Literary origins
Proto-Cynthia from Undeadman

Original title


Written by

Norihiro Yagi

Illustrated by

Norihiro Yagi


Shōnen, Seinen. Alternatively Sword and Sorcery, Superhero, Science Fiction, Fantasy



Original publication

Monthly Shōnen Jump

Japanese manga date

July 2001–present

Yagi's previous work

Undeadman (1990), Angel Densetsu (1992–2000)

Premise[edit | edit source]

On a cross-shaped island, a mysterious Organization, seeking weapons of mass destruction for use on the mainland, experiments with monsters called Yoma, who prey on humans.[1]

To finance their activities, the Organization runs a protection scheme, where female half-Yoma warriors, called "Claymores" by the public, suppress Yoma for a fee.

Series starts when warrior No. 47, Clare, saves a young boy, Raki, from a Yoma in Doga village.[2] Series climaxes with a Claymore Rebellion at Organization Headquarters.[3]

The dilemma of Teresa, Clare and other Claymores is similar to Arthur's in T.H. White's The Once and Future King (1958): "The central theme is an exploration of human nature regarding power and justice, as the boy Arthur becomes king and attempts to quell the prevalent "might makes right" attitude with his idea of chivalry. But in the end, even chivalry comes undone since its justice is maintained by force."[4]

Literary origins[edit | edit source]

"Literary origins" here includes all media—comics, novels, short stories, poetry, film and video games—which influence the literary aspect, if not the artwork, of Claymore. Metaphysical and religious influences are also included, such as numerology, life energies and goddesses.

Norihiro Yagi's Claymore (2001) begins when the "Sword and Sorcery" genre is well-established and is solidly part of mainstream culture. But Claymore expands well beyond Sword and Sorcery.

While Robert E. Howard's "Conan" and "Red Sonya," Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné (1961), Kentaro Miura's Berserk (1989) and like creations have influenced Claymore—directly and indirectly—Claymore's actual holographic history is even more complex, being a blend of four genres.

Howard's oeuvre, however, can be considered the definitive 20th century ancestor of the Sword and Sorcery aspect of Claymore.


Yagi's early work[edit | edit source]

Undeadman[edit | edit source]

Norihiro Yagi's first one-shot manga, Undeadman, is about "Shinanai," a reanimated man who escapes from the laboratory of Dr Stein. His regeneration of wounds, as well as unpredictable behavior, foreshadows the Yoma and experiment-gone-wrong motifs of Claymore. The title character himself resembles a Yoma.[5]

Early versions of Cynthia and the chief of Doga appear here.

Angel Densetsu[edit | edit source]

Yagi's first series, Angel Densetsu (エンジェル伝説 Angel Legend), centers on "Seiichirou Kitano," a teenage boy whose Yoma-like countenance is at odds with his angelic soul. The background is a typical manga high school in modern Japan. Here appear the first Yagi female characters wielding swords. Despite the reappearance of Angel Densetsu characters in Claymore, as well as various Shōnen tropes, Claymore represents a break with traditional manga.

Ikuno and Leo.jpg
Ikuno and Leo from Angel Densetsu

Cynthia and the chief of Doga reappear in Angel, as well as early versions of Clare, Raki, Teresa, Deneve, Elena, Boss, Sister, Rigaldo, Lars and Bishop Kamuri.

Other franchises[edit | edit source]

Claymore is often compared[6] to Berserk (1990), Witcher (1992) and Freezing (2007), the third due to misunderstandings about the Pandora-Limiter partnership—plus the Stigma.

Four genres[edit | edit source]

Claymore is a culmination of various genres spanning from the Western Bronze Age, to the Middle Ages, to the 20th century. Claymore has four parallel, genre lineages:

  • Sword and Sorcery
  • Superhero
  • Science Fiction
  • Fantasy

Sword and Sorcery[edit | edit source]

Ancient period: 800 BC–600 AD[edit | edit source]

Greek and Roman mythology resurface in various guises in Claymore—tropes from Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, Perseus and Jason and the Argonauts. Miria repeats the Perseus trope of holding up Medusa's head.[7]

Medieval period: 600–1500[edit | edit source]

Between the 8th and 9th cetury, the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf, revives the super-warrior tradition. "Beowulf" combats the Awakened Being-like Grendel and later a dragon.

The 13th century Norse Völsunga Saga repeats the dragonslayer trope with another super-warrior, "Sigurd." As with Beowulf, the Völsunga Saga contains supernatural elements that influence later writers like Robert E. Howard and Poul Anderson and ultimately, Claymore.

