Black Clover Season 1 Part 3 (Episodes 20-29) (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 241 minutes approx.
We are now twenty episodes into Black Clover and it has yet to establish its own identity to any real level of satisfaction yet still manages to keep its head above water as a cookie-cutter shonen fantasy show. Maybe now is the time for it to stop playing the tribute and start making its own mark on the genre?
It’s been one week since the events of the previous volume which our main protagonist Asta slept through due to the severity of his injuries sustained in battle. Now fully healed and raring to go again, Asta and Noelle Silva, who has developed a predictable crush on Asta but refuses to acknowledge it in true tsundere fashion, have been summoned to the Magic Knight headquarters, to meet the incumbent Wizard King Julius Novachrono.
Examining Asta’s grimoire, Julius is intrigued by his anti-magic sword, deciding that Asta’s lack of magic allows him to wield such a weapon that absorbs other people’s magic, as he has none to drain himself. Asta and Noelle witness a ceremony involving magic knights being awarded their new grades, among them the estranged members of the Silva family, enraging Asta by their harsh treatment of their younger sister.
But this is put aside when a former magic knight, Rades Spirito, chooses this moment to extract his revenge against the guild and the Clover Kingdom by attacking the capital city with an army of zombies, forcing the magic knights to work together to stop him – except Rades isn’t working alone.
Unlike previous volumes, this arc covers most of the episodes in this set, giving it room to breathe and to explore some of the supporting characters a little more, though not quite as much as it should. For instance, we meet the Silva family, haughty, smug, and vain yet treat sister Noelle with clear disdain, the closest hint to an explanation beyond her inferior magic skills is when she is called “mother killer”.
Maybe this will a future story arc in its own in later episodes, but normally a bombshell like this being dropped leads to an info dump heavy follow up by way of explanation. This doesn’t occur here, suggesting we are being forced to wait and the payoff is going to be huge, or creator Yuki Tabata didn’t have this figured out and is simply buying time. If it is the former, it’s a brave way to break with tradition but is it to be applauded or derided?
Similarly, the latest antagonist Rades Spirito isn’t given much backstory either beyond being expelled from the magic knights because they feared his Soul Corpse magic, which allows him to raise the dead and serve as his soldiers. It seems Rades is targeting the captain of the Crimson Lions, Fuegoleon Vermillion, though not for his own gain but his comrades in arms, the Eye Of The Midnight Sun.
This group of mages hidden behind masks and white cloaks are extremely dangerous to the point even the Wizard King is concerned about them, but so far we know very little about them or the extent of their magic. Visually, their leader Patry looks like a runaway from Naruto, just one of many influences on Black Clover that will stand out to seasoned anime fans, maybe not for the better.
Likely to be a sticking point for many viewers from the duration of this franchise’s shelf life, it doesn’t seem to have affected the success of this property; Tabata must be doing something right if her manga is still going after four years and this anime adaptation hurtling towards the 100 episode mark. It might be a case of Tabata finding her feet and the growth of the series will be reflected in her writing and ability to forge an original path for herself and the content.
At the moment however, elements and nods to extant heavy hitters like Naruto, One Piece, Blue Exorcist, and Fairy Tail remain prevalent aesthetically and conceptually, though if you’re going to ape other title, go for the big ones. Tabata should incur derision for such wilful wearing of her influences on her sleeve, yet she has an innate ability to mould the dough into something that at least bakes into something not entirely dependent on borrowed ingredients.
What is the obstacle at this early stage is the storytelling. There is no doubt the potential is there and this arc is a step in the right direction in the wider scope that is needed to sustain the lengthy episode run, but it needs more confidence in when to slow down and provide exposition rather than hit us with non-stop action.
Borrowing again from Naruto or One Piece, some of the major fights span two or three episodes but with good reason, as Rades has four top-level zombies to defeat, each one with their own bespoke abilities to cause their opponents harm. And with the assist from the Midnight Sun mages and their unique powers, the other magic knights are brought forward to fight, and suffer many setbacks and defeats of their own.
There is actually a lot happening in these episodes that hasn’t yet been discussed, no doubt the opportunity will arise in future volumes, as this arc has to continue. The last two chapters here are standalone comedy filler and a remix/recap of the story so far. I imagine this was the obligatory filler in lieu of the anime creeping up on the manga, since each episode opens with a lengthy recap of the previous one, so the actual fresh content quota is a little diluted, as though they were marking time.
At this point, it is still tempting to continue to refer to Black Clover as Black Cliché given how it is shamelessly generic and the liberal borrowing from established properties. However, this volume shows signs of a more focused and confident direction hopefully leading to this show finally standing on its own two feet.
English Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0
Page 20 Commentary
Page 23 Commentary
Inside Studio J: The Technical Team
Inside the Episode – Black Clover Highlights Eps 19-27
Clover Clips Special Edition
Textless Opening Song “PAiNT iT BLACK”
Textless Opening Song “Black Rover”
Textless Closing Song “Amazing Dreams”
Textless Closing Song “Black To The Dreamlight”
Rating – ***
Man In Black