Years ago, Shonen Jump was a US version of the Japanese magazines that serialize manga. It was owned by Viz Media, and showed off some of the most popular titles they’d licensed. They’d also offer a chapter of new series to tempt readers to pick up their other titles, despite not being in the magazine. I had a subscription for most of Shonen Jump‘s paper run (it ended up being digital in the end and may now be defunct – I don’t know because I gave up at that point) and I have to admit it was well worth the cost. Because they’d run one or two chapters of 5-6 manga every month, and a normal volume contains about 5-7 chapters, a year’s subscription was roughly equivalent to two volumes of each series being run. Considering that the price for a year was $30 and each of those volumes cost $8 before tax…I consider it a sound investment. Even when they started picking series I couldn’t stand, like Bo-Bo-Bo, it was still worthwhile. I have a good chunk of the Dragon Ball Z Cell saga, all but the first volume of YuYu Hakusho, the first 20 volumes or so of Bleach, and bunch of One Piece too. Not to mention that the eight years of magazines takes up significantly less shelf space than individual manga volumes of all those series would.
Back in 2006, about a year and a half into my subscription, Shonen Jump previewed a newly licensed manga called Claymore. It featured a woman, wielding the titular massive sword, fighting monsters. There wasn’t much to the opening chapter, but it peaked my interest nonetheless and I resolved to collect this particular series. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked.
I remember hearing about the US release of the anime, but I was having a good time reading the manga, and opted to not spoil it for myself. I watched and read simultaneously with other series like Inu-Yasha, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Rurouni Kenshin with…mixed results. So I stuck to one format for the time being with Claymore. It was slow going, since the volumes only came out once every three months, but I could live with it. At least that was more frequently than standard novels.
Then at one point the release interval changed to six months. I realized this meant that the US release was almost completely caught up with the Japanese, meaning that most of the delay was first for the manga to be released and second for it to be translated. And then, one day, I bought the final volume.
It wasn’t until very recently that I thought to go back and watch the anime, now that I had read the manga in its entirety. I had to admit to a fair bit of curiosity, given that the anime was limited to a single 26 episode season and the manga encompasses 27 volumes. There was no possible way that each episode would cover a volume and a bit, but I’d always wondered about it. So I started watching.
Claymore the anime is incredibly faithful to the manga…for the first twenty episodes. And don’t get me wrong, it was quite lovely to see something rendered so faithfully. Animation as a medium has the quality of sound and movement added to the visuals of manga, not to mention color, which allows me to understand certain elements better. The animation of the youki (yoma energy) might seem a bit intrusive (Dragon Ball Z draws out aura flashes in manga, but Claymore rarely does), but changing the quality of voices to match how the text is drawn, even the color of flesh and blood…it’s helpful.
It’s in episode 20 that we start seeing things diverge, and that impression is solidified in episode 21. My guess is that the anime was only going to get one season, and they opted to wrap up what they saw as the ongoing storylines in Pieta, despite the fact that this ended up being not quite the halfway point of the series. So they crammed in a climax that would hopefully give the viewers closure by changing a number of things around. If I’d seen the anime before reading the manga, I suspect I’d probably see nothing wrong with that ending.
I promise you, the ending of the manga is better, if only because it has twice as much buildup and wraps up all those loose ends. But it’ll be a bit before I get there. You see, I’ve begun to reread Claymore, starting in the middle of volume 9, where we first begin the Pieta arc. Yes, I know, it’s distinctly weird to start in the middle of a book. But manga are a bit different from normal books and in this case it makes more sense to start where the story arc begins, instead of at the beginning of the volume which is in the middle of dealing with Riful and Dauf. Besides, I did mention that I’m starting from volume 9 and this series has 27 volumes in all. So, that’s a bit over 18 volumes that I am going to read.
I really don’t care for bringing manga to work because I end up bringing so many volumes each day, but given that I binged the anime in less than a week, I’m a bit impatient. Plus, who knows what my weekend will be like. I brought five volumes to work today and finished the fifth a few minutes before my lunch ran out. Then you’ve got the reason why I posted so late today – because manga volumes are fairly short, I couldn’t guarantee earlier that I was done finishing volumes for the day. The good news is, I should be able to finish the series before I sleep tomorrow night. The bad news is that I really should’ve waited until Saturday and burned through them all here at home, where it’s much easier because I can sit in the library with the whole stack next to me.
So what did I actually read today? Most of volume 9 all the way through volume 18 – I’ll start 19 over breakfast tomorrow. This contains all of Pieta, the skip to seven years later, and the beginning of the Destroyer. We see Jean’s work brought full circle and the beginning of the confrontation that the anime rushed. Plus so much more. One failing of the anime is that, because it was so faithful and ended so early in comparison, we never really got to see any warriors ranked above three. Oh sure, we met two of the Abyssal Beings, awakened ones who were number one in their own times, and even one or two others who were number two, but we never saw any active warriors with those ranks to begin to compare them to the ones we knew. More on that tomorrow though.
I’ll tell you though, when I began reading the Destroyer arc back in 2011, I thought the series would end in just another volume or two. Oh, how wrong I was. Which says something about how amazingly rushed the end of the anime was, doesn’t it? I should do a big spoiler section with more details, but it’s getting late and I have work in the morning. Hopefully I’ll remember to do that tomorrow.