Black Clover
Episode 22

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 22 of
Black Clover ?

It's zombie-hunting season as the royal capitol continues to fight off the attack in this week's Black Clover. Asta was the only Magic Knight to make a beeline straight for the main villain responsible, so his end of the conflict exists in a little bubble compared to the rest of the cast. Since the zombies are animated with mana, Asta's anti-magic sword does just the trick, and we get to pop in and out of his scene as he protects a little girl who happened to get caught in the action.

This episode runs the risk of feeling flavorless and average, with a lot of time spent watching the various Magic Knights fight off the horde of attacking zombies. Seeing all the different powers and personalities at work never quite becomes satisfying entertainment, but I wouldn't call it a waste, either. It's appropriate that we get to spend some time with these new characters and the camaraderie they inspire, I just don't find most of it especially interesting.

However, this episode does manage one scene that I thought was genuinely excellent, which was the exchange between Noelle and Fuegoreon Vermillion. Since the introduction of her older siblings, its been pretty clear that this arc is in part about Noelle and her hangups as an unwanted royal. Her characterization in the past few episodes has been shockingly strong, imbuing her with easily the most effective pathos we've seen in the show to date. She spends part of this episode frozen with indecision, unsure if she should be trying to help with her uncontrollable magic or if she's better off letting the other fighters take the reins. Fuegoreon saves her from some zombies and then promptly karate chops her on the head in an act of tough love.

In these battle-focused shonen anime, there's always a question of what role the weaker characters should play. It's not uncommon for us to watch a character struggle with their own inadequacy, and every series has to find its own way of assuaging those concerns. Fuegoreon recognizes that Noelle's problems stem from her family's ridicule, and says "Being weak is nothing to be ashamed of. However, staying weak is!" There's an abrasiveness to it, but you can tell that's just him being a straight shooter. You can see all the ways in which this series is taking notes from other shonen stories, where the empowering characters get their strength from having a clear and simple perspective that lets their self-confidence speak for itself, but once again we have an example of the show actually committing to the tropes in a way that feels earnest. Fuegoreon gets to come off as both a little cool and a little funny in this scene, and I'm pretty happy with it.

This is an odd case where I have virtually no strong feelings about most of the episode one way or the other, but that one part that I like leaves me walking away from it feeling warm. I like the attention that Noelle has been getting lately as she continues to meet people who will embrace her even when her family won't, and I hope that we'll continue to see more along those lines. Everything else about this week's episode is acceptably mediocre. Even Asta's fight with the crazy villain fails to pique my interest, but I can understand it as something that holds us over until the next interesting thing in the story happens. My general opinion on this current arc so far could probably summed up in a similar fashion. There's legitimately good stuff in the works, and those qualities are seated on top of an inoffensively reliable foundation, which I'd say is an improvement for this show overall.

Rating: B

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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