by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 90 of
Black Clover ?
A really unusual trend I'm seeing here is how new characters are never allowed to simply join the Black Bulls. No, they have to be revealed to have always been in the Black Bulls this entire time, independent of whether or not the other characters had any idea. Meet Henry Legolant, the sickly young man who's been secretly living inside of the Black Bulls' hideout, shifting its geometry around and serving as the squad's resident "ghost." Henry's illness requires him to draw magic from people around him, and he's been doing so over the years without his squad mates noticing. The majority of the gang might not know him very well, be he's already quite fond of them.
This is one of those moments where I just throw my hands up and shout, "I guess!", because between Zora and Henry this show is making a bold declaration that it isn't interested in rolling out these important character recruitments in an organic way whatsoever. It's the kind of indifference that's hard to even criticize because it's so transparent. No time spent indoctrinating these new characters, no honeymoon phase, no nothin'. They've always been here, deal with it. After a certain point I just admire the balls it takes to be this fast and loose with your story.
Henry's magic comes down to shifting the different rooms of the hideout and turning the whole building into new shapes. Essentially, he turns the entire fort into a giant bull-shaped mech so he can face off against Sally's gel salamander. It's a kaiju battle, baby! Without looking I can easily imagine this fight being a lot more impactful with the manga's art, as the anime has felt pretty low on energy as of late. (Not to mention the tedious CGI used to animate the hideout.) The leisurely action isn't unwatchable, though we need as much Oomph! as we can get if the narrative is going to be all skin and bones. Perhaps Black Clover's crucial missing piece is that Gurren Lagann-esque raw enthusiasm. I don't begrudge stupid-fun nonsense! But it better be the best stupid-fun nonsense.
As the episode goes on it occurs to us that the Midnight Sun's goal with this particular attack is to nab the Black Bulls' magic stone, and once they have that they're outta there. Briefly, there's a moment of tension between Valtos and Rades, because the latter wants to keep fighting. There's some variety in motivation and priorities among our villains.
Ultimately, I found this momentary excursion from the main plot pretty refreshing. The Black Bulls' B-team may not have successfully stopped the enemy, but they gave us a chance to stretch our legs and focus on something new in Asta's absence. This show occasionally has moments where I can start to see how its preposterously direct approach to the genre's formula might hold some charm, though the execution still leaves it capped at the knees. With a little more energy and a little more clarity in its intent, it might be easier to appreciate the indelicate quirks of this series.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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