by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Black Clover ?
Have you ever been aware of a tired archetype, but not really aware of how tired it was until way too late? This week's Black Clover introduces us to Noelle Silva, a cold-eyed, twin-tailed tsundere who slowly warms to our hero when she's not calling him by an insulting-but-maybe-kind-of-affectionate nickname. That's such a specific combination of characteristics that I can't believe how many times I've seen it (and liked it!) without its familiarity starting to bother me. What makes an archetype feel genuine in one series, but cliché in another?
As always, there's the matter of execution and story quality, which are not elements I'm convinced Black Clover has down yet. Noelle was also recruited into the Black Bulls like Asta, but as we saw a few episodes ago, she wasn't allowed to participate in the actual exams. She comes from royalty, something she tries to lord over Asta and company, but in reality she's the unwanted child who isn't accepted in her own family's squad. Her failure is that she has poor control over her water magic, and the snippets we get of her home life include her brother saying awful things like "I wish you had died instead of our mother." That's a pretty gnarly way of phrasing it, but it's yet another element that suffers from the audience having seen stuff like this before. I'm sure I would have found it shocking if I was a teenager who hadn't watched a lot of anime.
For now, the show's comedy is winning me over more than the drama, as seeing the different ways the chaotic Black Bulls interact can be pretty fun. They're rambunctious and annoying, and Yami's strong enough to pick you up by the head and throw you, but you can tell that they'll be there for each other when it matters. Asta himself is incredibly hit and miss throughout the series, so not all his funny or cool moments are going to be winners, and in an episode like this where his spunky high-chin attitude ultimately makes Noelle feel welcome in the Black Bulls, the show only manages a soft landing. I'm just not feeling the "Yeah! Go Asta!" vibe this week.
Though on a similar note, the most recent episode of Funimation's simuldub has got me thinking. Dallas Reid's performance as Asta is great, really summoning some fantastic guttural screams that don't grate on the eardrums and even make Asta sound cool. However, having a cool Asta results in telling a different story. The experience I had with episode four between the dub and sub is night and day, where I actually found myself missing the annoying Japanese Asta, because that version of the character feels more like he has something to prove. I distinctly liked episode four because it made me feel like one of the bystanders laughing at him, then letting him surprise me with a moment where he gets to be cool. It's still an annoying voice that gets in the way of the show being entertaining at times, but I appreciate this arc is present in the sub, because it feels comparatively nonexistent with Reid's charisma in the dub.
This episode isn't fantastic, as the spine of Noelle's mini-journey to self-acceptance is pretty limp. I'm not ready to get invested in her story until she's face-to-face with her family, and even that scenario sounds like a pretty generic way of leading us into the classic "first serious arc". I don't know if that's actually what happens, I'm just making guesses. I think Noelle has a great look, but I hope the story can loosen her up and get something that feels a little more real (or at least original) out of her, because right now she's pretty stiff.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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