by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 54 of
Black Clover ?
I never got around to commenting on the cour's new opening theme song, mostly because I find it hard to summarize an opening that's half-slideshow. However, it looks like they just needed a few more weeks to finish animating it, because now it looks great! The song is 'Gamushara' by Miyuna, and this is the most that a Black Clover opening has intrigued me with teases of upcoming story events. A ton of new characters and emotional action set to a singer with some amazing texture to her voice. And what's up with Mars?! I think it's a really neat opening.
As we set to transition between arcs yet again, I was prepared for this week to be another dumpy filler episode to let the heroes relax and stretch their legs—it's certainly been long enough since the last time we did that. And while it certainly looked like that's where it was heading at first, this ends up being an incredibly effective turning point for our main character. Asta visits the Wizard King's own recovery mage to see if anything can be done about his broken arms, and it turns out the Vetto fight has left a curse on him that prevents healing, leaving his bones permanently shattered. It seems clear that something in the story will eventually undo it (I'm thinking it will have something to do with that new demon transformation being hinted at), but the show does a knock-out job making it feel real for the time being. Here I thought the double-slings were just a funny visual, but now it's surprisingly tragic.
I'm reminded a lot of the beginning of the Underwater Temple arc, which was a touching celebration of Noelle and everything's she's accomplished with her new family. Now Asta's the one getting that treatment, and I'm flabbergasted to learn that it's an even stronger story. Asta may be Shonen Hero Cliché #4,326, but there are instances where the series takes advantage of his dopiness to make him more sympathetic. He's annoying because he tries too hard, but he's still the one who tries the hardest! There's a really potent irony here after he worked hard to compensate for his lack of magic, and now his brute strength and sword-swinging have been taken from him too. Even more so, it's the rest of the Black Bulls' reaction that seals the deal. They care a lot about the little guy and immediately get to work trying to concoct a solution. Everybody has at least an inkling of an idea of where to start, and it's so much sweeter than I could have prepared for. It's honestly kind of beautiful.
This is a beat that I don't think could have worked earlier on in Black Clover, not just because we've now spent a lot more time with these characters, but because so many of the defenses I've kept up for this series have been chipped away. It's still far from perfect, but its instances of vulnerability are getting deeper and more adept. This is a consequence for our main character that affects the status quo of the story, enough that it's likely going to require a whole new arc to solve. There's a lot of drama behind the words "your arms will never go back to the way they were," and even if they turn out to be empty words and his arms do indeed get fixed, it still feels earned.
My only qualm this time around is that I don't think the art quality can quite keep up with the story. There's a lot of feeling behind this episode, but none of it is all that visual. If they could have made this a prettier episode, this would likely jump to the top of my favorite episodes list.
There's a poignancy this week that I don't think I can do justice in this review. Perhaps in another show this wouldn't feel quite as remarkable, but I think getting to see something special in the unremarkable is what makes a show like this rewarding. This is evidence that the time we've spent hanging out with these characters has borne fruit, and that these lovable dumbasses have been working their magic on me.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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