Black Clover 84-86 – Review

Black Clover:

Chapters 84-86

Reviewed by: Tom

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Those people look just as shocked as I am that Asta suddenly has his arms all hunky dory again.

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 84:

As if the Diamond Kingdom wasn’t enough, the eye of the Midnight Sun is there to assist them. They begin their terrifying attack against the witches and it’s looking bad. Vanessa wakes up during this and gets into a yelling match with Asta over her attempts to heal his arms. He refuses her help and tries beating his arms with his sword to– heal them? I guess by using anti-magic against the curse? It’s a funny moment, although really calls into question exactly how intelligent Asta really is.

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Asta, look, I mean, the Psycho Zaku in Gundam Thunderbolt is cool and all, but chopping off your limbs shouldn’t be your take away from that series.

Vanessa yells at Asta that sometimes you need friends to help you beat fate, besides, she wasn’t really going to sacrifice herself, she was going to pull the wool over the queen’s eyes with Asta’s help! That was her secret plan anyway. Noelle goes to the Queen and tells her of Asta’s strength. If she heals Asta then he’ll help defend the forest.

The queen agrees and uses blood recovery magic to undo the curse on Asta and apparently make him even stronger than ever! Healed fully and beyond his abilities before, Asta calls for the charge into battle. And just like that this entire, dramatic, storyline about healing Asta’s arms is brought to a close. What was the point? If anything these chapters make me feel like Black Clover isn’t interested in world building, characters, or dramatic storytelling, but rather moving the audience from one big ‘cool’ moment to the next. The next two chapters rush us into a conflict between Asta, the Midnight Sun, and the Diamond Kingdom. It should feel like a big, bad ass, dramatic battle, but we’ve rushed so fast into it non of the ground work was done to give it the intensity developments like this deserve.

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Oh look, he’s perfectly fine again, that was fast.

Chapter 85:

Asta gets a bit of flack from his teammates for not recognizing how worried they were for him. The queen, noting that she kept her end of this new bargain, tells Asta to show him exactly what he can do. Zell wishes Asta luck and tells him they’ve got a bone to pick with Mars. The two they head off into battle. It’s a near pointless moment for any “manga only” readers, as Zell and whatever beef he may have with Mars was apparently shunted off to the novel. It gives off this feeling that the ‘real meat’ of Black Clover isn’t in fact in the manga, but potentially shunted off to side content in various other mediums. It’s an icky feeling and one really turning me away from Black Clover.

The battle itself is going very badly, the queen’s golem, which we didn’t even know she had, is instantly slaughtered and the Diamond kingdom charges in to defeat the witches. Asta comes swooping in and saves a few ungrateful witches who aren’t use to men. Vanessa also helps, using her magic to swing Asta around the battlefield.

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Exactly what I’d like to tell your author.

The diamond kingdom is no match for Asta, who smashes through them like they’re nothing. But he suddenly finds himself targeted by the creepy Midnight Sun girl, Fana. It’s looking bad for Asta, except it’s all a fake out and he deflects the attack, sending it back at the girl. I guess it’s funny how Asta basically fooled the reader between pages into believing he was in some kind of trouble? But really this moment is no less awkward than the rest of what’s going on.

She manages to destroy the blast with another and complains about how Asta keeps getting in their way and that this time– she’ll kill him. But Asta is defiant and says he’ll send her attacks back at her as often as she wants.

Chapter 86:

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He sliced so hard he even took that girl’s face off!

Fana says she hates Asta and cries that she’ll destroy him as she charges down with her dragon. She sunders the trees with her magic, but Asta charges at her anyway and injures her dragon. Vanessa realizes he has an actual shot at winning this.

Much to everyone’s surprise Asta then calls for him and Fana to talk this out, wanting to know why she hates them all that much. With Finral’s help Asta gets in close and disarms Fana, asking why they can’t simply understand each other.

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Might be able to if more effort had been put into the story.

This causes Fana to think back to memories of her childhood, how a human boy, whose face is familiar (maybe a young wizard king?) betrayed them. Fana snaps back to the present and asks who would believe someone like Asta? For me this is the one interesting moment in the manga. Everything else lacks impact, lacks narrative reasoning and depth that it all feels so shallow. This moment gives something back to the story, allowing us some insight into Fana and the other Midnight Sun villains.

