Black Clover – Mid Season Anime Review
Synopsis: In a world where magic is everything, Asta and Yuno are both found abandoned at a church on the same day. While Yuno is gifted with exceptional magical powers, Asta is the only one in this world without any. At the age of fifteen, both receive grimoires, magic books that amplify their holder’s magic. Asta’s is a rare Grimoire of Anti-Magic that negates and repels his opponent’s spells. Being opposite but good rivals, Yuno and Asta are ready for the hardest of challenges to achieve their common dream: to be the Wizard King. Giving up is never an option! (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Black Clover is the poster child for modern shonen. It exhibits so many of the tried and true staples, tropes, and twists of the genre. It’s like a culmination of everything shonen has gotten right. That’s best exhibited in the characters of Asta and Yuno, two rival focused leads who have an almost Naruto and Sasuke dynamic when first introduced. Yuno with his cold contempt for Asta, and Asta’s own downtrodden, underdog nature oozing with hidden potential. Black Clover’s adherence to the tried and true nature of shonen can give it a very ‘catch all’ feel, as if it’s been constructed as the most shonen anime for strictly shonen obsessives. While the anime is only six episodes in, having followed the manga I feel firm in my belief that this is the best way to look at Black Clover. That said, the series gradually finds its own unique path, evolving away from many of the ‘Naruto-light’ criticisms floating around at the start of the anime’s run. For Example, Asta and Yuno move on from a Naruto/Sasuke dynamic, to something more familiar from later Pokemon Games: A more friendly rivalry with mutual respect and admiration.
Linny: Asta is indeed a lead that fans of classic shonen are likely to find endearing as he embodies all the best tropes of the genre. He’s a hardworking and ambitious kid that may be the underdog but doesn’t let that keep him down. There is however, one thing that people might find extremely grating about Asta, specifically in the Japanese dub, and that is his voice, which continues to deliver all his dialogue in a screaming/screeching manner. Thankfully, as the show progresses, he has fewer chances to go all out with the screaming line deliveries.
Tom: If you’re annoyed by Asta’s voice, yet love the catch-all shonen nature of the series, I might suggest transferring over to Funimation’s dub, which fits Asta with a more typical lead’s voice that alleviates many of the problems presented with the Japanese presentation. Back to the show itself, Episode 6 marks the moment when the show really starts to inject more of Black Clover’s own personality. It’s when we meet the Black Bulls, a band of characters that Asta joins as a fledgling Magic Knight, who’ll become the series secondary cast. This crazy bunch of individual can be very YMMV, as each exudes a certain gimmick in excess: the siscon, the foodie, the mumbler, the drunkard, etc. They each add a more wild, zany element not present in the preceding episodes. While each generally comes from a staple of shonen, or anime in general, their bombastic, lively personas still add some much needed unique personality to the series.
Linny: As someone who hasn’t read the Black Clover manga, I have been informed that the anime is doing a very stretched out adaptation, injecting a lot of anime only filler content. While that may be blasphemous to more strict audiences, the good news for casual viewers is that most of the filler content is playful depictions of the lives and adventures of our two main characters, Asta and Yuno. It’s a delight to watch and helps to add to the atmosphere as well as build up the personalities of our cast members. However, there’s no denying that there are occasional moments when you will be able to tell that the show is padding itself out as it reuses the same animation for lesser characters, particularly in the 6th episode and that may be something that could be a minor grievance for more sharp eyed viewers. There’s also a very extended opening recap before every episode which only makes the padding even more obvious.
Tom: That’s the mixed blessing of Black Clover’s anime adaptation: the sheer wealth of filler. This constant stream of anime only scenes really stretches the manga’s content out to absurd lengths. We’re six episodes in, and yet we only just finished adapting chapter four of the manga. While this isn’t the first time an adaptation has taken such extreme liberties, it remains impressive just how much extra content is being filtered in here. Much of it feels at home, and entirely in line with the events of the manga, but in other cases it screams of padding, doubling down on gags, repeating ‘funny moments’ or adding in scenes that do little to advance the plot. In these cases it drags the production down, and feels entirely unnecessary.
Linny: But despite all that, Black Clover still feels like an enjoyable shonen story up to this point. Sure it has a lot of familiar and classic tropes but that means it’s going to be a great fit for anyone who truly enjoys those staples. The tale of the hero with a heart of gold who starts out as a clear underdog never truly gets old and remains an inspiring theme. Black Clover is here to fill the TV screens of those still grieving over the end of all the big classic Shonen titles such as Bleach and Boruto’s Dad.
Tom: For all the flaws and issues I have with Black Clover, it’s still a generally enjoyable shonen. Fans of the anime will find the story gradually develops more of its own personality, and while it never entirely escapes that ‘catch all’ shonen feel, it comes more into its own as time goes on. There’s also something to be said for all the additional anime only content. My biggest problem with the manga was often how fast the story developed, cutting character work and important build up in order to string cool moment after moment together. It’s an aspect of the manga that wore on me, and gradually pushed me away, but the anime, with all its padding, could be the perfect answer for anyone who wants a more fleshed out version of Black Clover.
Linny: I’m generally not a fan of most Shonen and the honest truth is Black Clover hasn’t changed my mind and it probably won’t blow away anyone tired of classic Shonen. However, it’s also a show that’s guaranteed to please its intended audience as it meets so many of the demands that fans of the genre have. It mixes comedy, action and heart in the manner that’s most appealing to the Shonen loving crowd and even a non fan should be able to acknowledge that, even if it turns out to be the very reason they themselves dislike the show. Ultimately, if you’re a die hard Shonen fan, you’re probably already watching this show and loving it. But if you’re still unsure about it, the best way to decide if you should pick Black Clover up is by deciding just how much you would enjoy seeing a bunch of classic tropes strung together. If the answer is ‘a lot’ then delay no further.