Celtic and English tropes from Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'Arthur (1415) and Robin Hood appear throughout Claymore. The Ghosts resemble Robin Hood's band of Merry Men. Medieval legends also give birth to the sword-fighting genres of the 19th century.

19th century[edit | edit source]

In the West, Romanticism dominates the first half of the century with near-perfect heroes. Then Realism takes hold, where the protagonist is less idealized, sometimes to the point of being an "anti-hero" ("Realism" here means psychological rather than physical background). This realist trend continues on into the 21th century.

Scott[edit | edit source]

The medieval broadsword genre begins with Walter Scott's romance, Ivanhoe (1820), which draws on Thomas Malory's work.

Later the Swashbuckler genre starts with Alexandre Dumas's The Three Musketeers (1844).

Hired guns[edit | edit source]

Throughout the 19th century, novel series about the lone, gun-for-hire hero are popular. "Natty Bumppo" of the Leatherstocking Tales (1823–1841), by James Fenimore Cooper, is the most outstanding example. A later, more realist version is developed by H. Rider Haggard, whose series about the African hunter, Allan Quatermain, evolves into the sword-for-hire heroes of the next century.

Haggard himself accelerates in this trend with his Viking epic, Eric Brighteyes (1890), which continues the medieval sword theme.

20th century[edit | edit source]
Moorcock[edit | edit source]

Eric Brighteyes is a precursor of Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword (1954), which in turn is one of the precursors of Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné, which reinvents the entire "Sword and Sorcery" genre. With the appearance of Elric, the white-haired, sword-wielding anti-hero is born.

Elric of Melniboné.jpg
Elric of Melniboné

Moorcock, who originates the phrase, "Sword and Sorcery,"[8] has other literary lineages.

T.H. White[edit | edit source]

A popular book in Japan, the UK and US, Moorcock attributes T.H. White's The Once and Future King as a seminal influence.[9]

Burroughs and Howard[edit | edit source]

The Allan Quatermain series becomes the childhood favorite of Edgar Rice Burroughs', who creates Tarzan (1912). Tarzan is an Allan Quatermain who relies on physical strength and a knife, instead of a gun. Tarzan in turn becomes the childhood favorite of Robert E. Howard's, who creates Conan the Barbarian (1932). With Conan, the transformation of the Victorian, gun-toting hero into the sword-warrior is complete. But the evolution is still not over.

Michael Moorcock further pushes the realist trend with Elric of Melniboné. According to Moorcock, Elric is meant to be the antithesis of Conan.[10]

Albinos[edit | edit source]

Moorcock attributes Elric's albinism to Monsieur Zenith (1918), a character in the Sexton Blake detective series (1916–1948). This trope is repeated in Bastard!!, Berserk, Claymore and Andrzej Sapkowski's The Witcher series (1992). The Moorcock-influenced Witchers[11] fight creatures similar to Claymore's Awakened Beings.

Gernalt attacks.jpg
Geralt attacks

Geralt of Rivia becomes an albino with "hormones, (agic) herbs, viral infections."[12] A female Witcher is created in the same manner.[13] Claymore warriors, instead, get infected with Yoma tissue implants throughout their body.

While Sapkowski has attributed influence on his work from Moorcock, it is still being debated whether Sapkowski himself is an influence on Claymore.

Superhero[edit | edit source]

Early 20th century[edit | edit source]

The Swashbuckler evolves into the Superhero, beginning with Emma Orczy's Scarlet Pimpernel (1905), an amalgam of Scott, Dumas and Edmond Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (1897). The Scarlet Pimpernel inspires Johnston McCulley's Zorro (1919), both of which inspires Lee Falk's The Phantom (1936). The Phantom, the "Ghost who walks," popularized the skin-tight, superhero costume (from Robin Hood, according to Falk). Falk also invents the pupiless eye tropes seen in Claymore and elsewhere.

Female characters wearing tight costumes actually have an earlier history than The Phantom. "Irma Vep" and a "batwoman" wear the precursors of the "Catsuit" in the French film serial Les Vampires (1915). This trope is repeated with the twins Alicia and Beth, as well as the Ghosts phase of Miria and her companions during and after the 7-year timeskip.

Later developments[edit | edit source]

The Phantom, which also uses genre tropes from Burroughs and Haggard, paves the way for Superman (1938), Batman (1939) and countless other superheros in tights and capes. These US comics are widely read in post-war Japan. The result is a flood of manga/anime superheroes during the post-war period (1946–present).

Red Sonya and Sonja[edit | edit source]

Female warriors occur throughout history around the world. For example, in medieval Japan, female warriors are typified by the Onna-bugeisha.

