Black Clover (Chapters 65-68) – Review
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.
Coming back in, Magna and Luck are down after attempting to take on Vetto and failing. Captain Yami honors the fallen (but not dead) heroes but saying they were real men. He then says that Asta better stand strong too as he prepares to face of against Vetto himself with the help of Kaito. At the moment I’m not feeling this fight too much, but with Captain Yami indisposed I’m more invested in this conflict since the Black Bulls don’t have their ace in the hole to fall back on.
Asta tries to get it out of Vetto why they’re after the Magic Stones, but the brute has no interest in sharing that knowledge. In fact, Vetto taunts Asta to come at him, he’ll just dispose of Asta as he did his other ‘maggot’ friends. Even Kaito discovers that his father (the priest who Vetto first attacked.) couldn’t stand against this menace. Kaito briefly goes back over why Vetto is so powerful, just in case the audience forgot the last time it was explained. It feels like Black Clover repeats information often, which works well for this weekly format, but once collected could be a bit annoying.
Vetto then announces he’ll defeat every single mage and priest here, and then search for the Magic Stone. Until he finds it he’ll also kill off all the residents in the underwater temple mainly for sport and entertainment. Vetto’s one of those characters who, perhaps, tries too hard to be utterly and completely villainous. I don’t necessarily object to the idea of a purely ruthless antagonist, but Vetto’s so on the nose about it. I don’t think we really need him declaring this kind of thing, I’d rather we see just how ruthless he can be. Anyway this declaration riles up Kaito, who calls for Asta to charge in with him. The two attack in a blaze of furry, but Vetto dodges their attacks or those that do hit have no real effect. But when Vetto’s attacks graze either of them they really feel it. Or that’s what they say. Kaito and Asta just look a little tired, not particularly bruised or anything. I wish the art would back up this dialogue a bit better.
The two both call each other out for having held back in their match up before. (Doesn’t everyone hold back in a shonen?) Vetto declares their fight ‘boring,’ again taunting Kaito and Asta into another skirmish. This time they manage to get a few hits in, and it’s looking like they can overcome Vetto (if this weren’t a shonen manga maybe) but Vetto suddenly strikes back, hitting both Kaito and Asta head on.
Despite taking a head on hit Asta gets back up, but Vetto reminds Asta of his big weaknesses: Distance. He hurls massive boulders at Asta, forcing him to do nothing but dodge. He then hammers back at Asta with a furry of punches reinforced by Magic Asta can’t possible compete with. He strikes one of Asta’s arms, causing him to lose grip on one of his swords and grabs Asta by the other, holding him up from the ground, defenseless. I do have to say it’s great to see how utterly ineffective Asta is against Vetto. Up until now Asta’s ability to cut through any magic has made him, perhaps, overpowered within this world. Now that we have characters like Vetto popping up it gives Asta a real challenge to overcome for once. I’m hoping the unstoppable nature of Vetto isn’t thwarted here, but that Vetto gets away and Asta is forced to train/improve himself for a rematch in the future.
Vetto taunts Asta, telling him how worthless and pathetic he is and attempts to get him to scream with hopelessness and despair (That seems to be a running theme these days in Shonen. I guess Tabata was a fan of Yhwach’s shtick.) But Asta instead bites Vetto and says, garbled since his mouth is full, ‘ if I gave up who could I protect?” Vetto doesn’t understand, but an attack from out of nowhere cuts his confusion short. It’s Noelle and Kahono, arriving to save the day and also repeat what Asta said much more clearly!
In, what I consider, an extremely odd choice, Black Clover does not in fact continue with its big brutal battle. Instead we’re treated with what almost feels like a side story within this arc: Back with Gauche, he’s running for his life as a Midnight Sun underling chases after him. Gauche is sent flying by his enemies’ attack. Gauche pleads for help and as this evil underling is about to finish him off it turns out the real Gauche is behind the baddie and attacks him with his Mirror Magic, finishing the poor nameless s.o.b off.
Turns out the duplicate Gauche was actually grey, using his transformation magic to fool the enemy. Gauche briefly gets annoyed for Grey behaving weird while using his visage. The two then decide to head off and find more enemies to take out. This whole chapter has a very jokey, comic relief vibe, as if Tabata was worried that the fight with Vetto was getting too dark and brooding for his manga’s tone. In fact, the tonal shift is insanely jarring between the previous chapter and even the next, making these events oddly stand out compared to the rest of the current arc. I think it was a mistake to dedicate a whole chapter to this little mess and, while it is indeed amusing, detracts from the tension of the confrontation with Vetto.
Getting back to the story, Gauche is forced to carry Grey, who injured his ankle in that last encounter. They find Charmy, still asleep from her all too brief encounter with a priest. As they head over to wake her up they get caught in Vine Trap Magic. The Midnight Sun baddie controlling the vines shows himself, and conveniently explains that his vines suck life force out of whomever is trapped by them. This explanation feels lazy. Tabata could’ve easily shown Gauche or Grey working it out that the vines are draining their life force. Our nameless baddie just offering up the information makes him feel utterly lame and poorly written. I know Black Clover sometimes considers itself more a comedy than an action shonen, but there’d still be funnier ways to work this scene if that’s what Tabata is going for.
