Now that all is said and done, the whole of Claymore (or at least its first season) has been a journey towards a single smile. Beyond the bloodshed and severed limbs and all the torment endured by everyone, especially Claire, there’s one moment when that woman finally allows herself a smile not only for having survived but for having found something she hadn’t even set out to look for in the first place. Her original mission was to take vengeance upon Priscilla, the Awakened Being who killed Claire’s big-sister mentor Teresa — but a funny thing happened on the way to the battlefield, and at the end she’s grateful there is now something else in her world other than the prospect of endless bloodshed.
No ongoing manga can be adapted into a TV show without at least some level of compromise. And the ending of Claymore as a show — first season or only season — does deviate from the way the same plotlines have been concluded in the manga. They may not keep the same sequence of events, but what they have reproduces the same kinds of emotional significance for everyone involved. I know people who were upset at the changes, but I’m not one of them. What we see in the show works on its own terms.
The last disc is little more than two extended battle scenes, in which a partly-awakened Claire first battles and defeats the leonine Rigaldo (albeit with a little help from her sister Claymores). The battle scenes are a machine-gun attack on the senses; blink and you will miss something. Then comes her battle with Priscilla, now in Isley’s care. Priscilla alternates between childlike innocence and murderous malevolence, sometimes right in the same sentence.
The end result is not the rocks-fall-everyone-dies conclusion we might have expected, but instead a stalemate: Claire goes a notch too far in her Awakening, and Priscilla is reverted back to her vulnerable, de-powered form — but then Raki, who has always served as the voice for Claire’s human side, intercedes on both of their behalves. He’s seen Claire’s more human side, and Priscilla’s as well; he has more pity than hatred in his heart for the latter, and too much love for the former to just let her throw her life away.
This is the part
that wasn’t in the manga: the duel with Priscilla, and Raki’s
intervention. For perspective I went back and read the relevant volumes
of the manga and saw how even for volumes after that point, Raki and
Claire haven’t even met back up again; years go by, and all during that
time he’s ostensibly still in the care of Isley, honing his fighting
technique. I was actually grateful they didn’t take the low road and
have him pop back out of nowhere after Taking A Level In Badass™ (thank
you, TVTropes) and rescue Claire by whacking off Priscilla’s head with
one blow. I think I might have broken the DVD across my knee if they’d
pulled something like that. But they didn’t; they stuck with what the
show is really about, not just what it looks like it’s about.
I suspect the choices they made for the conclusion of Claymore will sit better with people once they have a chance to digest the series front-to-back in a single dose — e.g., when the inevitable season set is released this October.
So maybe the ending we get is a bit more gratuitous than it needs to be. Maybe a final battle with Priscilla was one more climax than this show needed. But they got the right things out of the ending they picked for it, and on the whole this remains one of the very best shows to hit these shores in quite some time.