by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 58 of
Black Clover ?
Howdy, y'all! It's time for yet another round of "I don't understand Black Clover's story choices one bit!"
As of last week, we began a battle with the Queen of the Witches, but that conflict got interrupted by the encroaching Midnight Sun army led by Fana, a.k.a. "The Hatred", an enemy on the same level as Vetto. It turns out that the Witches' Forest is home to one of the coveted magic stones. Between Vanessa and Domina both being from the Witches' Forest, the ongoing mission to fix Asta's arms, and now the magic stone, the story has laid out an unnecessary number of alternate paths that could have brought us to this same point. Is there an important reason that Asta's arm curse had to be written in over making it another straightforward magic stone hunt? I sure wish there was, but Asta's arm's get fixed pretty much immediately, making it a futile question.
And it's not just the Midnight Sun attacking either. We have the Diamond Kingdom also launching a similar attack at the same time, so at least it makes some sense why we had to have establishing backstory for the batch of former Diamonds on the good guy team. However, the part that really confuses me is the Witch Queen, the spiteful abusive parent who got to be our villain for about half an episode before agreeing to heal Asta's arms so he can fight alongside her army. She's not suddenly a good person or anything—she still plans to take advantage of our heroes once this fight is over—but it begs the question, why lead us around like this? Constantly changing the story's priorities requires finesse and playfulness, but in Black Clover's hands, it just feels random and thoughtless.
This show usually manages to get somewhere cool at least once an arc, but it's shocking how reliably it botches the setup. It always feels like there's a massive chunk of emotional logic missing. Conflicts are introduced but then immediately sidestepped by either artless coincidence or a generic pep talk from one of our heroes. In this episode's case, we get both. There's a lot of talk about Asta and Vanessa denying fate that's meant to be exciting and empowering, but "fate" doesn't actually have much presence here. Perhaps the energy of the manga's art does a lot to compensate for this lack of cohesion—like the adrenaline just numbs your senses—but in the anime, I'm constantly scratching my head, trying to figure out the point of anything.
For what it's worth, this certainly isn't a boring episode, but it always seems to be at around this point in a given arc that I'm scrambling to fathom why a writer would construct a story this way. In the Underwater Temple arc, things got massively more interesting once the real battle got started, so much so that you could have almost cut the circumstances leading up to it altogether. Once again, we have something resembling a normal shonen plot, but nothing actually feels like it serves a purpose in the grand scheme of things. It's just an inconsequential little song and dance the show performs before it gets around to whatever part it's actually interested in.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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