Black Clover (Chapters 61-64) – 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. Upon finding the temple Asta and the others are forced to challenge the Temple’s priests in combat if they want to walk away with the magic stone.
Last time we left off Asta, Gache and Magna had all beaten their initial opponents in a singular hit again undermining the potential tension and power of these new adversaries. Granted, these villains are meant to be little more than a stepping stone, but this instance is one all too common with Black Clover, which continually undermines itself and its villains by giving our heroes too much power too frequently. At times it’s played for comedy, but even then it becomes a tired joke and these next chapters don’t alleviate the problem.
Finral tries to avoid fighting and attempts to hide in the shadows, but the old high priest was prepared for this and unleashes a spell forcing the boy out by attacking him with a monster. Unfortunately for Finral Yami’s all for this type of treatment to force Finral back into the fray.
Charmy also evens the playing field for the priests by getting taken down by one spell, namely a sleep spell and she spends the next four chapters conked out on the ground quietly snoring away. Finral and Charmy being chumps does soften the blow to the priests of last chapter and evens the playing field, but it already feels like such a one sided match that my interest levels have dropped severely.
Asta gets attacked by another of the priests, this time a dancing sword wielder named Kaito who dreams of becoming a dancer up on the surface. It sounds familiar and initially I thought this was Kahono for a moment until Kaito removed his mask. It feels like an unintentional fake out as I can’t think why we’d want to mix Kaito and Kahono up. It also makes me wonder if Kaito and Kahono are going to be characters that often fight together, with complementary moves for his dancing and her singing.
Meanwhile Noelle discovers Kahono is her new opponent and the chapter ends with that surprise. Although it’s not much of a surprise, it was pretty obvious Kahono would return as some sort of adversary. Obviously not a major villain type but an opponent on Asta and Noelle’s path to victory. Experienced readers might find some of Black Clover’s weekly cliffhangers unimpressive as they tend to tread along some of the most basic writing shonen has to offer, but we’ll discuss that more in a bit.
We learn Vanessa has also defeated the priest she was up against, putting the game at a score of eight to four. The priests are definitely looking like a big joke. Meanwhile Kahono explains that she’s excited to have people come down from the surface to challenge her. Her grandfather, the high priest, promised to hold a contest such as this and if Kahono won then he’d allow her to travel to the surface and outside the temple (although she already did so I guess he’s a bit lax about trips to the beach at least?)
Kahono and Noelle begin their battle, although Noelle is at a severe disadvantage because she can’t control her magic. But Kahono thinks differently, she believes that Noelle is subconsciously controlling her magic to avoid hitting people. This makes Kahono mad and she tells Noelle she needs to fight to win! Moments like these always make me wonder how much each Mangaka in Shonen Jump is paying attention to the other authors in the magazine. We also have World Trigger running currently in Shonen Jump which has a character, Chika, who also cannot bare to attack people. Is this a case of Tabata borrowing ideas from his contemporaries or falling back on, what is, an unoriginal problem by shonen standards?
Moving on, Kaito seems to have Asta on the ropes for a couple reasons. Firstly Kaito’s attacks aren’t magic based and Asta is having trouble tracking the guy’s ki. But Asta buckles down and starts to turn the fight around.
Meanwhile Luck and Magna square off against another priest, supposedly the strongest in the temple. It’s then that we mercifully put the mundane contest to an end as the walls explode! Coming through these new entrances are non other than the Eye of the Midnight Sun!
Selling the threat of the Midnight Sun we find Sekke back on the beach from the previous chapters. There we find him cowering and dozens of mages and citizens lay dead, strewn about the beach. Sekke describes the attacker as inhuman. A beast. It’s a lot of talking up, with mention of high level mages defeated as if they were nothing, struck once and downed for good. Honestly Black Clover needs this. It constantly undermines its villains and spends so little effort in actually building them up as proper threats that it needs speeches like this just to remind us how truly dangerous these people are supposed to be. In fact, it took me until Asta’s call back several pages from now before I even remembered who this villain was. He left that little of an impression on me.
