Dark Fantasy is a genre that I hold dear in my heart, but that doesn’t make it any less complicated. One that can craft some of the most epic stories of all time but in the same breath, make one of the most cringe series ever written. On the game front, the dark RPG Dragon Age: Origins easily tops the chart of my favorite game. I have played through it and all its DLCs about five times by this point. The godless world where horrors plague the masses, protected by only the cursed Grey Wardens. Everything about that game hit right with me from the story to the sound, to that adorable witch of the wild I will always choose above anyone else. But even with my adoration of that game, the series as a whole falls off, 2 was fine the Dragon Age 3 lost every bit of what the first was, a dark fantasy game. In the manga world, there is one series alone that holds the throne for the genre, the late Miura, Kentarou masterpiece, Berserk. Though that is a series I deeply love, recently I started re-reading a series I’d watch the anime for years ago, a story I have found myself enjoying a lot, possibly even just a bit more than Berserk, Claymore.
Written by Yagi, Norihiro, Claymore takes place in the middle ages, a world plagued by monsters called Yoma. With an unquenchable hunger for humans, Yoma hides in plain sight, taking over the form of a human it had once eaten allowing it to blend in within society. With little to no way to make them out, mankind has no choice but to rely on Claymores, silver-eyed witches who are half breeds between Yoma and humans, existing solely to hunt. Backed by a shady company, it is up to the group of Claymores to travel from town to town, taking out Yoma for coin and even each other when the time comes. It is within this world we follow Clare, a quiet but composed Claymore who prefers to work alone. The story starts with her saving a village from a Yoma. Though it wasn’t a celebratory time for everyone, Raki, a boy in the town had lost everyone, his father, brother, even the town turned their back on him in fear he would also turn into a Yoma. Shunned and with no one left in the world he decides to follow Clare, much to her displeasure at first but over time Raki can bring out a softer side of the ruthless killer, allowing him to follow her as a cook on her journeys.
The duo then travels the land, slaying Yoma, getting held hostage, almost getting assaulted, ya know, typical dark fantasy stuff. So as I close out chapter 40 I was pondering on why this manga instilled in me such fear and joy. Why this one, compared to all the masterworks of the time stand out so much? I think the answer to that actually lies in the pacing of the story, or simply, Claymore knows when to pull the punches and when not to. This is one of the biggest issues that comes with writing Dark Fantasy. The very nature of the story is supposed to be a gritty gut punch, it borderlines horror simply because the world and what the characters have to endure are that bad. But, as with all things like this, I believe there Is a balance.
I can say confidently the most popular Dark Fantasy story in recent memory was Game Of Thrones. It is also no secret that the show was infamous for killing off literally anyone in the worse ways possible. But that to me was one of the negatives of the series as a whole. See with Dark Fantasy you can be too fucked up. There can be moments of horror and disaster so great it becomes comical. This is rampant in series like Dead Tube, it has to keep outdoing itself to the point where it is no longer logical or even reasonable. Game of Thrones to me fell down that hole a time or two, it was desperate into a search to find that oof moment but in the end, overplayed its hand. It was once said the end of the Golden Age Arc of Berserk made the Red Wedding look like a tea party, which, it did, but in that moment of Griffith betraying the Band of Hawk I felt devoid, understanding the paramount of what was occurring but my emotions stayed stasis.
This is where Claymore for me is different, Norihiro seems to have a great grasp of when to hold, and when to drop the reader into deep despair. There hasn’t really been a time where I felt “that is a little overkill” even as some of the more, dysfunctional Claymore’s get involved. It continues to balance, world, story, danger, wonder, and the relationship between Clare and Raki as they both grow closer in a damned world. Claymore is a really good series in a lot of ways, I don’t recall much from the anime but I have been loving the manga so far and really look forward to finishing the dark epic, and when I do, I am sure I will rant about it here.
As always thanks for the read!