Black Clover
Episode 56

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 56 of
Black Clover ?

There's really just no winning when it comes to adapting this Black Clover novel. It's more significant than a one-off flashback—it's a story that runs concurrently with the anime's events thus far, so the audience is tasked with keeping up as Fanzell pops in and out of the Black Bulls' lives. This is mostly to explain why Noelle and Finral also know this man, but I think the show could do more to ease us between the present day story and the past. It makes me wonder what this subplot would have looked like if they had adapted everything chronologically, but that doesn't sound satisfying either.

And so, we enter Round Two of the Fanzell mini-saga. This time Fanzell's encountering the rest of the Black Bulls (with an off-handed mention that he and Yami have met in the past, due to Fanzell being a former Diamond Kingdom commander) and confronting his flip-flopping pupil Mariella once more. The plotting is very haphazard, with one of the main points of contention being that the Diamond Kingdom has kidnapped Fanzell's fiancée, the third of these novel-original characters and the creator of Noelle's magic wand. We're told that Dominante Code (the aforementioned fiancée) is in the Diamond Kingdom's possession, we get a big battle between the Diamonds and the Bulls, and then plot twist: the whole battle was a scheme to rescue Dominante off-screen! We hadn't even met this woman yet, and now she drops into the cast with extraordinarily little fanfare. If there's any situation where a story is allowed to take its time introducing characters, it's in a quasi-filler exposition flashback within a long-running shonen series.

I'm also still having issues with how Mariella is characterized. There's such a game of "I'm betraying my master. BUT I still have respect for him. BUT maybe I'm actually betraying the Diamond Kingdom," with no clear logic behind any of these changes. She's stoic, but also extremely upfront and blunt about how she's feeling at any given time, so there isn't any actual character consistency to speak of in her turnarounds. It's not like she's an emotionally distant person who simply makes a mistake and feels guilty about it, nor is she a cunning mastermind who's setting the Diamonds up for betrayal—even when she's on the bad guys' side, she's still high-key bragging about how strong her master is. If the show was going for any sincerity in her arc, it would help if it could at least wait more than five minutes between each time she changes her mind.

This episode is another example of Black Clover just not keeping it together as a story. I don't care to find out what happens next for these new characters, and contradicting the already extraneous nature of these flashback episodes, we're also not offered enough breathing room. It's tiresome enough that we're jumping around through the series' timeline, filling in blanks we didn't need filled, and then we're ultimately left with means without an end. It's an uneventful flashback that derails the present day story so that we can get to know characters whose development is bafflingly undercooked. Blah.

Rating: D

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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