by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Black Clover ?
Now that he's accomplished his first proper mission as a member of the Black Bulls, it's time for Asta to get paid! How far 200,000 yules will go in the Black Clover world seems to be subjective, since most of the Black Bulls see it as a means for a good day off, while a rich girl like Noelle only sees pennies. Of course Asta, being from a much poorer village, is perfectly grateful. The successful mission also brings up the grading system for Magic Knight squads, which are golden stars awarded by the Wizard King (who we still have yet to actually meet). I don't know how big of a role these stars are going to play in measuring the growth between Asta and Yuno throughout the series—Yuno specifically belongs to the most accomplished squad with a whopping 70 stars to its name—but I do like how the scene unfolds as Yami proudly places the new gold star on the bulletin board only for it vanish because the Black Bulls have loads of negative stars and Asta's accomplishment is just paying off their debt.
As far as the more laid-back episodes of this show go, this is one of the better ones. We continue to focus on a relatively small number of the Black Bulls at a time, trading Magna out for Vanessa, the skimpy witch lady who takes them shopping. You see sprinkles of the other members, and I would still really like the Little Sister guy to knock it off, but most of the episode is about spending time with Vanessa, who's perfectly likable. The castle town market, complete with secret walls that you can pass through, is easily the most Harry Potter that this show has felt yet, and as on-the-nose as that sounds, it's actually pretty refreshing to see the show ape something outside of other shonen. The little details have a charm to them.
Sadly, being one of the more laid-back episodes of the show also means you can feel how much they're trying to buy time before the next part of the story starts. The episode ends just as something begins to happen, and it's way too early in the series for this constant slow-burn. You've got Vanessa helping Noelle out with her magic with RPG-style accessories found on the black market, and by the end of the episode we're reunited with Sekke, the snobby guy from Asta's entrance exam who's floored by what Asta's accomplished in their time apart (i.e. he's jealous that Asta's hanging out with cute girls), which connects us to the surprise mugging of an old lady that pits Asta against the thief. That's as far as the plot and forward momentum go.
Right now the show's hit-and-miss cast and near-suffocating padding are still Black Clover's biggest hurdles, especially if it has any intention of hooking audiences who have already seen shows like this. I do want to know what happens next, just as I want to learn more about Asta's world. I just hope the show can stop feeling the need to pump the brakes and relax every three episodes. This is an action show, darn it! At least the chill atmosphere means that the production isn't overextending itself, but man, it's not always giving me much to work with here.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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