by Theron Martin,
How would you rate episode 158 of
Black Clover ?
A new season means a new opener and closer. Opener “Grandeur” by Snow Man is a hip-hop number with a jazzy styling that might eventually grow on me, but it is not one of the better series openers in terms of visuals and certainly not the instant success that its predecessor was. (But its predecessor was my official pick for the top anisong of 2020, so that's a high bar for comparison.) On the other hand, new closer “BEAUTIFUL” by TREASURE is an upgrade and a more immediately-likable number, though I cannot see myself watching it every episode.
But those are hardly the only things new here. Months have passed while Team Clover was in training, and they have all grown in terms of power, and in some cases physically as well. Asta was always extra-buff for a short guy, but now he is Dragon Ball Super-Saiyan-level buff, and I am not convinced that he looks better this way. Other character designs have also had subtler shifts, but with very mixed results; Noelle and Mimosa look fine with slightly more mature looks, but something just seems off with Leopold. Lots of power upgrades are also evident; Asta has mastered his ranged attack, which makes him much more devastating in a fight, and his ability to now fly surfing-style on his sword (a la Eureka 7) – even if his control isn't perfect – makes him more flexible. So does Noelle's ability to carry passengers while in her Valkyrie armor. Mimosa's Princess-Healing Flower Paradise gives her an area-of-effect manifestation of her healing powers, which is also a big upgrade. Harder to tell about Leopold and Luck, since they are entirely fighting chumps when they crash the village's fortress, but Luck may be even faster now.
Aside from the beat-up-on-mooks action scenes, the episode also formally introduces the Dark Triad which leads the Spade Kingdom. Dante (what else would you name a character who deals with devils?) is the oldest and presumably most powerful, while Zenon is the fellow spotted a few dozen episodes back taking out the Diamond Kingdom; based on his appearance and behavior here, I'm going to call him Dark Yuno. Vanica is the youngest-looking, most chipper, and only female member, and they're ready to go on the offensive as well; the mobile fortress powered by the magic of the weak so it can cross the Strong Magic Region is not the only scheme they have cooking, apparently. (This also suggests that the Devil Believers would not have fared well if they did make it across the strong magic region.)
For all of the flashy action scenes and villain introductions, the biggest point of interest is the pre-“Petit Clover” scene that the episode ends on: Ralph, the guy who set out back in episode 156 to cross the Strong Magic Zone, stumbles into Hague village and mumbles “Yuno-sama” (“Lord Yuno” in the subtitles) before passing out in front of Sister Lily. I certainly have no issue with Hague Village getting involved again, but as I'm sure they were meant to, those two words raise much bigger questions; they strongly suggest that Yuno, at least, was originally from the Spade Kingdom, and the similarities in appearance between him and Zenon might suggest a connection to the Kingdom's Royal Family. But if that's really what is going on, then where does that leave Asta?
Questions, questions. But the long-built-up arc is finally upon us, so it's all good.
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