by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 100 of
Black Clover ?
This week, Black Clover performs its rite of passage and finally crosses that one hundred episode mark. It's pretty rare to see an anime commit to the long-running format without any seasonal breaks in the modern age, but this show is determined to be the most shonen-y shonen the mid 2000s never made, so mark your calendars for the next inevitable milestone. As somebody who's been writing reviews for several hundred episodes of One Piece, I've been routinely disappointed how that show never seems to have a particularly strong episode to commemorate these occasions. Black Clover has been up and down on the quality scale for the past few months, but it's clear Pierrot wanted to make sure this week was something special with a major turning point in the story and production values out the wazoo. It's possible that's the reason why there's been so much reshuffling of the source material in adaptation. They knew which fight they wanted to air this week.
As Asta came face-to-face with the elf-version of Yuno, it was easy to assume the two of them would be duking it out. However, the twist turns out to be that the real Yuno is still in full control due to willpower mumbo jumbo and decides to fight alongside his friend-slash-rival, all while maintaining the boost in magical power that the elf resurrection gave everyone. Whenever Black Clover pulls something like this, I have to take a deep breath and ask myself if I think this time it's cool or totally bogus. The show just kind of does whatever it wants, and sometimes that's part of its bullheaded charm, and other times it's an embarrassing trainwreck.
I think my favorite moments in Black Clover (this week being one of them) are the instances where the heroes are high-key playing the role that villains usually do in stories. The universe practically bends to their will, and it's the elves who have the biggest challenge ahead of them as they whittle through the oppressive cacophony of power-ups and heroic speeches. That's not to say Black Clover is satirizing the usual hero-villain dynamic, but I do think it's intentionally ironic in the same way that it's ironic to have a protagonist with literal devil powers dismantling systemic injustice. The elves are just sympathetic enough that there's a certain cruelty to their defeat at the Magic Knights' hands, but at the same time Asta and Yuno are so honest and virtuous that you root for them in the end.
The big flashy battle that takes up the second half of this episode is Asta and Yuno's team-up attack against a newly revived Licht (as opposed to the Licht we've been seeing up until now, who is actually Patry). Licht is the only opponent who can keep up against super angel Yuno and super devil Asta, and he's still a little groggy from his nap so he's like The Terminator in this fight: an indiscriminate killing machine and a counterweight to the rollercoaster happening around him. Like my favorite episode in the series (the Vetto finale), this week we're treated to another use of 'Haruka Mirai' as a climactic insert song and it's just as exciting as the first time they did it. Asta and Yuno are still rivals, so their motivation to keep fighting comes from the desire to constantly one-up each other. Again, the villains are practically fighting just to affirm any emotional real estate in this narrative at all.
Whenever Black Clover does something impressive, it's easy to fall back on the usual caveats about how rocky and inconsistent the rest of the series has been. There's still truth to those criticisms, however these shining moments remind me that this series does have strengths that are not necessarily shared with its Shonen Jump influences. Every now and then, the sky clears and the series's intentions hit the mark flawlessly. It makes me wish that this story could have a little more confidence in its best ideas, rather than just imitating the gusto that audiences have come to expect from the genre. Occasionally, Black Clover is very good.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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