In many ways this is the volume of Claymore that every fan of this series has been waiting for. For one, it’ll be the last release for the series until the middle of next year, so if you were holding off getting into the series, now’s the perfect time to do it without worrying about falling behind. (You have been saving your pennies to fill the gaps in this series, right?)
It’s also the volume were us lucky fans receive two major story milestones. The first is the Big Reveal about why the Claymores, the yoma, the Awakened Beings, the Organization—the whole tamale with the rice and the sour cream on the side—all exist. And it is a doozy and a half, even if you could see at least some of it coming as far back as volume 7 or 8. Nobody has doubted that the Organization wasn’t in this with anything less than their own best interests at heart, there’s a lot more beyond that, and I would sooner lie down in front of moving traffic than reveal any of it here.
The other major element is the return of Raki, something which has been back-burnered for quite some time now. Much of that is because Norihiro Yagi probably wanted to buy as much story time as possible to let Raki come into his own, because his return to the story has more than a little of a post-timeskip-Naruto vibe to it. Raki’s not only matured physically but become an accomplished swordsman—something that I imagine will provoke at least a certain amount of groaning and eye-rolling among readers hoping for something else. They didn’t want to see Raki turn into a badass, and they’re right for feeling that way: he’s not.
But there’s something else about the new Raki that might pass unnoticed. None of this has come without a price, and the price is in some respects his innocence. He’s still got a sunny, things-will-work-out perspective (yes, even when it comes to cutting yoma in half), but he’s only able to do this because he’s partnered with Priscilla—and he has, it would seem, no delusions about Priscilla eventually dining on his innards. What’s left unanswered is whether Claire will take that lying down—since he is, after all, looking to reunite with her. She may find Raki is not the man she remembers in more than just his physique, and this may well be a setup for tragedy rather than triumph.
The rest of the book’s taken up with plot left over from the last volume—i.e., Galatea’s attempt to take down Bloody Agatha, which Claire lends a hand with—and some other, peripheral twists arising in the wake of all that. But at its core this is as pivotal an installment of this series as we’re likely to get for quite some time, and that’s not just because we have to wait six months for the next book.
Those of you who were on the fence about this series should get off and begin with the first four books or so—or, if you want to cheat a bit, you can rent the DVDs and get a somewhat-edited and -compressed rendition of the plotline up to about volume 10. Either way, you have a good window of time to start and get up to speed on what is one of the better, smarter and more absorbing adventure/fantasy titles out there short of Berserk.