In the West, the popular image of the female warrior traces back to the Amazons of Greek mythology, possibly derivative of Bronze Age female warriors from the present day Eurasian Steppes.[14]

In the 20th century, the sword-wielding "Red Sonya from Rogatino" appears in Robert E. Howard's short story, "The Shadow of the Vulture" (1934), set in the 16th century. This forms the basis of the 1973 Marvel Comics revision, by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith.[15] The resulting twin-sword fighter resembles Undine the Claymore. This early Red Sonja is simply the Howard version transplanted by Thomas into the Conan milieu. Later artists like Esteban Maroto transform Sonja into the archetypical, bikini-clad Hyperborean warrior.[16] The "battle bikini" trope is established earlier by Will Eisner's Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (1937).

Red Sonja.jpg
Original Windsor-Smith Red Sonja

Earlier superheroines, such as Wonder Woman (1941) and Supergirl (1959), depend on abilities other than sword-fighting. But the Marvel character brings the female sword-fighter into the forefront of mainstream media, spawning countless variants in comics, novels, video games, film and television.

Taarna[edit | edit source]

In animated cinema, one of the first sword-wielding heroines is "Taarna" of the Canadian 1981 film, Heavy Metal. This episodic film derives from the science fiction and fantasy magazine of the same name, in which female combatants appear since the first issue (1977).

Taarna from Heavy Metal

Taarna, a post-Elric creation which predates Claymore by two decades, shares the same white hair trope, but depends on neither drugs or tissue implants for her abilities, as she belongs to the extinct warrior race, the Taarakians. Taarna herself originates both from the bikinied Marvel Sonja (Taarna was originally redheaded) and the mute Arzach, a character created by Mœbius, whose art has greatly influenced manga and anime design, especially after his work on the 1979 science fiction film, Alien. Mœbius-like Awakened Beings appear throughout Claymore.

Science Fiction[edit | edit source]

Science Fiction generally falls into two categories: biological (medical experiments, unusual lifeforms) and technological (advanced physical science). Claymore uses tropes from biological Science Fiction.

Shelley[edit | edit source]

Body part tropes (Yoma implants and Clare's arm transplant) descend from Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), considered to be the first true Science Fiction story,[17] predating the technologically-themed Jules Verne. The Frankenstein Mix-and-Match trope is shared with Freezing.

Wells[edit | edit source]

Dae's experiments descend in part from the giantism trope, typified by H.G. Wells' Food of the Gods (1904). The Yoma invasion of Rabona[18] repeats the alien invasion trope, typified by Well's The War of the World (1898).

Lovecraft[edit | edit source]

H.P. Lovecraft's biological Science Fiction is a major influence on manga, directly or through other writers influenced by Lovecraft. For example, the "Sea God" arc in Berserk[19][20] is Lovecraftian in theme, evocative of Lovecraft's Elder Gods, as in "The Call of Cthulhu" (1928). The Creatures of the Abyss have characteristics of these Elder Gods.

Dae's reanimation of the three former No. 1 warriors, as well as the Abyss Feeders, recalls Lovecraft's novelette, "Herbert West–Reanimator" (1921–1922), one the first fictions to depict reanimated zombies.

Fantasy[edit | edit source]

Elements of medieval European folk tales, such as those collected by the Brothers Grimm, appear throughout Claymore. These stories and other sources form the basis of the Fantasy genre.

Carroll[edit | edit source]

Much of the phenomenon of "awakening" appears in the realm of Fantasy, rather than Science Fiction. Such as the scene in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), where Alice's drinking from the bottle causes her to become a giant without destroying her clothes. This is similar to Alicia ("Alice" in the French translation)[21] and her special black uniform, which allows awakenings without bursting the uniform apart.

Awakened Beings sometimes resemble John Tenniel's version of the Jabberwock.

Blavatsky[edit | edit source]

Helena Blavatsky (1831–1891) influences the arts through the new religion of Theosophy.[22]

Writers usually associated with realist fiction, such as H. Rider Haggard and Talbot Mundy, display Blavatsky's ideas through their more speculative fiction. Blavatsky also affects other genres like Science Fiction (H.P. Lovecraft) and Sword and Sorcery (Robert E. Howard, Andrzej Sapkowski).

Concepts like Yoma power and auras and the ability to sense them derive from Theosophy, which derives from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

Baum[edit | edit source]

Theosophy influences L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). Together with the 1939 film, Baum's work imprints itself on future fiction writers.

