Black Clover
Episode 99

by Sam Leach,

How would you rate episode 99 of
Black Clover ?

This week on Black Clover, the elves continue their attack on humanity and our heroes fight back with yadda yadda yadda. You get the picture by this point. Second verse, same as the the first.

We're sticking with the Vermillion family as we transition from Fuegoleon and Leopold's location back to the headquarters of the Midnight Sun where Mereoleona stands her ground. The lioness captain embodies the same shonen passion as her brothers, but far more wild. She actively enjoys fighting and being aggressive as she tears down the elves with her unquenchable fire magic. We're still technically in the Raia fight—albeit with an additional calvary now—which by now must qualify as the longest fight in the show, depending on how you measure it.

Clearly, something has been lost in adaptation here because the action is weak as hell. For as monstrous a personality as Mereoleona is, I can't think of a time when the anime really cut loose with any of her fight scenes. She should get the biggest/craziest/nastiest animation of any character in the series, but I found myself confused by the sequence of events this week as combatants gently bump into each other and gasp about what a fierce battle it is. This feels like a storyboard for a much better episode. There's a clear tug-of-war as the fight escalates and the various characters launch bigger and better spells at each other, but it's all without an ounce of excitement or adrenaline.

Once Mereoleona finally hits her limit, Asta and Zora reappear on the battlefield with a plan of their own. This whole episode is centered around the idea that Mereo is creating an exit for her comrades while she takes on an unfair fight, so when Asta and Zora repay the favor they're going against her wishes while also demonstrating their resolve. It's a kaleidoscope of conviction; an infinitely unfolding sheet of determined heroes saving each other from their own determination. This is where stronger execution could serve an episode like this, because this is usually exactly what I want from my anime. Sadly, there isn't enough of a runner's high to distract me from how dumb everything is. The villains aren't convincingly threatening, Asta is serving canned pep talks, and Zora's trap spells leave a lot to be desired.

With their momentary victory, Zora is able to take Meroeleona to safety while Asta stays behind and stumbles into a completely different confrontation with the elves. This time he's meeting back up with Mimosa and finally encountering the elves currently inhabiting Klaus and Yuno's bodies. Asta might be getting to fight his rival at long last, even if the real Yuno is nowhere to be seen. I imagine that this is what the elf possession idea has been leading to since the beginning, and it's bound to be a bittersweet fight no matter how you slice it. Structurally, this episode is perfectly sound, but it's so clinical in its direction that I found myself frustrated. Black Clover is a series that needs the emotional intensity dialed up to eleven as frequently as possible. The lack of earnest teeth-gnashing fervor is this anime's greatest shortcoming, and the issue often results in flatly empty schlock.

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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