Black Clover (Chapters 57-60) – 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. After another run in with the Eye of the Midnight Sun group, Asta and Yami managed to help out a traitor amongst the Magic Knight Captains. Unfortunately the Midnight Sun’s plans are far reaching. 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. Without too much time to relax Yami takes the Black Bulls off to find the Underwater Temple where the stone is located.
The chapter opens with Asta and the rest of the Black Bulls at the Beach. When I first started reading this I almost thought I was reading some sort of Omake side chapter. There’s a lot of comedy and gags for these first few pages as the gang tries to relax or pick up chicks. A lot of the jokes are pretty much stock, the usual fodder we get when manga characters head to the beach. It’s a bit disappointing the humor couldn’t be more clever. We also get Noelle doing the classic main heroine swimsuit thing. She wants Asta to look at her yet she doesn’t want to admit she’s interested in him. It’s pretty bland and it’s these moments which make for the weaker aspects of Black Clover. I can’t help but wonder, with how little nuance there is to any of this content, if the Mangaka was forced to include them at the behest of his editor?
The only real clever moment here is when Sekke shows up again to pick up chicks on the beach. By the time he realizes the Black Bulls are here it’s too late when he’s sent flying as Asta and Co. plow through them. It’s a decent call back but doesn’t do much to alleviate the tired, trope ridden comedy from above. Finally we get back to the plot as Yami buries his subordinates in the sand and reminds them they’re not actually here to have fun. (Oh Yami, always saving the day for us readers.)
As we learn Noelle’s water magic is the only way to get down to the Underwater Temple where this magic stone is located. But Noelle has zero real control over her magic, let alone this particularly difficult spell. Yami gives her a week to train and get her magic under control. We then flash pretty quickly to Noelle’s training, skipping anymore potential beach content. As we see through Noelle’s efforts she’s making little progress. Asta arrives and warms her to the idea of training together when the two spot an unknown woman singing atop a rock and causing water bubbles to hang in the air around her.
Part of me feels like we’re rushing. There’s something about the time skips and the sudden arrival of this new character that makes me feel like Black Clover is speeding ahead, choosing to plow through its content like it’s afraid to hang around too long. Which is odd, considering Black Clover has, of late, been one of the higher ranked Shounens in the Japanese version of the Magazine. Is the author perhaps afraid to commit to a plot line for too long, or perhaps antsy to send the story catapulting forward?
Either way with Chapter 58 we basically do just that. The girl singing introduces herself as Kahono and is far more bubbly and vibrant a character than I expected. She explains that she is, apparently, practicing to become a magic-using idol. She demonstrates her magical power when she notices that Asta is weak from training and heals him through her singing.
Kahono then gives Noelle some training advice: She encourages her to think of a relaxing memory from her past. This sounds like solid advice save that Noelle only has depressing memories surrounding her childhood and interactions with her family. Namely she can’t shake the thought of how all her siblings blame her for their mother’s death. It’s laid on a little thick, with some of the dialogue lacking subtly, but gets the point across.
We then proceed to catapult through all of the week’s training, choosing to display it as little more than a few panels of montage. On her final day of training Asta convinces Noelle to go all out, give it her all. Noelle is worried as if her magic goes out of control she could die and the others could get hurt, but she acquiesces to the idea. As she feared her magic starts to go out of control and Noelle is losing hope when the other Black Bull members arrive to encourage her. It feels weird that we never really spent any time seeing what these guys were up to. This beach training was potentially a solid opportunity to swap between Asta and Noelle content, with interjections of comedic plots from the rest of the crew. Again though, I guess we’re just rushing through this to get to the meat of this new arc.
With the bolstering of encouragement Noelle realizes she does have some happy memories, namely those spent with the Black Bulls. She manages to successfully finish the spell and create a water bubble around her. It breaks early though when Noelle becomes too excited from succeeding, but Asta catches her in his arms and we get a quick moment of embarrassment.
Noelle then goes to thank Kahono but finds she’s gone. All Noelle finds is a mental message from Kahono saying she’s glad that Noelle has such good friends and she’ll be waiting inside the temple. It’s a decent surprise that Kahono is somehow connected to the temple, although more savvy readers might already realize that her character is too random and meaningless otherwise if she doesn’t tie into the ongoing story.
Heading into Chapter 59 we’re now on our way to the Underwater temple. Noelle uses her water magic to keep the entire gang inside a bubble as they delve deep into the beautiful underwater location where the temple lies.
The group reaches a magic water barrier that they can’t break through without Asta’s anti-magic power. The trouble is Asta learned, thanks to the beach training, that he can’t swim. But Yami, bless him, shows us that simply isn’t an issue as he grabs Asta and hurls him from the safety of Noelle’s bubble and straight into the barrier.
Once through the barrier the group discovers the Temple is already inhabited. I really liked this twist because I really wasn’t expecting this at all. I mean, Kahono tied into the temple is one thing, but an entire village of people living beneath the water? The inhabitants are just as surprised as we are, never themselves getting visitors.
Much like a mob boss Yami demands to see their high priest and the group is quickly escorted off to the main temple where the priest waits. As the group heads inside the villagers comment, without any of the Black Bulls noticing, that they aren’t likely to come back. Ghoulish. (Also it’ll be ridiculously untrue.)
Inside Yami, Asta and Co. spot the high priest sitting in the middle of the hall. Before they can approach him the group is attacked by a massive sea serpent monster. Despite this obstacle the group makes quick work of it and discovers that the creature was little more than a magic apparition created by the High Priest. In fact, he knows they’re there for the magic stone and asks them if they’d like to play a game with him.
Initially the old man wants to play a boob squeezing game, but then claims the idea was a joke when the girls, strongly, object. In fact the rest of the Black Bulls start to scheme how to take out the Old Man and get the stone without him. However, the High Priest pulls them back around to his idea of a game with the promise of beautiful women, booze, and good food if they manage to defeat him.
Yami agrees to the game and only then asks what kind of game it is. Well, nobodies perfect I guess. The old man then announces that it’s going to be a battle royal and quickly uses his magic to shuffle our heroes through the underwater temple, save for Yami who is dejected that he wasn’t included in these games. But the High Priest placates Yami by telling him he’s simply too strong to participate.
It’s looking bad for our heroes as the High Priest’s challengers corner each of the Black Bulls. In fact, the High Priest explains that his people are equal to mages of far greater caliber than where the Black Bulls are ranked. But in a twist of events the Black Bulls make short work of the first four priests they encounter, taking them down in one hit each. Yami boasts about how his guys are far stronger than their meager ranks may suggest.
It’s a lame twist in my opinion. I understand that Black Clover sits a bit closer to comedy than some of the other current Shonens, but it feels like we so rarely get bad ass fights. Fights are often resolved quickly and this little arc isn’t starting out any better. I’d like our heroes to face a real challenge for once, otherwise the Action/Adventure component of this series feels like all talk and no substance.
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 release on June 7th and August 2nd, 2016 respectively. Chapters discussed today, 57-60, will be available in future volumes early next year.