Black Clover 81-83 – Review

Black Clover:

Chapters 81-83

Reviewed by: Tom

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Now, without arms, how does he wipe away that snot? Or are we looking at a tongue solution?

Synopsis: Asta dreams of becoming the Wizard King, the strongest magic user in all of the kingdom. There’s just one tiny problem– Asta can’t use magic! Asta trains and trains, but unlike his best friend and rival Yuno, Asta has zero magical talent or power. However, during the induction ceremony, where young ones receive their grimoire, Asta acquires the rare five-leaf clover grimoire that gives him the power of anti-magic. With his grimoire, and his determination, Asta will battle his way to the top of the Magic Knights and show the world he can become the Wizard King!

(Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

Asta manages to gain entry into the exclusive Magic Knights. He joins the Black Bulls, the team described as the absolute worst out of all the Magic Knight squads. Meanwhile, Asta’s rival, Yuno joins the most beloved team the Golden Dawn. After another run in with the Eye of the Midnight Sun group, the Wizard King tasks Captain Yami and the Black Bulls will the acquisition of a magic stone, one of three the Midnight Sun needs in order to obtain power that could shake the kingdom to its very core. The Black Bulls manage to acquire the stone after an intense battle with the Midnight Sun’s warrior, Vetto. Unfortunately Asta’s injuries from the battle appear permanent….

Review:

Chapter 81:

The next day Asta awakes to find the Black Bulls main lounge completely empty, save for Captain Yami. Asta senses some ki nearby and stumbles upon both Noelle and Finral talking. Apparently everyone is out searching for ways to save Asta and lift the curse that is preventing his arms from healing. This development is seriously undermined by Vanessa’s internal dialogue in Chapter 80. We already know that there’s perhaps some way to cure Asta, and while that was probably a foregone conclusion, spelling it out just takes away any mystery and suspense the series could have had.

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You guys are horrible at secrets, good god! At least check to make sure he isn’t nearby *sigh*.

It does, however, become an overwhelmingly touching moment for Asta and he heads outside to cry tears of joy for being blessed with such great friends. If nothing else this bit still holds some real emotional weight and actually got me to choke up a bit. It’s chapters like these, where the series teeters between solid and rough, that keeps my love/hate relationship with Black Clover going.

Finral and Noelle wonder where exactly Vanessa headed off to and we snap to a large wooden door, walling off a hidden sanctuary. Vanessa screams that she’s returned to the Country of Witches and demands they open up. The doors open, a massive swarm of ravens fly out, envelop Vanessa and then the doors shut, with her having disappeared. It’s a solid moment, but this rather cool introduction to the whole forest of witches angle gets, what I feel, is a pretty sloppy follow up.

Chapter 82:

Finral takes Noelle to a small house where a naked man greets them. He’s quickly blown away by another woman, apparently his wife, and their friend. We discover that these characters, who we’ve never met before, were introduced in the Black Clover novel. That’s right, unlike most other ongoing manga you’re not actually getting the whole story.

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Oh god please don’t tell me Manga is about to do 90s Marvel.

This surprised me, as it was the first time I’d heard that Black Clover even had a novel! It’s not mentioned on the wikipedia, and it seems like the novel only just came out. I have mixed feelings on Black Clover having side content, and I’m leaning towards disgust. It damages the power of its narrative, and ability for the audience to engage when there’s content they need to seek elsewhere in order to fully appreciate the story. Maybe it’d be easier to overlook it if this chapter tried to introduce us to these new, unfamiliar characters, but it doesn’t. Instead we’re thrown headfirst into this trio without much of an explanation or chance to really get to know them, not that they seem all that original and amazing as characters to begin with. Also, considering their ties to the Diamond Kingdom, and the rather abrupt, sudden, and poorly realized developments at the end of Chapter 83, it feels like the novel is almost required reading in order to not feel lost and abandoned within Black Clover’s poorly constructed narrative.

Anyway, we’re ‘introduced’ to Fanzell Kruger, Dominante Code and Mariella, although the manga makes little effort to make sure we know which is which. Noelle asks the three if they know any way to heal Asta of a curse. The guy, Fanzell I guess? doesn’t know anything, but his wife, Domina? can think of one thing.

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That doctor a few chapters ago is starting to look like a right quack.

Mariella, apparently like Vanessa, comes from the Forest of Witches. Finral realizes maybe that’s where Vanessa went. But Mariella explains that leaving takes great resolve as the rules say Witches aren’t to leave the forest. Also, Vanessa was very important to the Queen Witch and it’s likely that if Vanessa has returned, she’d never ever be allowed to leave again. Noelle then asks Domina to take them there. It’s a pretty predictable development, and one that feels a tad tired. We also seem to be moving forward at a blinding pace. I wouldn’t be surprised if Asta’s arms are fixed before Chapter 90 at this rate.

The group heads off to meet Asta and kidnaps him during his lower body training, presumably explaining the situation on the way. Meanwhile Vanessa confronts the queen, who’s still disgusted Vanessa allowed herself to be tempted away by Yami in the first place. Vanessa shuts the queen down, agreeing to return to the Queen’s side in exchange for teaching her ancient dispelling magic. I’ll be astounded if Vanessa actually ends up staying behind in this Forest when this arc is all said and done.

Chapter 83:

Asta’s group arrives at the Forest of Witches, although no men or non witches are allowed inside. Domina produces invisible cloaks that’ll allow them to sneak in. But they’ve only got two sets, so the group has to fly through with all the men under one cloak and the women under another. Unfortunately the men’s cloak accidentally snags on a branch, revealing Asta and the others. Witch Sentry golems then attack the group, who rush through the forest and to where the queen is. I was hoping we’d explore the culture here, see a whole new civilization/world within this hidden sanctuary, but Black Clover seems unconcerned with world building, rushing us from point A to B with barely any time to get a feel for our new surroundings. If I didn’t know better I’d almost believe the mangaka is bored.

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I wonder if we’ll ever get a proper look at the Forest of Witches….

Once inside they find the Queen has already beaten Vanessa down and stands over here. Asta tells the queen to take her foot of his friend, but the queen isn’t interested in listening to those who’d defy her. Asta won’t take it lying down however and launches an attack against the queen, with Finral helping him to teleport behind her.

However, the queen catches Asta in a billow of ravens, wondering why Vanessa would want to help some pathetic no magic creature like Asta. She reveals Vanessa was prepared to become the Queen’s slave in exchange for healing Asta’s arms. Asta is touched, but before things can continue the queen senses something.

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Oh not you guys again….

Coming for the Forest is a massive force of Diamond Kingdom soldiers riding dragons and magic carpets! So is this the Diamond Kingdom’s new thing? To just sort of randomly interrupt whatever arc we’re on? I think these chapters are a mess. Pandering to some side-story light novel that forces readers to go out and buy extra content just to appreciate the current arc better, random and sudden developments that rush the story forward, and the Diamond Kingdom’s abrupt involvement that feels unnecessary. I’m hoping Black Clover turns things around, because I feel like it’s really starting to lose me.

That’s it for today. Let me know what your thoughts are on Black Clover in the comments below!

Black Clover is published weekly in Shonen Jump. Black Clover’s first and second volumes released on June 7th and August 2nd, 2016 respectively. Chapters discussed today, 81-83, will be available in future volumes early next year.

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