Black Clover Season 2 Part 3 (Episodes 73-83) (Cert 12)

2 Discs DVD/Blu-ray (Distributor: Manga Entertainment) Running time: 263 minutes approx.

Release Date: July 6th 

After the filler-esque distractions of the last volume, it is back to business with this latest instalment of the Black Clover story. We pick up the action where we left it, following the Clover King announcing the formation of the elite Royal Knights to face off against the Eye Of The Midnight Sun.

Every one of the Magic Knights who survived the training camp that took place in the previous release, have all been gathered for the next stage of the selection process. This involves them being split up into groups of three to see if this eclectic mix of egos and differing magical skills can co-exist as cooperative fighting unit, to be demonstrated via a single elimination battle tournament.

Our main hero Asta has been chosen to team with Mimosa Vermillion of Golden Dawn, another unconfident female in love with the shouty protagonist, and Xerx Lugner, Vice-captain of Purple Orcas – except his is the real Xerx. In the opening chapter of this set, Xerx is seen bullying an elderly woman, but is punished by the mysterious Zora Ideale, who steals Xerx’s cloak and his place in the selection exam.

Remarkably, nobody at the location or those running it have ever seen Xerx so they don’t question Zora’s claim – but I will; surely if Xerx was a vice captain he’d be pretty well known as a high ranking member of his squad, even if he is normally stationed at the border of Clover Kingdom. And with the Wizard King being the one overseeing this tournament he of all people should know who his mages are, right?

But it seems the corrupt Xerx was the only member of the Purple Orcas called to the exam so with nobody there to dispel Zora’s claim, he gets to be a focal point during this section of the story. Dressed like a cross between Tokyo Ghoul’s Ken Kaneki with his creepy face mask, and Naruto’s Kakashi Hatake, Zora has a huge chip on his shoulder which is revealed during a flashback involving his father’s role as Magic Knight.

This is actually a recurring theme of these episodes, as a whole slew of new faces are introduced as part of the exam, and writer Yuki Tabata has be generous enough to give most of them a little backstory to help ingratiate them to the audience. Of course, there is a chance we may never see many of them ever again, depending on how the story pans out from here, but kudos to Tabata for throwing the viewers a bone in this regard.

It’s not just the newbies receiving the exposition treatment, the pasts of some of the longer serving cast members are also shared during the tournament, the catalyst being either their lack of confidence as a Mage compared to the others, or standing in the shadows of their more powerful and successful family members. Asta’s Black Bull teammate Noelle is one such example, as is Finrail, who is forced to fight against his younger but more skilled brother Langris.    

However, as engrossing as these tales of sibling rivalry, misused abilities, and vengeance are one thing that is inescapable is the lack of originality to these new characters. It’s becoming a bit of a bore for this writer continually making note of all the classic and extant shonen fantasy series that Tabata has been influenced by, but this transparency is pushed to the boundaries of near plagiarism with some of the new additions here.

Kirsch Vermillion, for example, is not just an egomaniac, he is obsessed with beauty and considers everything beneath him as ugly; I can’t recall if it was in Bleach, Naruto, or One Piece but I don’t know such a character already exists in anime and he is far more entertaining than Kirsch is. Speaking of One Piece, Tabata’s apparent favourite source of inspiration is mined once again for character designs, presenting a line-up of unusual and frankly implausible body shapes you’d normally find at odds with the Straw Hats.

Yet this isn’t the most visible flaw of this collection – the animation has always been patchy in this series but in this release, we watch it slip further before our very eyes. The action sequences are fine and for the most part, the work is sufficient but there are severe signs of corner cutting elsewhere. In one scene, a line of people watching the tournament are frozen like a tableau vivant, their mouths lazily moving for dialogue and nothing else.

Even a filler episode is a compilation of Mini Clover Clips from the end of prior episodes! The reason for this however is quite distressing. As the story goes, despite the manga and the show’s popularity, Studio Pierrot are too busy with other projects to get behind Black Clover, leaving director Tatsuya Yoshihara to plough on regardless and do his best with limited resources and inconsistent schedules to work within, resulting in hastily produced animation.

Now we know the production team behind Black Clover are fighting from behind the 8-ball, it seems harsh to be critical of the show but the quality of the presentation is only half the problem. Whilst this collection of episodes isn’t the strongest once again, it is an improvement over the last volume through having a focused plot to follow. Admittedly, there is a lot of repetition in the action due to the tournament format but with various magical abilities on display, it’s certainly not a bad as it could have been.

Whether you like the show or not, it is a shame, nay a disgrace, that weaker series with less shameless derivative ideas will have the top-notch production values Black Clover deserves, and this may be why many fans in the west haven’t taken to it. Those who have stuck with it thus far won’t have any complaints with this latest instalment, anyone who hasn’t seen it before are not advised to use this as a launching point.

 

Extras:

English Language Dolby TrueHD 5.1

Japanese Language Dolby TrueHD 2.0

English Subtitles

Disc One:

Page 76 Commentary

Page 77 Commentary

Disc Two:

Black Clover: Cris George & Clifford Chapin Discuss The Royal Knights Exam

Inside The Episode – Black Clover Highlights Eps 75, 78 & 81

Clover Clips Special Edition

Textless Opening Song “JUSTadICE”

Textless Closing Song “Hanaga Saku Michi”

 

Rating – ***

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