and people that -- were Clare being honest to see it -- Clare wants to live with and for. "Just live, please, Clare," she says gently.
When the smoke clears, Clare is human and Jean lies dead on the ground, a soft smile on her face. Clare weeps and embraces her friend.
Isley appears in that moment and removes Priscilla from the battle ground. The Claymore are stunned at the power of his aura, and when Isley is gone, Helen complains that it seems like everyone in a monster these days. Miria nods; that's just how it is in this world of theirs.
We cut back to the Organization where Galatea reports that she "can't sense" Clare's aura, with the implication that Clare is dead and the Organization can give up looking for her.
Helen, Miria, and Deneve walk slowly away from the carnage of the night before. "Is Clare going to be alright?" Helen asks. "She looked so depressed, it was like her soul had been ripped out." Miria says that whether or not Clare dies tomorrow or lives to old age will be something that Clare has to decide for herself. The women part company, determined to stay alive and keep fighting for their freedom from the Organization.
Clare rises from the grave that has been dug for her friend, Jean. She hears Jean in her heart, her command to Clare to live. Clare asks Raki quietly, "Will you join me?" Raki smiles. "Of course. I never want to leave you," he says, through happy tears. As they walk away from the past and into an uncertain new life, Clare thinks: "Teresa, I'm alive. Would you say this is how it should be...?"
It's sad to me that the anime ends here when the manga goes so much further, and yet... it feels right, somehow. In a series that is about life and death, this end feels so powerful to me. We've explored how the Claymore choose not to survive at all costs, choosing to die honorably rather than give over to monstrous impulses and cannibalistic urges. And at the same time, we've explored the protagonists' desires to survive and thrive rather than give up for dead in a hopeless, oppressive world. Now here we have Jean, a woman willing to die for what she saw as a worthy cause; and Clare, a woman who is trying her best to live for both her own sake and the sake of the people who love her.
The contrast could be contradictory, and yet it's not: living and dying in the world of Claymore is a choice packed with meaning. Jean's death and Clare's life are intertwined choices that they've made willingly, hoping that the result will be a better world, a better future. Most importantly, they've made choices that they believe will make them happy.
The life of a Claymore is a life of restriction. You go where the Organization tells you to go, you kill who they tell you to kill. You submit to the caprices of the humans, by order of an Organization interested in a zero-tolerance policy over a meaningful examination of real public relations. Any friends you make you may be ordered to kill, for their own good (Clare killing Elena) or for the good of the Organization (Ilena assigned to kill Teresa). And if ever you cause trouble for the Organization, you will be killed by your comrades or assigned to impossible missions, sent coldly to your death.
Though the Claymore women are powerful, they are slaves to the Organization; though the Awakened Beings are free from the rules of the Organization, many of them become slaves to their own impulses, losing their essential personality in the process of escape. Only these few -- Miria, Helen, Deneve, Jean, and Clare -- have been able to escape the cycle of subjugation and death. Only these have been able to choose how to live their lives and how to spend their deaths for something they personally believe in. These women are no longer pawns; they've left the game entirely.
Jean has died for a friend, instead of in a battle she didn't want or fighting an enemy she never knew.
Clare is living for a love that otherwise would have been denied to her.
They've both escaped the world that held them captive, and they've both found the peace that they deserve. I'm content to leave it at that.