Black Clover
Episode 14

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 14 of
Black Clover ?

Something that I never managed to bring up in past reviews was Black Clover's opening theme song, 'Haruka Mirai', which has honestly been one of my favorite parts of the show, pumping me up even when the characters couldn't. Well, a new cour means a new opening, and now it's up to 'PAiNT it BLACK' by BiSH to get our Tuesdays started. I could have gone another season with the original opening, but we'll make do with the new stuff just fine. Although visually, this is one of those openings that pans over key art (with hair and capes gently waving in the breeze) in place of a lot of actual animation.

We're beginning a new arc, as the plot gets kicked into gear with a special dungeon-crawling mission for Asta, specifically requested by the Wizard King. The idea is that dungeons in this world are filled with all sorts of magic traps, but they're also likely to house rare artifacts, and it's the duty of Magic Knights to check these places out to make sure robbers aren't running amok. This particular dungeon also happens to exist near the borders of an enemy country, so who knows what kind of dangers that might provide. It's Asta and Noelle's job to follow Luck, the smiley devil-may-care young man from the Black Bulls who specializes in lightning magic, through this new location.

Going through the usual filler-to-canon check, I was surprised to learn that the material in this episode ran the span of a whole chapter, because it felt like it must have been a lot less. There's a degree to which I want to limit the constant discussion of pacing and judge each episode based on how it made me feel going in blind, since often enough my problems stem from the fact that I knew that it was filler ahead of time. I have a lot of mixed feelings on the subject, since there's always going to be a part of me that remembers how much of a non-issue it was when I was a kid watching Dragon Ball Z (a show that's just as bad with pacing, if not worse), and bringing it up all the time feels gauche. Then again, it's also the easiest thing to evaluate and critique when the show moves this slow without giving me much to talk about.

Taking this episode on its own, my biggest issue is how it dillydallies its way between scenes. Oh, we have to name the mascot bird? Let's devote the whole opening scene to it. Oh, Asta's sad about not getting to sense mana like the others can? Let's see how long we can get him to wail about it. DBZ is a great reference point because a lot of this anime feels like material that would serve an eventual "Black Clover Kai" re-cut well. While this episode covers a whole chapter from beginning to end, which is the least I ask for out of these shows, the relaxed temperament means that there's zero variety in the tone. A comedic beat can't break the tension if there isn't any, nor can a surprise fight with a generic flower monster. The biggest moment of reprieve from the exhausting mundanity is the cliffhanger where it turns out Yuno and the Golden Dawns are also checking out the dungeon, promising that something entertaining might finally happen... next week.

That isn't to say there's nothing of value here, as I think this perfectly geometric and ethereal-looking dungeon is easy on the eyes. It's a very JRPG kind of place, and we get to spend time with Luck, who further demonstrates that the Black Bulls are a decently likable and well-rounded cast. The cliffhanger is also payoff for the time we spent establishing the Wizard King's interest in Asta and Yuno, where he's orchestrated a scenario that brings our two main characters back together for the first time. I'm genuinely looking forward to seeing them meet and interact with each other's squads. There's also some service given to Noelle's growing tsundere crush on Asta, but frankly the less said about that the better.

Black Clover is going to continue being the kind of show that I tumble through, wavering between wanting to cut it a break and getting tired of it. Going back to the DBZ comparisons, I can feel all the ways in which the tough weekly pacing and the limp attempts at humor are going to become smaller problems as the story gets bigger, but tackling each episode as it comes can be challenging. We're at the start of a new arc, and I'm looking for something other than the mild and easy viewing that worked for me in the past few episodes. We need to get some spice in here pronto.

Rating: C+

Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Sam Leach records about One Piece for The One Piece Podcast and you can find him on Twitter @LuckyChainsaw

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