by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Black Clover ?
Magna Swing is sidling up right next to Yami on the small list of Black Clover characters who are easy to like from the get-go. Last week spent some time on his relationship with Saussy Village and its mayor to mixed results, but seeing him in action is really fun as he demonstrates genuine care and distress while he protects the villagers. It's his fire against the villains' ice, but even with that advantage he could use some help. All three of our Black Bulls get at least one good moment, like Noelle succeeding in using her water to create a shield for the villagers and Magna. It's really cute to see her putting on her smug "Humph. I meant to do that." act while she squeals in excitement over her own accomplishment on the inside.
This is at least the best looking and slickest directed episode of the show to date, wrapping up the Lord Heath conflict successfully. We never get a chance to learn what his deal is or why he was attacking the village in the first place, but the episode offers the tease of a mysterious "master" character who he's taking orders from, so we know a bigger story arc is in the works. The way that the fight with Heath trades off from Magna's fire to Asta's blunt force is effective, though we also get a good dose of Asta trying to inspire and give big speeches, and once again the show just doesn't have the earnestness to avoid coming off cheesy.
Regardless, I really got into Asta's fight with Heath, as his never-give-up attitude sets him up for failure at first but he keeps at it long enough that it pays off once his opponent is distracted by Magna's fire. The action looks good, and it's over quickly enough to stay snappy. This is definitely my favorite episode of the show yet; I think the villain looks cool, I like seeing the main characters interact, and I even enjoy the final scene where the Black Bulls console the deceased mayor's grandson, despite being the exact generic pep talk that I don't really like from this show. Everything comes together in a way that feels much more deft than usual and I'm actually pretty impressed.
The further along we get, the more I'm asking myself what a Black Clover episode worthy of an 'A' is going to look like. I'm not of the opinion that shonen is allowed to be as familiar and generic as it likes as long as it's well-executed, because I think the best shonen always has a little more to offer than that. This show doesn't have a unique perspective of its own yet, and as much as I like these characters on a good day, they're certainly not at the point where they can carry a bad one. To adapt the popular "polished turd" analogy, I'd call this show at its best a very polished and unassuming rock on the side of the road.
With its recent Toonami debut and surprisingly intense marketing push over here in the west, it looks like Black Clover's going to be a part of the anime zeitgeist whether people like it or not. My Hero Academia had that underlying charisma that made it an easy hit, but Clover has a much steeper climb ahead despite the same ambitions. In a way, being the scrappy underdog who nobody wants to like may just be the most in-spirit with the genre a show has ever been, but I'm counting on it to surpass this episode as its ceiling someday.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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