When I reached the last page of Claymore, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a manga that’s spent so much of its time on women, on women together, sisters-at-arms and intimate friends, and (in one case explicit, in another subtextual) sex partners. But the protagonist, Claire, has always been – well – straight and signs pointed to the idea that she would come to center her life on a boy, Raki. (It would’ve been creepy, frankly, since she met him when he was a young teen while she was already an adult. It’s still creepy, because they do end up together.)
This didn’t happen at all. Raki’s still there and everyone assumes he’s her destined romance (although ‘everyone’ is all the other warriors, and to the very last woman they’re all completely fucked up and wouldn’t recognize that it’s kind of really, really creepy, mate), but he’s never central. There are bigger things to worry about and, toward the end, he becomes the only surviving male with speaking parts. And even then, only just.
Here we are, finally. Claire doesn’t walk off into the sunset holding hands with Raki, no. Instead, she comes back to Irene: ‘There are so many things I want to tell you’, much as there were so many things Claire wanted to tell her dead mentor and mother figure Teresa, whose consciousness returns temporarily to guide Claire to victorious closure. And what is Claire, really, if not a culmination of older warriors whose body parts she literally carries? Irene’s arm, Teresa’s brain, Jean’s self-sacrifice: all of those make her who she is and which have allowed her to survive all these brutal decades.
Claire isn’t just Claire, but a person informed and strengthened by sacrifices the other warriors (all women) have made for her. Her power is that of friendship and familial love. It’s all very Steven Universe.
Raftela has been trained as the organization’s enforcer, and of all warriors she’s especially isolated. She concedes aloud that she has no friends or comrades, but would like to protect her fellow warriors to the last before she dies. Despite the emotionally closed tendencies of the women in this series, they are allowed moments to be tender, to have interiority: Teresa with a young Clare, Raftela with the trainees. Irritably, the panels above are followed with Raki–a man–defending Raftela from a handful of organization men, but it’s crucial that her salvation isn’t Raki: it’s the girl trainees who group up and hug her. Here are a bunch of girls who have been brutally trained to fight, who were orphans or taken away from their families, who are trained to become emotionally stunted…and they save her with a hug. The setting is grimdark but emotion is not weakness. Emotion is necessary, and emotion humanizes. Claymores need other claymores.
As importantly, this is a series in which women are allowed to be everything, the full range: they can be monsters, they can be violent, they can be petty, they can be ruthless, they can be loving, and they can exit life without regrets.
By the end, though the greater problems of the world – the off-screen war, the experiments, the ‘dragons’ – are not resolved, Claire and her friends have successfully secured for themselves a life and time in which to heal. The Organization has been thoroughly slaughtered, and its one survivor allowed to escape only to tell his superiors that this part of the world is verboten: come back, and they will be brutally murdered, no second chances. These women are done being weapons.