Story - well. It might be difficult to see any value in its story for the first few chapters. Initially it seems predictable and like a typical "let's watch as some badass kills monsters in this ~fantastical~ weird world" story, but with more interesting characters and concepts. It seems like it doesn't plan on doing anything special with the characters or the story. Yet it still has this weird charm to it that keeps you reading.
But it picks up quickly. Despite the predictability of these first chapters, I found myself pulled in. I typically have trouble getting into manga, since I'm more used to watching
my entertainment than reading it, but I started reading the first chapter on a whim and found myself unable to stop. For all of its initial simplicity, it's still a page-turner, especially once the main character's past is touched on. It's the pivotal point where you realize that this manga really does intend to have some depth, and from that point on, it doesn't disappoint.
Its story does still have some predictability for... maybe half of the series, but it doesn't affect the enjoyment much. The reader grows an attachment to Clare, the main character, and after all she goes through you can't help but root for her and keep turning the pages.
But keep in mind that vast majority of the story is, in fact, played in battles. It's predominantly action, but the fights are far from repetitive. The fights have a clear purpose; they're not just crossing swords for the sake of LET'S GET SOME BLOODSHED IN HERE SO THE READERS STAY INTERESTED.
My only complaint is that I kind of liked the simplicity. As the story goes, it gets more complex, more confusing, and begins to lose the charm that the initial chapters had. Your mileage will almost definitely vary.
Art - difficult to say. The style is different enough to be a little eye-catching, but it's nothing spectacular. Fight scenes are coordinated well, and you seldom have trouble understanding what's going on. I'd hesitate to call it "gory" -- it doesn't go out of its way to show a lot of blood -- but it doesn't skimp on bloodshed or violence. The art has a nice balance.
Readers will appreciate that characters' facial features tend to be so different from each other's, and may be pleasantly surprised that Claymores aren't just ass-kicking beautiful waifs, as powerful female characters in other series tend to be. Some Claymores have long, large noses, some have no eyebrows, some have huge muscles, some have tiny eyes, some have absurdly pointy ears... seeing female characters with some actual variety in facial features is refreshing. Some Claymores are downright unattractive (while still being good guys! Amazing!), and it's just. Really nice to see that.
Character - Clare is a fantastic character, first of all. Her character is easy to understand, and she's a compelling character without being a tragic hero. It doesn't mean that her backstory is any less sad, but it's hardly uncommon in the setting. It's the way she handles it with her actions that sets her apart. Her character is believable, and... again, you just want to root for her. She may be stoic at times, but she's a far cry from emotionless. Don't get her angry.
Aside from her... Raki. Raki is kind of annoying in the anime, but the way he is in the manga is easy to sympathize with. He's lovable. His development, too, is believable.
And all of the other characters are interesting as well. Claymores in general tend to be cold, stoic, businesslike, and asocial, at least when around humans -- humans fear the very warriors protecting them, even calling them "silver-eyed witches" and "half-monster." This would (understandably) make them bitter, especially since no one becomes a Claymore voluntarily. The manga takes these things into consideration. Being outcasted from your village and from humans in general -- against your will, no less -- and then being forced to protect the people who fear and reject you in the first place? It would make most people somewhat bitter, yeah.
The ridiculous amount of characters can make some things confusing (a few times I had to think to myself, "-character-? Who's -character- again? Is that the one who..."), but other characters do have some distinctive personality traits. The other characters become more and more important as the story progresses, and though they don't develop noticeably, they're still interesting, subtle characters who don't (usually) get pushed into standard archetypes. Even the villains are quirky and understandable.
Enjoyment - I love this series. I read 96 chapters in one sitting, which... has never happened to me before. I've tried to read countless manga, but I seldom got beyond four or five chapters before getting bored and never picking it up again. But Claymore? I just couldn't stop. Again, it's a page-turner. I can't really explain why, but this series sucked me in like few series have ever managed to. The characters are compelling, the art is fairly enough, the setting is fascinating, the story is paced well, the action scenes -- scenes which I usually dread in other series -- are every bit as entertaining as the rest.
Overall - go for it. Claymore's far from perfect, but if nothing else, it's refreshing. The feel that Claymore has is unique. It puts an interesting spin on action/adventure.
Published: May 6, 2001 to Oct 4, 2014
Serialization: Jump SQ.
Authors: Yagi, Norihiro (Story & Art)
Score: 8.301 (scored by 76,120 users)
1 indicates a weighted score.
2 based on the top manga page. Please note that 'R18+' titles are excluded.