In the original Oz book, the Land of Oz is divided among the witches of the North, East, South and West. The island continent of Claymore is similarly divided among the three Creatures of the Abyss and the Organization. The Holy City of Rabona fulfills the role of the Emerald City.

Baum's quartet trope is repeated with the Paburo hunt, the warriors having the same self-illusions—Miria has no heart, Deneve no courage, Helen no brain, Clare no home. Raki fulfills the Toto role and represents Clare's wiser half. Priscilla fulfills the Wicked Witch of the West role. In a reversal of Oz, Teresa the Good Witch (of the South/North) is killed.

Differences[edit | edit source]

Elric and Geralt[edit | edit source]

One important difference between the Claymores, versus Elric of Melniboné and Geralt, is that while drugs (herbs) are used to increase the power of Elric and Geralt, suppressant is used by Claymores to hide their auras, but lowers their Yoma energy sensing.[23]

To increase their power, Claymore warriors simply release their Yoma Energy.

Elric and Geralt are called "White Wolf," while Claymores are called "silver-eyed witches."

Male leadership[edit | edit source]

Another difference is the Claymore warriors are generally females, though males are in charge of the mercenary group, as in the Conan, Elric, Berserk and Witcher series. The Organization uses genre tropes, typified by Berserk's "Band of the Hawk," led by Griffith, which in turn trace back to Arthur Conan Doyle's The White Company (1891) and Malory's King Arthur.

The secretive aspects of the Organization derives from tropes tracing back to the secret societies of Talbot Mundy (1879–1940), which more typify the "Thriller" and "Spy" genres. The Organization's Executive and conspiratorial groups in related genres resemble Mundy's iconic The Nine Unknown (1923).

Pre-Claymore manga[edit | edit source]

Bastard‼[edit | edit source]

One of the earliest manga series set in a medieval, European-like background is Kazushi Hagiwara's Bastard‼ (1988). This series itself derives in part from Gary Gygax's Dungeons & Dragons, a game heavily influenced by Robert E. Howard and his literary associates. In the same way that Yagi uses the names of artists for characters and places, Hagiwara uses the names of Heavy Metal musicians and groups.

Schneider of Bastard!!

The series protagonist, the white-haired "Dark Schneider,"[24] repeats the albino sorcerer trope of Moorcock's Elric, who confronts "Lords of Havoc" (Elric struggles against "Lords of Chaos"). Witch-warriors like "Kai Harn" make their appearance here, foreshadowing "Farnese" of Berserk. Though Claymore warriors do not use magic, they are called "silver-eyed witches."

Berserk[edit | edit source]
Gothic style[edit | edit source]

In Kentaro Mithra's groundbreaking Berserk, a medieval world similar to Bastard!! and Claymore is depicted, though in a more flamboyant Gothic manner. Mithra is the visual equivalent of Sapkowski's prose style, which evokes the decadent Old World aesthetic of Isak Dinesen and H.P. Lovecraft.

Brunet versus Blond[edit | edit source]

The two protagonists of the series, the brunet Guts and the blond Griffith, resemble male Claymore warriors in both behavior and appearance. The Guts versus Griffith duel repeats the earlier Moorcock duel of brunet Conan versus albino Elric. In Claymore, this trope is repeated by the conflict between Rigaldo and Isley.[25]

Past and future[edit | edit source]

The Flora-lookalike Griffith predates the white-haired Geralt and Isley. But beyond appearance, Griffith's life-path of glory and doom repeats the earlier Elric, as well as T.H. White's Arthur in The Once and Future King. Many of the manga tropes such as "walking on an opponent's sword"[26] and "graveyard of swords"[27] predate similar scenes in Claymore. As with Bastard!!, Yoma-like entities populate the Berserk landscape. The witch "Schierke" has the ability to sense "Od," which resembles the Claymore ability to sense Yoma Energy.

Human versus Claymore[edit | edit source]

Bastard!! and Berserk are possibly some of the strongest manga influence on Claymore, together with Yagi's Undeadman and Angel Densetsu. But the female warriors of Berserk, such as "Casca" and "Farnese," differ considerably from the female Claymores in both personality and abilities. Casca and Farnese can only be human—that is their tragedy. Claymore warriors can only be part-human—that is theirs.

In an apparent homage to Berserk, Ikuno Shiratakiyagi of Angel Densetsu is modeled after the earlier "Colette" in Chapter 2 of Miura's series (1990).[28]

Colette of Berserk

Post-Claymore graphic novels[edit | edit source]

During the first decade of the 21th century, hundreds of comic-film-game franchises appear, which feature female warriors as the central character. Most franchises are set in a mythical past, such as Übel Blatt (2005) and Queen's Blade (2007), but some franchises take place in the future.

