Black Clover Season 2 Part 1 (Episodes 52-63) (Cert 12)

2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 287 minutes approx.

Usually I’d begin a review with something along the lines “And we’re back” as this the official second season of Black Clover, but the truth is, it never went away! There was no break in the transmission of the show in Japan and the story continues exactly where it left off, so quite how this is a new “season” is beyond me.

Anyway, that point at which season one did conclude is indeed resumed post haste with the mages of Diamond Kingdom attacking the Clover Kingdom, but our heroes from the Black Bulls having just returned injured from a brutal mission, are in no fit condition to fight. The invading army is led by three of the Eight Shining Generals, Ragus, Broccos, and Yagos, and they are not nice people.

Luckily, help is at hand from Golden Dawn which includes Asta’s older brother Yuno, who is in a much more agreeable mood than previously, displaying signs of warmth to his sibling rival. This coalition between the active members of the Black Bulls and the Golden Dawn eventually sends the attackers back to whence they came, but the woes aren’t over yet for Asta.

It is somewhat disappointing that what was set up to being a dangerous and potentially devastating battle for our heroes is dealt with inside the first two episodes of this set, but the door is left open for a return clash somewhere down the line. There is further frustration in how this bunch from the Diamond Kingdom weren’t given much build up or afforded any exposition for the audience to appreciate how much of a threat they are to the Clover Kingdom, and the cause for their attack.

Then again, the writing from Black Clover creator Yuki Tabata suggests he sometimes seems to be making it up as he goes along, and maybe publishing deadlines for his manga is a reason for this. We can only assume these villains are given moe backstory in the future.

Faring better in this area is a major character in the arc that dominates this set, a man named Fanzell Kruger, revealed as the one who taught Asta how to wield a sword. His story is told via two flashback episodes based on a light novel adjunct by Tabata and Johnny Onda, so it is canon-ish despite a slightly different feel to it. The foundation of Kruger’s introduction is Asta’s need for a magic spell to heal his arms which have been infected with a curse that has crushed the bones.

Kruger’s story involves his defection from the Diamond Kingdom along with his fiancé Dominante Code, who has since gone missing. A student of Kruger’s, Mariella, shows up claiming to want to help with the search but in fact tries to make Kruger return to the kingdom to continue the medical experiments of their leader, Mars. 

But they didn’t account on Asta being with Kruger, which leads to the Black Bulls getting involved with the usual results. Back in the current timeline, and the reunited Kruger, Dominate and Mariella offer to take Asta and friends to the Forest of Witches where it is believed the Witch Queen has the magic to cure Asta of his curse. However, Vanessa of the Bulls, had the same idea but the evil Witch Queen wasn’t welcoming to the returning prodigal which incenses Asta.

In previous reviews of this show, I’ve mentioned how it wears its influences on its sleeve, but in the episodes in this volume, it covers the entire jacket. The Witch Queen, for example, looks like she is a refugee from One Piece (like so many other characters here do), Kruger has a habit of losing his clothing at inopportune moments (Gray from Fairy Tail) and the mask sported by a wizard in episode two is a direct lift of Griffith’s in Berserk.

However, the most egregious case of “Spot the anime” comes late in this set when (slight spoiler) a revived Asta is on the losing end of a battle against Mars and left for dead. The Witch Queen apparently sees something in him nobody else has and cast a spell on the blood she used to cure him, awakening a demonic alter ego inside of Asta that may or may not have been dormant within his knowledge.

Chances are you are conjuring up images of Naruto and the Nine-Tailed fox spirit inside of him and you would be correct. You may also envision Ichigo Kurosaki’s trips to the alternate realm of his Zanpakutou in Bleach and you’d be right one that count too. So far, so derivative, but what makes it work here is the presentation. In separating this introspection from Asta’s “normal” existence, the animation switches from the standard shone style to something far looser and surreal.

One part Monogatari Shaft and one part Masaaki Yuasa, the visuals have never been so experimental and daring, resulting in some of the most expressive animation yet. It is admittedly jarring when compared to the rest of the show, but the ends justifies the means with the context of the narrative, and whilst it is a second hand idea in concept, it shows more imagination in execution than most of the show’s content.

There is still plenty of fun to be had with this series and the storytelling does show glimmers of creativity, which is necessary as we now know it is in it for the long haul and hopes to compete with its epic forefathers. The current story arc with the Witch Queen is rife with familiar material but it will be interesting to see where it goes from here, given the dark note this collection ends on.

Anyone missing Bleach, Naruto, or Fairy Tail might find Black Clover to be a pretender to the throne but it is an earnest and enjoyable gap filler heading in the right direction, with the potential and right ingredients to attract a loyal following of its own.

 

Extras:

English Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0

English Subtitles

Disc One:

Page 56 Commentary

Disc Two:

Black Clover: Fan Questions Answered by Cris & Dallas

Inside The Episode – Black Clover Highlights Eps 52-54

Inside The Episode – Black Clover Highlights Eps 55-57

Inside The Episode – Episode 61

Pages 62 Commentary

Clover Clips Special Edition

Textless Opening Song “Gamushara”

Textless Closing Song “Tenjo Tenje”

 

Rating – ***

Man In Black