by Sam Leach,
How would you rate episode 98 of
Black Clover ?
A while back we met Fuegoleon Vermillion, the captain of the Crimson Lion Kings. He was immediately one of the coolest and most likable characters in the series by virtue of his strength, but also his willingness to support others. His "Being weak isn't something to be ashamed of," pep talk to Noelle is probably the single best piece of rhetoric in the show. However, he was quickly dispatched by the Eye of the Midnight Sun, losing an arm and falling into a series-long coma which led to his sister taking over his squad. This week, Fuegoleon finally returns in a blaze of glory.
The majority of this episode focuses on the remaining members of the Crimson Lion Kings fighting off the elves while Mereoleona is away from home base. Before Fuegoleon's arrival, this is Leopold's brief time to shine as he proves to himself that he has the grit to one day lead the squad. Our main antagonist is an elf whose name I don't think we receive, so we'll just call him "Randall" after the Lion King vice captain whose body has been taken over. The audience doesn't really have any stake in who Randall was before the possession, or who he is now in elf-form. He's a cookie-cutter bad guy so the heroes have something to react to.
There are only so many ways to extol the virtues of raw shonen magnetism, but the Vermillion family exemplify that spirit unlike anyone else in this show. They'd come across as parodic in their "RAH RAH, NEVER GIVE UP," passion if they weren't so charismatic. As opposed to Asta, who is an underdog with something to prove, the Vermillions are royalty and have already claimed positions of leadership. Their conviction is a part of their responsibility—if they can't stand up for what's important, then who will? Black Clover has been hit-and-miss when it comes to streamlining Shonen Jump tropes, but this week is working for me. Fuegoleon is in a very Goku-like position where he's been taken out of commission long enough for the weaker characters to struggle and fight, and then he appears to save the day when he's most needed. He even arrives with an unexpected power-up in the form of Salamander, the fiery dragon spirit that was fighting with Fana a few arcs ago. The story could not get any more straightforward than this, but the emphasis is on the strength and dependability of heroes like Fuegoleon. We follow him for a reason.
The episode caps off with a tease of what's to come. Elves are gathering all over the kingdom, and the ones we've been fighting are just the tip of the iceberg. We meet Latry, the elf inhabiting Langris' body who also happens to be Patry's cousin. He's powerful enough to fight his way out of the prison that Langris was being kept in, and the episode ends with Finral waking up with the determination to save his brother. (Even though Langris, like, super doesn't deserve it.) With so many moving pieces and various battles all running simultaneously, I'm reminded of Dragon Ball Super's Tournament of Power. There's suddenly a ton going on in the story, but it's all in service of setting up fights and I worry that there won't be enough variety in the plot to help structure it all. It's working well so far, since we can take it one week at a time, but Black Clover's magic duels have a pretty dry pattern to them. On its own, this episode is snappy and exciting, with just enough visual polish to keep things impactful. Whether or not the show can keep building on this momentum is dubious, but for now I'm still enjoying myself.
Black Clover is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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