by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 71 of
Black Clover ?
Enter Mereoleona, Fuegoleon's older sister and the standing captain of the Crimson Lions. She's kind of like Katsuki Bakugo from My Hero Academia, where her charm is her unfiltered and unapologetic aggression. It's pretty rare that a Shonen Jump battle manga has a tough female character like this without there being some kind of catch or narrative sidelining involved. I'm just meeting her, but what I understand through osmosis is that she's tough, headstrong, rude, everybody loves her, and there are no asterisks needed for any of those descriptors.
Mereoleona's arrival marks the end of the Star Festival, as she's now dragging her squad and a bunch of other Magic Knights to a hot springs training camp through a trail of active volcanoes. She's challenging everybody to show their true guts. This obstacle requires its participants to hone their "Mana Skin," an ability where magic users emit a consistent amount of mana in order to cloak themselves from the heat and erratic magical pulses of the region. The stronger characters, like Yami and Charlotte, can do this no problem, but it's going to be a lot harder for the magically-deficient Noelle and Asta. Looks like certain somebodies are in need of a good shonen pep talk.
First up is Noelle, who receives a photogenic forehead-fist bump from Mereoleona. Mereo appears to have been fairly close to Noelle's deceased mother, and recognizes that Noelle has grown a lot since her childhood. I remember Fuegoleon also being pretty instrumental in boosting Noelle's self-esteem back in the Royal Capital arc, so the Vermillions are proving to have a good eye on her.
Asta, however, can't do Mana Skin whatsoever, so he receives a much more discouraging speech. Really, Mereo's just trying to goad him into trying even harder, and of course Asta isn't going to call it quits. As formulaic as Shonen Jump series can get, I always think it's important to consider what each series is trying to bring to the table. There are always going to be distinctions in worldview, and each series has to decide what's required of its main characters in order to accomplish their dreams. Black Clover is going really hard on the "merit" ideal that the Wizard King embraces. Luck, pride, and friendship will always follow accomplishment, and you need proof of your ability in order to reach the top. Mereoleona tries suggesting that Asta's luck is enough to get him by, and he doesn't need to climb this volcano in order to succeed in life, but that's not how Asta wants to win.
So I guess we'll find out how Asta willpowers his way through the burning cataclysm next week. Considering this is Black Clover, it's hard not to assume it'll be some kind of ass-pull that undermines the story's own emotional goals, but what the heck, I'm invested. I like Mereoleona so far, though I wish the anime wouldn't be so scared to turn the intensity dial up to eleven. I should feel like I'm the one on fire when she's on screen. Otherwise, this looks to be a decent transition into a training arc, one that probably would have fallen flat much quicker without a character like this to pump up our heroes.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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