Read the rest of Claymore to prevent me from going nuts completely. I now officially highly recommend it; you just have to get past the weird drawing style (and awkwardly-placed pants seams). I guess that for the most part, I can't honestly empathize with shounen heroes. I can't bring myself to root for them, even when they are doing something that needs to be done, because they usually come across as so fake and plastic. I'm still not 100% on what's different here, but something is definitely being done better, since I really found myself wanting Clare and co. to win.
The story didn't really draw me in at all at first (what is it with manga and having crap beginnings?), probably because it feels so standard. Average kid meets aloof supernatural being and gets drawn into her bizarro world, blah blah blah. (It's exactly like Bleach!) It felt kinda flat to me, anyway. And then you get a few volumes in, and everything gets much better. I guess I was relieved to find out that Raki wasn't going to be the absolute center of the story, because he kinda bored me. Clare, the other Claymores, the Awakened Beings, and the Organization's freakish politics are much more interesting.
I'm really glad that clear explanations are given for Clare managing to achieve as much power as she has. I'm always annoyed when the hero seems to get a zillion power-ups for absolutely no reason whatsoever, especially because the explanation tends to be "he trained really, really hard, and that awakened his inborn powers." Excuse me, but I doubt that he's the only person who desperately wants to survive whatever horrible battle is coming up. Oh well, maybe he has more power because his heart is more pure, or something. Either way, it makes me gag. I was so glad that Claymore doesn't do this. Clare gets a lot of lucky breaks, to be sure, but it's at least clearly explained how they help her. And even with all of that, she still works her ass off. Not to mention that the Claymores actually, you know, use strategies (strategies that are comprehensible to people other than the author, no less), instead of just running around swinging their swords at random.
And, let me just say that it's such a relief to read a fantasy that isn't moral in nature. I'm actually a fan of the moral/intellectual school of criticism, but fantasy authors tend to overstate their points so much that everything turns into an afterschool special. The Organization, Isley, and the other Abyssal Ones are all pretty slimey, so there isn't a clear-cut "good side." And our heroines don't know enough of the truth of the situation to forge their own "good side" at this point-- information is pretty lacking in this world. The Organization are clearly manipulative bastards who couldn't care less for the lives of those who work for them, but at least they're not flesh-eating monsters. The Abyssal Ones are interesting, and you almost want to side with Riful and Luciela-- but then again, they eat people and torture Claymores into siding with them. And even though Isley and Priscilla are being set up to be the main villains at this point, they don't actually seem all that bad, at least, not when you compare them to everyone else.
Moral relativity, how I've missed you.
Clare, Miria, Helen, Deneve, and the rest are easy to side with. Maybe it's because, unlike a lot of heroes, they do experience real hardship. They're stuck in the freezing north for seven years, pretending to be dead, and no one seems particularly upset about the supposed loss of their lives. In other words, while they don't go to the extreme of angst, angst, angst all the time, they also don't get everything handed to them on a silver platter.
I guess I also like them because what they're trying to change is a situation, not a single person. It's not to their credit that most fantasy writers (especially you, shounen mangaka) disregard the existance of passive evil.
The only thing that really bothers me is... Clarice. Why have two characters who have such similar names (and even share the same rank)? At first, I thought that Clarice was Raki pretending to be a Claymore. But, unless he got a sex change (or Miata's not the brightest bulb on the tree)... I guess not. Anyway, the two don't really act anything alike.
Also-- Bleach spoilers have been read. Can't say I'm too surprised, but still loving the flashbacks. Such a nice change of pace they are.