Black Clover Season 1 Part 4 (Episodes 30-39) (Cert 12)
2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 239 minutes approx.
The journey of magic less Magic Knight Asta to realising his dream of becoming Wizard king continues in this fourth instalment of Black Clover. The next adventure to befall our shouty protagonist actually happens by accident at least at first, leading to a new official mission when a new foe is introduced.
It’s pay day and the Black Bulls have been given the day off with no missions pending, allowing them to live freely for a while, which might be dangerous considering the quirks these people possess. One of them is Gauche Adlai and his very unhealthy obsession with his younger sister Marie – we’re talking nosebleeds every time he thinks of her, with is neither funny or entertaining, in fact, it is downright creepy.
Naturally, Gauche spends his money on gifts for Marie’s birthday and pays her a visit at the orphanage in the village of Nean. However, his plans are spoiled when he finds Asta is already there playing with Marie, which raises his jealous ire, though Asta is there to visit a girl, Rebecca, whom he meet in the previous episode and works at the orphanage. The feuding partners are invited to stay, whilst Noelle hides in the dark, having followed Asta out of curiosity but during the night, snow suddenly falls and the children of the village start sleepwalking towards the mountains.
With Marie being one of the children, Asta and Gauche, along with Sister Theresa of the orphanage, follow them, finding a young boy, Neige, controlling the snow that has cast this spell, and his older brother Baro, who is draining the magic of all the children and then selling them off to the highest bidder. A battle ensues but the easily defeated Baro and Neige have support from the dangerous Eye Of The Midnight Sun group.
Black Clover takes many cues and aesthetic influences from the mighty One Piece which may or may not be a good thing, but that doesn’t mean it should also take the now legendary series’ slow burn approach to finding its feet. One Piece only really started to click well into its second arc some forty episodes in – Yuki Tabata’s creation achieves this a little sooner but still runs the risk of this going unnoticed by losing viewers with its derivative earlier episodes.
There is still plenty of work to be done in exploring all the major characters beyond Asta, like for instance his older brother Yuno, also training to be the next Wizard King and a member of more prestigious squad due to actually possessing magic. One would expect this rivalry to be a recurring plot thread in charting the progress of each sibling, yet Yuno hasn’t been seen in a long while, getting only a very brief appearance in one episode in this set.
Illustrating how much of a problem this can be, the penultimate episode revolves around the discovery of a traitor among the Magic Knights captains working in conjunction with the Midnight Sun. The culprit is exposed but chances are most viewers won’t recognise him since he hasn’t been featured since the very early chapters, and even that was only briefly.
Whatever drama was supposed to be created by this development is negated by the lack of knowledge and investment in the periphery characters in order for this to be shocking. Had we been more familiar with the entire cast this would have worked but under these circumstances, it is more of a case of “Who?” and not being able to care, like whenever a “celebrity” version of a TV show and have no idea who anybody is.
However, we are afforded some background on Gauche, a former nobleman robbed of his inheritance, forcing him to provide for himself and Marie through criminal activities until he was caught and imprisoned, and Marie sent to the orphanage. It was Black Bulls captain Yami who saved Gauche during a prison break to see Marie, recognising the power of Gauche’s mirror magic technique.
Yami also gets the flashback treatment, revealing he is a foreigner dealing in dark magic through his katana, earning a reputation as a troublemaker when discriminating locals would pick on him and he’d dispatch them one gang at a time. Just as he did with Gauche, Yami was saved when recruited by incumbent Wizard King Julius Novachrono, though his slovenly, carefree methods haven’t endeared him to the rest of the Magic Knights.
It is because of the crisis with the abducted children these revelations are shared with us. As the fighting ensues in the mountain, Noelle contacts Magic Knight headquarters for reinforcements, but with most of the Black Bulls are incapacitated from too much partying, Yami and Finral, capable of spatial transportation, are the best options to provide support, the former finally showing us what he has got.
Another obvious influence on this series is Bleach, apparent from Yami’s arrival on the scene in the same way the Soul Reaper captains would appear to provide back up for Ichigo and kick some major ass! This also applies to the Midnight Sun, who send three dangerous mages known as The Third Eye, their superior and almost infallible abilities designed to provide stellar opposition to the heroes.
Noticing the seminal shows that inspired Tabata’s work is a distraction that shouldn’t exist when trying to create your own legacy, but in many ways will be inevitable within certain genres, like shone fantasy adventures. However, we are starting to see the show take major steps forward in developing its own identity and is beginning to demonstrate its potential for the longevity it strives for.
Black Clover is slowly shedding the paint by numbers stigma that hampered its earlier chapters, and is showing little more consistency with its narrative in establishing the Midnight Sun as antagonists. Wider character development and regular participation of the supporting cast would be a boon for the sake of future betrayal storylines, otherwise this series is moving along quite nicely.
English Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0
Page 33 Commentary
Inside Studio J: N J City
Inside the Episode – Black Clover Highlights Eps 28-39
Pages 37 Commentary
Clover Clips Special Edition
Textless Opening Song “Black Rover”
Textless Closing Song “Black To The Dreamlight”
Rating – ***
Man In Black