Freezing[edit | edit source]
Limiter[edit | edit source]

This series is written by Dall-Young Lim. Freezing is illustrated by Kwang-Hyun Kim in a post-modernist style.

The protagonist of Freezing, Satellizer L. Bridget, resembles Teresa of the Faint Smile more than Clare. Also, Pandora warriors need a partner called a "Limiter," while Claymores generally fight alone, unless part of an Awakened Hunt. The pairing of Clare and Raki is often mistaken for the Pandora-Limiter partnership. Neither Clare as a girl—while being with Teresa—or Raki are Limiters. The nearest equivalent in Claymore would be Rafutera, whose Yoma power harmonization completely differs in function.

Satellizer L. Bridget.jpg
Satellizer L. Bridget

Implants[edit | edit source]

Freezing shares the same Frankenstein Mix-and-Match trope as Claymore.

Tissue is taken from Nova aliens and grown in a cell culture. Tissue is harvested, made into hexagonal-shaped tablets and implanted into the backs of trainees, who become "Pandoras" with superhuman powers. The more implants, the more power.[29]

In Claymore, the Yoma implants are made through an incision running down the front of the torso, from the throat to the mons pubis.[30] Only sutures prevent the internal organs from spilling out.[31]

Milieu[edit | edit source]

Freezing has a futuristic background and superficially fits the Science Fiction genre, but synergizes other traditional manga genres—Magical Girl, Martial Arts, School Life—which provides its real core—thus is more manga-like.

Claymore has a medieval background and synergizes the four genre lineages described above—this is its core. As "graphic novels" of the most universal sort, Claymore has been described, criticized and praised as being "un-manga."

References[edit | edit source]

Tankōbon Claymore volumes cited are VIZ Media (en-us) editions, unless otherwise noted. Manga scenes (chapters) not yet translated cite Shueisha tankōbon (ja) editions. Manga scenes not yet published in tankōbon form cite Jump SQ (ja) editions. Fragments of Silver Omnibus (総集編 銀の断章 Gin no Danshou) 1–3, Shueisha, are only available in Japanese. Anime scenes (episodes) cited are FUNimation (en-us) editions, unless otherwise noted.

  1. Claymore 15, Scene 79Scene 80, pp. 52–77
  2. Claymore 1, Scene 1, p. 42
  3. Claymore 20, Scene 113, p. 185
  4. The Once and Future King, Wikipedia
  5. Jump Comics Deluxe, September 1990, Undeadman
  6. Top 11 Anime Series of all Time
  7. Jump SQ, June 2012, Claymore, Scene 126, pp. 260–261
  8. Sword and Sorcery, Wikipedia
  9. "Fifty Percent Fiction"
  10. Moorcock on Conan
  11. Rękopis znaleziony w Smoczej Jaskini (Manuscript Discovered in a Dragon's Cave), Andrzej Sapkowski, "Michael Moorcock: Elryk Z Melniboné," p. 52, Wydawnictwo Supernowa, Warszawa 2001)
  12. The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski, 1993, p. 93
  13. Blood of Elves, Andrzej Sapkowski, 1994, p. 34
  14. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, Chapter 13, p. 329, 2007
  15. Conan the Barbarian, No. 23, February 1973, p. 15
  16. The Art of Red Sonja, by Chris Lawrence, Dynamite Entertainment, 8 February 2011, pp. 5–8
  17. The Detached Retina: Aspects of SF and Fantasy, by Brian Aldiss (1995), p. 78
  18. Claymore 20, Scene 108, pp. 10–13
  19. Berserk 35, Jets Comics, pp. 63–222
  20. Berserk 36, Jets Comics, pp. 15–211
  21. Claymore 6, Glénat Édition Française, Scene 31, p. 112
  22. Famous People and the impact of the Theosophical Society
  23. Claymore 2, Scene 5, p. 17
  24. Bastard!! 1, Shueisha, Chapter 1, pp. 5–43
  25. Jump SQ 19, May 2012, Claymore, Special Scene, pp. 421–422
  26. Berserk 4, Jets Comics, pp. 188–189
  27. Berserk 22, Jets Comics, p. 30
  28. Berserk 1, Jets Comics, Chapter 2, p. 106–158
  29. Stigmata, Freezing Wiki
  30. Jump SQ, September 2012, Claymore, Scene 129, p. 651
  31. Jump SQ, September 2012, Claymore, Scene 129, pp. 652–655
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