Black Clover
Episode 96

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 96 of
Black Clover ?

With the elven threat looming large, the true nature of this arc begins to take shape. Our new enemies are not a batch of unfamiliar faces, but rather half of the entire cast having their bodies taken over by the ghosts of elves as Licht's resurrection spell comes to fruition. Many of our friends including Yuno, Luck, and Gauche aquire magical face paint and pointy ears to signify bodysnatching, and their magic is now more powerful than it's ever been in the hands of their counterparts.

It's been a while since I've given the manga a quick look-over, so I was shock to discover just how much has been reorganized for the anime. The bulk of this episode is a battle between Yami and the elf-version of Charlotte, a fight that happens several volumes later in the manga. The stage has been set for all hell to break loose and many of these upcoming battles can take place simultaneously, so the order of events isn't strictly important. Still, it's surprising to see such dramatic liberties being taken.

The elven-possession hook is a strange one in that it suggests a myriad of thematic ideas in regards to whichever characters are fighting, even if half the characters aren't actually the people that they look like. Yami and Charlotte have a history together, but Charlotte isn't in control or even lucid as far as I'm aware. Yet, this fight manages to find a number of angles to work with. Charlotte had spent her whole life trying to be strong and independent to a fault, and so an elf woman to taking over her body and mastering her briar magic instantly is an insult to everything she had been working toward. I don't think there's another character in the series for whom body possession would rub salt in the wound like this.

The production values are much more on the conservative end this week than some of the more recent fights, though that's to be expected after a slew of great-looking episodes. A number of extra-cheesy one-liners also stood out to me ("I'm always really badass at hide-and-seek!"), but there's an emotional core keeping the episode grounded, especially when Sol Marron arrives and has to deal with her beloved Big Sis now being her enemy. Her exaggerated anti-men bravado means she has to dig deep in order to trust Yami with the fight, but it's also an oddly sweet motivator to return things back to the way they used to be. She can't protect Charlotte from men if there is no Charlotte to begin with.

I'm curious where the succession of elf battles will go from here. We're fighting our own friends, but also technically not really. As established, the elves take over humans that have a similar wavelength, so there's bound to be a lot of variety in stories between heroes having to face their loved ones' replacements, and villains who have similar strengths and weaknesses as their hosts being forced to confront themselves in a new environment. There's a lot to keep track of in terms of who is really who—some elves we're expected to remember by name and some we're not—but the possibilities are compelling.

Rating:

Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.

Sam Leach records about One Piece for The One Piece Podcast and you can find him on Twitter @LuckyChainsaw


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