Gauche can’t do anything since even his grimoire is wrapped up in the vines and discerns that both Charmy and Grey are useless to him. He decides he’ll have to do all this on his own and then he remembers Asta’s words about teamwork, realizing he almost made the same mistake he’s always been making.
Gauche quickly comes up with a plan, having Grey turn a nearby rock into a giant slab of meat. Gauche calls out to Charmy that someone is trying to steal her food and the little girl wakes up instantly, ready to pound the crap out of this poor Midnight Sun operative. She summons a giant sheep and within three hits batters the poor guy into nothing. Charmy goes for the free meat, but discovers it’s really just a rock. While not the most original turn of events, this chapter is indeed amusing and stands out as one of the better comic relief gags Black Clover’s had to break up its more serious nature.
Gauche briefly compliments Grey and tells him that he’s impressive for being able to turn objects into things and should use his abilities a bit more. However, Grey’s magic was all been used up from transforming the rock and Grey begins to shift back into his true form– her true form? We get a big reveal as Grey turns out to actually be a bashful girl! It’s a fun little twist and if we spent more time with Black Clover’s additional teammates I think it could have been even cooler. But seeing as Grey and Charmy often get sidelined the weight of the reveal just isn’t there. However, it is nice to have more female characters, although I wish they were more of a power house like Noelle is turning out to be.
Back to the main fight, Vetto taunts both Noelle and Kahono that they better provide him with a little entertainment. Noelle’s stunned that Magna, Luck, and Asta are all down. Asta suddenly gets up again for another attack, but Vetto bats him away like a fly. This felt entirely unnecessary and, I think, lessens Asta’s return later in the fight. We don’t gain a whole lot by having Asta again fling himself at Vetto ineffectually.
Kahono saves Asta with her magic and then screams at her fallen big brother, reminding him of their promise to become big idol and dance stars. This, apparently, manages to wake him up from his little dirt nap. Working together, Kahono and Kaito unleash a Combo Spell: Sea God Slash. It seems to be effective and catches Vetto off guard. Kahono and Kaito hammer home how important this spell is to everyone, it has the power of the entire village behind it! As anyone familiar with the shonen formula knows, the minute you start really talking up your big attack, overhyping it, you know it’s going to just completely and utterly fail.
In that classic Shonen twist Vetto is actually unaffected by it. He goes in for the kill on Kahono and Kaito, chopping off Kaito’s leg. Noelle attempts to call out to Kahono and warn her, but it’s too late and Vetto crushes her throat. The head priest calls on his toys and traps he’d set to try and attack Vetto. But even those are worthless against Vetto’s might. I actually like how brutal Black Clover has suddenly gotten. We have people losing limbs, having their throats crushed, and it’ll only get more graphic from here. It’s a real surprise and I actually welcome the brutality considering everything else has been bordering on predictable.
Taunting the fallen heroes about their shattered dreams, Vetto picks up Kahono asking if she got a good taste of despair. Kahono raises her head, looking at Vetto defiantly. Vetto doesn’t like that Kahono won’t cave to him, so he prepares to finish her off, but Noelle calls out, telling him to let her go. Noelle wants to attack Vetto, and save her friends, but she’s concerned about hitting Kahono in the process.
Despite Kahono’s crushed throat the girl manages to speak into Noelle’s mind, giving Noelle confidence that she can use her magic and save everyone without harming her friends. Brimming with confidence, Noelle charges her magical attack, making the entire temple shake. Vetto is shocked at Noelle’s surprise abilities as the girl orders him to let Kahono go.
Vetto realizes Noelle is of royal blood, and says she’s from the most corrupt clan. Vetto offers himself to Noelle, telling her to strike him with everything she’s got. Noelle unleashes her attack and even Vetto goes wide-eyed at the sight of the massive water dragon. The dragon’s so powerful it smashes through the temple’s wall and out into the air for all the temple citizens to see.
In the aftermath Vetto has lost half his upper body, his arm completely gone. Vetto’s pain forces him into a brief flashback, showing that at one time his life was happy and full of hope, but his people, his friends were slaughtered and his actions today are out of some kind of vengeance. I like how brief and lacking in greater detail this little flash is. We get the point across without bogging down the chapters flow. With this revelation a third eye opens on Vetto’s forehead. He tells Noelle it’s impressive she managed to draw him out, calling her human which indicates he, himself, is not (or at least doesn’t consider himself to be.) It’s a creepy twist and again, is making me feel like chapters 67 and 68 are breathing new life into the series.
Vetto casts some surprise magic spell and easily regenerates his arm. It’s so surprising a turn of events Captain Yami is forced to note that there’s no magic that should be able to accomplish that kind of regenerative ability.
Vetto begins his counter attack, telling Noelle to vanish as he sends a huge wave of energy at her. But unfortunately for Noelle she’s used all her magic up. The attack lands and blows another hole out of the temple. But thankfully Asta was there to cut the force of the attack in two, saving Noelle at the last moment.
Now it looks like Asta’s back in the game for another round with Vetto. I’m curious as to how Tabata will resolve this hard hitting turn of events. I don’t want Asta to win. Not yet. Vetto is too powerful a villain for Asta to just triumph over. For a manga with hard work at its core, I feel like Black Clover doesn’t always hammer that message home, with Asta often overcoming odds purely by strength of will alone. I hope Vetto gets away with the magic stone and Asta is forced to put even more effort into bettering himself.
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, 65-68, will be available in future volumes early next year.