Thursday, September 27, 2007

Excited About Anime

I've taken to watching a lot of anime lately. Behind the cut-tag are my thoughts on the first 25 episodes of Claymore. The series runs 26 Episodes and I've got to wait around for the fansub of the final one (end of season, end of series, I don't know). But the last one aired this past Wed.

Before the cut, however, I will say that there are amazing similarities between Claymores (the female warriors in the series - which is also a manga - and Slayers, as in Btvs. Like there are serious similarities, but in a very interesting, if occasionally frustrating and potentially gender wtf way.

If you don't mind being spoiled for some concepts of the series, click the cut-tag. But I'm really going to try not to give away too much. I just need to say now that Claymores are female warriors who are half-human, half-demon, with blonde hair, run by a shadowy organization of men.

Yes, the parallel to the Slayer (aka Buffy the Slayer vs simply one of many) is right there in your face. And don't worry, if you like Faith - there's a Faith too.

Right from the start when I realized that shadowy male figures, who are obviously handlers, and are part of an organization with no name, are effectively controlling these amazing women - I went wtf.

I didn't like that episode of Buffy where we discovered that the first Slayer was essentially raped by demons, under the watchful eye of selfish tribal elders and that until Buffy came along women had been dying in the name of protecting humans from the dark as pawns of an organization of those elders and their descendants for centuries. It turned the whole concept of the blonde girl in the alley turning the tables on the monsters right back around to women as the victims. Not to mention women being granted power by men, but said power being so dangerous that the women need guarding ever after.

As Claymore reveals itself in it's first few episodes I felt more and more uneasy. And yet I was hooked by a very clever play on show it don't say it. Bad fiction tells me the protagonist is a hero (as in champion of good) but then shows me said character being selfish, dishonest, petty, vain and any number of other things.

Claymore tells me that these women warriors are not to be trusted, that they are dangerous tools barely held in check. But then it shows me a protagonist who affects people in positive ways. It shows me someone who is thoughtful, protective, aware of her limitations and faults.

And then it begins to show me why the protagonist and her comrades in arms might voluntarily wear a facade of uncaring. It shows me how they're treated by the populace and their own handlers. It shows me how even their friendships are used against them. Most of all it shows me that however these women were chosen or chose to become such protectors from the moment that was done, they were treated as less than humanity while protecting humanity.

There's an angle I loved about Season Five of Buffy, wherein Buffy slowly realizes that everyone is telling her how weak she is because of her power. As a survivor of abuse I know full well how easy it is to be talked, bullied and emotionally battered out of realizing that you can fight back, or walk away. I loved watching Buffy realize that she had several groups of people pulling the same shit on her to keep her from realizing the truth - that she wasn't lesser or wild or dangerous or even inexperienced and badly trained. (I guess that explains my dislike for S6. To me S5 was a high and then...well that's another essay)

Obviously in this kind of show, Claymore, the protagonist will be special some how in one way or more than one way. The similarities with Buffy continue, to me, in that unknowingly our protagonist draws people to her. Within an organization that seems determined to keep it's warriors isolated and alienated - for the most obvious reason, I suspect, of preventing them from banding together against their superiors - this is suspicious.

Loyalty, Caring and Warmth as suspicious.

How often are those considered to be defining traits of female characters (and women in real life for that matter) and how often are those very traits used as weaknesses? Her too soft heart. Her too caring attitude. She needs to toughen up. She trusts too easily. She's mislead through/by love. She's too open.

Over and over again. I've seen it in fiction.

Now truthfully any heroic figure with hangers on they care about is opening themselves up to hostage situations, pain and possible manipulation. But to me there's something distinct in how such possibilities set up female characters as self-created victims, whereas with male characters it's the villains doing something purely vile and 'not game' somehow. But I digress.

Claymore intrigues. There's the organization. There's our protagonist. There's her personality and actions and how those are viewed by the organization. And then there are the reflections of the protagonist in the form of her comrades. Remember all Claymores have blonde hair and oh yeah, silver eyes. So they're a group that look peculiarly alike.

The Faith reflection is a Claymore who likes blood too much. She lives for the fight, the thrill, the hunt, the action and the blood. Claymores are feared for being half-monster (called youma). The Claymore version of Faith is a monster, she's still simply wearing her human face. It's a self deception that had me wondering if there'd ever be circumstances where she'd come head to head with that or if instead she'd end up a monster with no idea she is a monster, because really if she feels the same on the inside what's the difference?

Ahh yes, the reason Claymores are feared for being half-monster is that Claymores tap into their demon potential in order to fight the human preying demons. But if they tap into too much they become a monster and have to be hunted down themselves.

What? You're saying I should have mentioned that earlier? Why? The organization keeps tabs on each warrior, remember? The moment one reaches that point - well snap chop cut it's over. Thank you for playing and no there's no door prize on the way out.

Besides this way even without seeing the episodes, hopefully you have a sense of a champion trying to do good, treated like an animal, in fear of her own abilities, all while attempting to follow the rules and her own sense of honor.

Let me know if you looked it up.

PS: It's also a Manga with a slightly variating plot.

x-posted personal journal

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