Review for Black Clover - Season One Part Three
There are anime shows that can be done and dusted in a handful of episodes, quickly establishing themselves as timeless classics. There was a time when the average length of a series was 24 episodes, but these days it’s far more likely that they’ll just get 12 or 13 chances to impress. FLCL only needed 6 to cement itself as a fan favourite. That isn’t true of anime adapted from long running Shonen Jump offerings, shows that run to hundreds and hundreds of episodes. Shows like that need fifty, or maybe a full hundred episodes before they show a hint of their potential. Black Clover is one of these shows, much like Naruto and One Piece; a large cast of characters, a vast and well thought out story world, and an epic story to go with it. Yet Black Clover is bucking the trend. I had it pegged as really quite awful with its first part. The second part came and wasn’t quite as bad, even offering a hint of something spectacular. And now this third part is here, Black Clover looks to be getting really good. The thing is that Black Clover’s parts are really quite small. Forget fifty or a hundred episodes, Black Clover’s evolution has taken just 20.
Asta and Yuno are both orphans, abandoned on the same day, found, taken in and raised by the church in the village of Hage; in a mediaeval world where magic is a commonplace reality. They could have been brothers, only they grow up as totally dissimilar. Yuno is calm, and level-headed, while Asta is brash and loud. Everyone has some magic in this world, everyone that is except Asta, who has grown up unable to conjure even the smallest spell. This wouldn’t be a big problem, except that both Asta and Yuno have sworn to become the Wizard King, the most powerful mage in the land, by becoming Magic Knights and distinguishing themselves.
No one expects much from Asta, and on their coming of age ceremony, where they get awarded Grimoires matched to their ability, it’s Yuno that gets the rare four-leafed clover Grimoire that the legendary first Wizard King had. But when it comes to Asta, he receives an unprecedented five-leafed clover Grimoire, a power that isn’t exactly magic the way everyone recognises.
10 episodes are presented across 2 Blu-rays from Manga Entertainment as follows.
20. Assembly at the Royal Capital
21. Capital Riot
22. Wild Magic Dance
23. The King of the Crimson Lions
26. Wounded Beasts
28. The One I’ve Set My Heart On
Black Clover gets a 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p transfer. The image is clear and colourful, and brings the anime across with no visible compression or aliasing, and with no sign of digital banding to my eyes. The animation is smooth-ish, although that is down to the source rather than the transfer. This is one anime where frame rates drop to single digits at times. The character designs are pretty generic, and it seems that the majority of the budget went on the digital effects applied to the magic sequences.
You have the choice between Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround English and 2.0 Stereo Japanese, with subtitles and signs locked to the appropriate track. I watched Black Clover in English. Yes, you read that right. This inveterate subtitle fan chose to watch an English dub of an anime. That’s because the Japanese voice actor behind Asta, Gakuto Kajiwara, has a quality to his performance that I suspect can only be elicited by genital torture, and Asta’s Japanese voice inflicts that same torture to anyone who hears it. Give Dallas Reid credit, the English voice of Asta, for trying to match the same ‘cat through a mangle’ quality of the original in terms of loud and screaming, but he can’t even manage to be a tenth as annoying as the Japanese. The rest of the dub is passable; Black Clover is a long running show which doesn’t really shatter the budget in terms of production values, and the repetitive nature of the dub translation is typical shonen, and quickly gets tedious. The audio is fine, without any glitches or dropouts, while the subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos.
The discs boot to animated menus.
Disc 1 autoplays a trailer for Funimation Now and has audio commentaries on episode 20 with Micah Solusod (Yuno), Bryn Apprill (Mimosa), and Jill Harris (Noelle), and episode 23 with Bryan Massey (Rades), Austin Tindle (Leopold), and J. Michael Tatum (Fuegoleon).
Disc 2 has more than the usual extras on a Funimation/Crunchyroll disc.
Inside Studio J: The Technical Team lasts 9:05.
Inside the Episode: Black Clover Highlights offers three chunks looking at episodes 19-21, 22-24, and 25-27. These run to a total of 11:22. Note there are sound sync issues on all of these clips.
Speaking of clips, Clover Clips Special Edition offers more, extended funny lasting 6:44.
Finally you get two textless opening sequences, and two textless closings.
You have the most annoying main character in anime, coupled with my own tendency to add “la vista, baby” whenever his name is mentioned in the show, and you might think that Black Clover is a series that I do not have much time for. It may have started out that way in the first collection, but for a Shonen Jump show, it is rapidly gaining my interest and even a little affection. Asta may be the most irritating character in the genre, making Naruto and Natsu seem positively genteel in comparison, but he has a good heart, and a refusal to be discouraged that is hard to dislike. And while the rest of the characters also follow the typical shonen archetypes, they are at least fun and watchable. Most importantly, Black Clover has subverted one of my expectations. I had thought Asta and Yuno would go the Naruto and Sasuke route of bitter rivals, but as the show has progressed, their rivalry has been friendly at worst. It really is more sibling rivalry coupled with sibling affection, which means any antagonism is momentary, good natured, and quick to blow over.
This collection is all action, featuring a new set of villains, and a lengthy arc. Asta and his Black Bull Knights teammates are summoned to the capital by the Wizard King himself to attend an award giving ceremony as his guests. Asta’s healed up after the dungeon mission in the previous collection, and with Noelle they are joined by Yuno and Mimosa as well. It isn’t long before the presence of two commoners like Yuno and Asta raise the ruffles of the nobility who are receiving the awards, and add to that, Noelle’s siblings take every chance to ridicule her for her lack of magical talent. They are almost about to come to blows when the Capital is attacked.
Agents of the Eye of the Midnight Sun have the downfall of the Clover Kingdom in mind, and Asta is first to put his differences with the other Magical Knights aside to go help the citizens of the capital. That example quickly shames the nobles into also joining the fight, but as is the way in such stories, just when the defenders think that they have the situation in control, the villains raise the stakes and the level of their attack. It’s a story arc that stretches for eight of the ten episodes in this collection, and is obviously only the opening chapter in a far more extensive story arc. At this point in the story, it becomes clear to both Asta and Yuno just how much further they have to go before they achieve their goals, despite the powers they have gained to this point. This is really just the villains throwing down the gauntlet.
The penultimate episode is a bit of light-hearted relief after that stretch of action, which sees Asta’s Black Bull Knights cohort Finral dragging him and the explosive Luck to a mixer, in the hope of scoring a girlfriend. Unbeknownst to them, Noelle follows, jealous of Asta while all the while denying that she has any feelings for him herself. It’s a bit of fun that is a nice note to conclude this arc on. Or it would be were it not for the final episode, which is the dreaded recap episode. This is going to start sounding like a broken record, but Black Clover is fun. It may not be the greatest of its genre, but it is consistently watchable, and sometimes, that’s all you need from a show.