Black Clover (Chapters 47-50) – Review Discussion
Reviewed by: Tom
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. Asta 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. Despite this, Asta proves himself a useful member of the Black Bulls after accomplishing his first few missions. Getting some time off, Asta visits a nearby town where he runs into fellow Black Bull’s member Gauche, who suffers from an extreme little sister complex. The two both discover that Gauche’s sister, as well as the other local children, are in danger of being abducted. The two join forces to protect the children, only to discover that the individuals behind the plot are the magic kingdom’s number one enemy: The Eye of the Midnight Sun. And to put an end to Asta and Gauche The Sun’s leader, Licht, has come to finish both of them off.
I’ve mixed feelings for Black Clover. On the one hand so much about it screams Naruto clone. We’ve got Asta who has a very similar personality to Naruto, although he seems to lack Naruto’s more brooding aspects. Then we’ve got Yuno, who’s basically a Sasuke type, except a little friendlier. And we’re running with wanting to be the lord of an entire society, in this case the Wizard King. Now, Naruto isn’t something I feel all that drawn to anymore, and I’m not one to appreciate stories that draw too heavily from recent media. That said, Black Clover has an art style and medieval setting that make me think of a shonen up’d Berserk. That appeals to me on a basic level and I think, if Black Clover can find its ground, it could become its own, unique thing. But these chapters don’t exactly give me hope for the manga finding itself before it potentially gets the axe.
So now let’s jump in with Chapter 47. Asta and Gauche have managed to save the children, and defeat some of this big bad’s minions, but now the man himself, Licht, has come into play and it’s looking like Asta and Gauche are screwed. But their Captain, Yami, shows up just in time to save them. One thing I can praise about Black Clover is its unique adherence to constant interruptions of comedy. Similar to My Hero Academia, but perhaps even more dedicated, Black Clover likes to break up the tense action with comedic comments every few pages if not panels. We learn that Yami only showed up with Finral, his second in command, because everyone else back at the Black Bull’s headquarters was drunk or passed out. Yeah, we got some real heroes here.
Finral gathers up the badly wounded old nun, Gaucher, the kids and helps them escape. Licht attacks Finral, but Yami shows his badassery by blocking the attack. With Finral and the others now safe the battle starts, briefly, as Yami demonstrates he can block Licht’s attacks. This causes Licht to call Yami the Magic Knight Heretic, a nickname that won’t be explored in these four chapters, but intrigues me.
Black Clover then makes fun of the usual shonen trope of suddenly expanding on characters backstories mid-battle with lengthy explanations of sordid pasts. Licht recounts, briefly, a tale of how the strongest magic users were slaughtered by the common folk, their power stolen. Yami then recounts his tale of coming to the country in the most blase and odd way possible. It’s pretty amusing and one of the highlights in this chapter. The two square off again (I don’t particularly enjoy this stop and go style of battling that Black Clover seems to emphasize so heavily) and Yami takes a hit, but so does Licht.
With Chapter 48 Asta is immensely impressed by Captain Yami, who convinces Asta he can do what he did, block attacks using Ki to sense where they’re coming from (So now we don’t just have magic users but ki too. I wonder how much of this is throwaway and how much is intended to be a big concept moving forward.) Valtos, Licht’s right hand man attacks Asta and after a couple tries Asta gets it, flinging Valtos’ own attack back. There’s again some more comedy here as Yami comments that Asta is creepy for being able to perform that attack. It’s funny, but part of me wonders if Black Clover is undermining itself with constant quips like this. They’re often and really chop up the flow of the battle.
Anyway Licht loses his shit and goes insane, destroying the cave they’re in and seemingly crushing both Asta and Yami. Amazingly enough the two survive. This is where I have problems. It’s meant to be funny, but to me it feels like Licht is a joke so far as villains go. The manga up to this point has portrayed him and his organization as dangerous, capable of taking out even the toughest magic knights. But here he is, unleashing strong magic that a kid and a blase captain knock off with ease.
Moving onto Chapter 49 Yami takes on Licht himself in another stop and go battle, where he periodically interrupts the flow to encourage Asta (again giving us a disjointed fight rather than one that has a natural flow to it.) Yami also presses Licht for his origin and we get a rather generic explanation about inequality based around magic. I mean, it’s reflective of the problems in the real world, but Black Clover does nothing to elevate the concept, and for a villain that the manga seems to want to paint as some big menace, it feels bland and plain, like something that wouldn’t have had dozens of chapters building up towards it.
Asta takes on Valtos, but finds himself outmatched and outgunned. Valtos surrounds Asta will magic portals shooting magic blasts at him from all sides. It looks bad. Until Asta realizes he can travel through the portals just by dropping his anti-magic swords and decking Valtos. It’s clever, but the battle was so short and generally uninteresting that it doesn’t feel satisfying at all. Meanwhile Licht tries to strike Yami, but Yami catches him off guard and hits Licht with a powerful dark magic slash. I mean, for big nasty villains, they seem pretty wimpy compared to Yami and Asta.
Finally with Chapter 50 Licht decides to end the game and unleash his super magic attack. Yami states that Licht is out of their league, at least with this attack. So, I mean, I guess Licht is a threat now, briefly anyway. Back at the village, the Old Nun is getting healed as Gauche and the kids urge her not to die. She instead transfers her magic power into Gauche, as do the kids, so he can go back and help Asta. Gauche convinces Finral to port him back just in time to reflect Licht’s huge magic attack right back at him.
So that’s Black Clover. As for where we’ll go from here I suspect Licht will somehow survive this attack and retreat, remaining a menace for the future (assuming Black Clover doesn’t get the axe soon: manga struggling to maintain a following in Shonen Jump can expect about a year before they get axed and Black Clover is fast approaching its first year anniversary.) Overall I think Black Clover has a lot of issues that prevent it from reaching its full potential.
First I think the comedy is far too frequent, often chopping up the flow of the battle so much that it feels very stop and go. I think Licht is currently a poor villain and needs to presented in a stronger light. Yami is cool, but as everything is nothing feels like a challenge when these power house characters are waiting in the wings. Black Clover’s got a lot to prove and I think it might be running out of time.
Black Clover is published weekly in Shonen Jump. Black Clover’s first and second volumes release on June 7th and August 2nd, 2016 respectively. Chapters discussed today, 47-50, will be available in future volumes later this year or early next year.