Fana’s third eye opens and her power goes in insane, powering up her dragon. Fana cries that she shall burn Asta away with the flames of her hatred and Asta announces that if that’s the case he’ll just have to unleash his special move. It’s as if leaving the audience tensed up at the end of the chapter is some awful idea here. Again we kill any real tension over the flow of this battle by making Asta, yet again, have something up his sleeve to keep things from looking grim. It’s honestly bad writing, I’m not going to beat around the bush. These chapters are bad. They may have some cool art, they may have a few really cool moments, but that’s all it is: Cool moments stitched together. There’s no proper flow, no proper narrative holding it up underneath that gives weight and emotion to anything I’m reading.

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God forbid we be left worried that Asta might be in trouble.

Fana’s flashback is the one silver lining here and it’s not enough. Black Clover cannot shy away from building its characters, or its world if it wants to actually tell a worthwhile and memorable story. And yet, despite some of these more outrageous flaws, Black Clover is often times one of the top rated Manga in Japan. My own speculation is that this kind of abbreviated, get to the good stuff, style storytelling appeals to a young and impatient crowd. More interested in seeing magic and swords slash about than heroes and villains grow and evolve. But can effort like that really sustain an ongoing series for very long? Whether readers realize it or not, they’re likely to get sick of it.

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 sixth volume releases on April 4th, 2017. Chapters discussed today, 84-86, will be available in future volumes late next year.

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2 comments

  • I feel a lot of Black Clover’s issues can be attributed to its pacing. While the fast pace allows the author to showcase non-stop action it leaves very little room to expand on the setting and characters, that is assuming that the author cares about such details in the first place. For me personally its difficult for me to get invested in a fight if I am not invested in the characters and Tabata still hasn’t really convinced me as a reader to see his characters as anything other than a collection of shonen manga tropes and archetypes with few exceptions especially since what counts as character development for most of the Black Bulls seems to consist of Asta screaming at them before the character in question experiences a complete shift in personality almost immediately. Then after that the people around Asta treat him as if he was a sort of messianic figure.

    Now this point may be unrelated to review but I often wonder why Black Clover gets so much flak not just from me but from many other jump readers I’ve come across online. I mean Black Clover is just a run of the mill shonen manga, I have to ask myself why am I getting so worked up over this and why am I still reading?

    It could be because of the art. While I can’t seem to ignore the story’s many issues, I feel that the art is consistently good and is reminiscent of the early chapters of Berserk. But this is probably why I can’t seem to ignore Clover’s story flaws. I am speculating here but whenever I see Black Clover’s art I normally associate the hand drawn high fantasy style with Kentaro Miura’s penwork. So whenever I actually focus on the story I feel that the disconnect between the quality of the art and the quality of the writing makes the series’ flaws far more prominent.

    I apologize for rambling. Great review keep up the good work.

    • The fast pace is definitely an issue, I think the problems Black Clover suffers from though are far more ingrained that even an adjustment in pacing won’t fix. I also feel like you mentioned, that Tabata maybe isn’t actually concerned with this stuff. I kind of wonder if he himself is actually quite impatient with his own story. Investment is definitely an issue, and it’s going to become a compounding problem the longer he lets these issues (pacing, lack of character development, world building, etc.) linger.

      And those are fare points about what character development really amounts to here. It almost feels to me like Naruto but on fast forward. Everyone seems to come around to recognizing the awesomesauce that is Asta awfully fast and he seems to have significantly powered up of late.

      That’s a good question you bring up: Why continue reading? I think part of it speaks to the tried and true shonen tropes that are proven to work. They’re good hooks and components to telling stories. Couple that with a Naruto like narrative, pinning Asta as a clear underdog, and there’s a lot of innate draw, even if the execution can be exceedingly painful as of late.

      The art is another great point. The art is, generally, quite on point and I agree it has always reminded me of Berserk’s aesthetic. I don’t know that the art being reminiscent of Berserk explains away the critical backlash, but I think the sheer quality of the art can lead people to perhaps expect more from the work as a whole.

      And no worries on the rambling! It was interesting. Also thanks for the praise! I don’t know that I’ll keep with Black Clover, as I feel like further reviews would have little positive to say (though I’ll fully decide after the next three chapters) and my time might be better spent on other Manga or Anime reviews against this title.

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