Going back to the underwater fight Vetto walks in to challenge Magna and Luck and the priest they were supposed to battle. This priest doesn’t even get a name. He challenges Vetto and strikes him with a powerful magic attack only for it to have no affect on Vetto who casts Rhinoceros armor and negates the attack completely. Vetto retaliates and takes down the priest, Magna and Luck all in one hit. It’s a great moment and sells Vetto as a true danger seeing as we have an idea of how strong Magna and Luck are supposed to be. As for the priest? Less said about his presence the better. We honestly have no idea how powerful he is besides a few bits of dialogue that imply he’s the strongest of everyone there (and events following this indicate just about every priest here is a chump.)
Yami, who’s been watching along up until now, decides its time to join the battle. Unfortunately the old man reveals he cannot release his spell, it’ll only end once the game is over. Yami uses his sword and dark magic to cut away the spell sealing them inside, but discovers another member of the Midnight Sun has trapped them in the old man’s room.
Yami changes tactics, using the old man’s magic to contact everyone inside the game and alert them to the threat. He tells them this is the moment to surpass their limits. (And Charmy sleeps right through all this.) The Old Man then changes the rules, telling them that, if the Midnight Sun can be defeated, everyone who wins will have their wish granted.
Unfortunately all the building for Vetto as a near insurmountable threat is undone in just two pages. Luck and Magna both rise from the floor, damaged but not out of the fight (of course they aren’t.) and set to challenge Vetto, refusing to lose.
Luck and Magna are back up and while Magna is still trying to figure out how they can actually take on someone like Vetto Luck wants to take another attack, something Magna really doesn’t want. Vetto obliges Luck’s request for another smack down and charges in. However it turns out Luck has already determined that Vetto’s attack has a brief opening where he’s defenseless. But (twist!) even though Luck’s found an opening he still can’t do any damage to Vetto.
Taking a brief break from the conflict, we get a flashback through Magna’s memories concerning him and Luck. They haven’t always gotten along, and he’s often found Luck to be a very weird, if not scary individual. But this all inspires Magna to not be left behind and he begins to attack Vetto as well. Conversely we dive through Luck’s thoughts and discover he sees Magna as his first friend. Ain’t that all touching? I find it slightly odd, as we hadn’t had any real focus on these two recently, nor was there a sense of any real conflict between the two, so these pages feel like padding in order to get the chapter to its usual length. This is a constant problem I’ve had with Black Clover, where it feels like it has some interesting ideas, but the execution isn’t where it needs to be. That isn’t all that surprising seeing as Yuuki Tabata is still a relatively young Mangaka, with this being his second major work. I’m of the belief that the weaker aspects of Black Clover are Tabata’s growing pains, and that as his experience grows so shall the quality of his storytelling.
Either way we snap back to Asta and Kaito as they rush towards the battle between Luck, Magna and Vetto. During this Asta questions Kaito about how he was able to hide his ki. Kaito reveals he goes into a trance while dancing and Asta does his best impression of a trance. It leaves much to be desired. Also, if this were Dragon Ball I’d take this scene as set up that Asta would then attempt his version of a trance against Vetto. We’ll see though.
Back at the battlefield Magna and Luck are losing, but continue to force themselves on, hitting Vetto with a combined attack. It’s their one shot at victory and Vetto blocks it with ease. Vetto then prepares to kill the two of them but Asta blocks the attack with his sword. Angered by what Vetto has done to his friends Asta challenges Vetto and lunges at him. The chapter cuts before the battle can truly begin.
Black Clover frustrates me. There’s potential here, interesting ideas and a chance for some ingenuity. But it’s constantly held back by main characters who are constantly rising in power that they make the world around them look like a joke. Vetto was someone who gave Yami a run for his money and now he can’t even take down Luck and Magna with one hit, but the strongest priest in this temple is downed with that same strike? One problem, I believe, is that Tabata may simply be better at comedy. Indeed the comedy comes fast and frequent within Black Clover’s pages (perhaps too often for a shonen fighting manga) and generally becomes the highlight of any chapter (Heck Yami is one of the funnier characters.) The trouble lies in Black Clover’s struggle to create drama, something that makes many of these fights feel far more by the books and bland than I’d personally prefer. I often feel like I’ve seen it all before. Maybe not the exact same moves, or pages of art but the flow of the battle is uninspired and damages my continued enjoyment.
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 release on June 7th and August 2nd, 2016 respectively. Chapters discussed today, 61-64, will be available in future volumes early next year.