by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 55 of
Black Clover ?
I had heard whispers of something like this going on, but now it's finally time to suss out whatever the hell is up with Black Clover's light novels. It turns out there was quite a bit of important canon information relegated to Black Clover: Stubborn Bull Book (a collaboration between Yuki Tabata and Johnny Onda). I wish I could speak to even a little authority on the matter, but details are extremely scarce in this hemisphere. There's no English release whatsoever, and it leaves this current stretch of the story in a funky position. The manga just acts like you're supposed to recognize these new characters on the spot, and now the anime is trying to adapt the novel but must do so by shoehorning in a very unexpected flashback.
Last week's cliffhanger saw Noelle and Finral traveling to meet with a man named Fanzell Kruger, hoping to find a lead on healing Asta's broken arms. Fanzell was the man who taught Asta how to swing a sword way back at the beginning of the story, before Asta took the Magic Knights' entrance exam. It's good that the anime is going through the trouble of showing us this never-before-seen backstory, but an episode-long flashback to fill us in on this random yet important character relationship is still extremely disruptive. I was just getting into the groove of the subplot about fixing Asta's cursed arms, but that story's now on pause so the show can tidy up its inadvisable synergy efforts.
This episode is a mess. The visuals are a dump and the character arcs are nonsensical. Fanzell is a devil-may-care runaway from the Diamond Kingdom who has a subordinate named Mariella, with the plot-twist being that Mariella is still loyal to the Diamond Kingdom and tries to assassinate her instructor—all while Asta helps Fanzell get his mojo back just in time to defend himself. We remain at arm's length with these two new characters (both of them are pretty aloof), and the story is astonishingly non-committal about both of them. Mariella is betraying her teacher, but she still cares about his honor and reputation. She's just as expressionless when she's antagonistic, so you don't have a sense of her priorities whatsoever, and Fanzell is your Red-Haired Shanks type cool uncle character, but it takes the wimpiest pep talk ever for him to reclaim a sense of meaning in his life.
This is a strange episode that's necessary for understanding the story as we move forward, but it's astoundingly ineffectual. It's not the most contrived "actually, this really important event happened off-screen" expositional flashback I've seen from the genre, but it's easily the least interesting. This episode is sentimental yet vapid, disorienting yet generic. There's a novelty to it existing at all, but there isn't much to say about it at the end of the day.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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