by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 80 of
Black Clover ?
The next match of the Royal Knights Exams belongs to Team E (including Finral and Leopold) and Team G (that Sekke guy and Finral's younger brother Langris). Finral vs. Langris is the last of our sibling rivalries for this tournament, and it might be the most compelling one yet. Mimosa and Kirsch's fight ultimately ended with no hard feelings, and while Noelle's victory was a clear cut "hell yeah!" moment, Solid is merely one of three older siblings for Noelle to confront, meaning she still has a lot of fighting ahead of her. Langris, by contrast, feels like a very specific kind of corrupt.
At the beginning of the arc, we noticed Finral had gotten a new hairdo to stand out better in the tournament. I think the windswept hair and green fade does a lot to help his design pop more, since he already risked fading into the background among the colorful Black Bulls. This small change helps make the tournament feel like "his" arc, or at least as much as it can with the ensemble that we have. I remember we got hints of his backstory alongside Vanessa's back in the Underwater Temple arc, so it feels fitting that more of their stories would roll out in succession. Finral and Vanessa seem to have some sort of personal connection, as she's the one helping his new hair look the best it can.
The majority of the fight itself isn't much to speak of, since the anime adaptation is still snoozing through the tournament, but the ending is exceptionally strong. Langris is Finral's younger, more accomplished half-brother, and he's developed a complex over it. When they were young, they got to know the woman who was arranged to marry the next Vaude heir (which would most likely be Langris because of his powerful magic, despite Finral being the eldest), but she was immediately more receptive towards Finral because he had a kinder soul, prompting Langris's deeper insecurity. From there, Langris became more determined to be better than Finral at everything, because that was the only thing saving him from having to confront the fact that he's just kind of a turd deep down. It seems a little odd that they never mention what happened to that woman, though. Are she and Langris still set to marry? Or did she die of that illness she was said to have? They gave us a lot of details about a character who was just a compliment dispenser for Finral.
The climax of the episode shows Langris so fed up with his brother that he pulls out a new dark magic, reminiscent of the magic used by the Third Eye members (the plot thickens), with the intent of killing his brother. The second things start to get serious, the Black Bulls immediately jump into the fight and put their weapons to Langris' neck without a care for the rules of the tournament at all. This sequence is really good! Part of why the tournament format works so much in shonen series is that they offer an easy baseline to deviate from. When something unexpected happens, it's because the story established it was going to play by certain rules ahead of time, and the sheer immediacy of our heroes' call to action the second a wrench gets thrown into the works is refreshing. The episode might take its time getting to the good stuff, but this is a clear indication of what this tournament has really been about and what to expect moving forward.
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