This Week in Anime
Has Black Clover Gotten Better?

by Nicholas Dupree & Jacob Chapman,

Black Clover debuted last fall to extremely mixed responses from shonen fans, but now that its first major arc has concluded, is Asta a little less annoying in the bigger picture? This week in anime, Nick and Jacob churned through over a dozen episodes to find out.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.





You can read our weekly coverage of Black Clover here!

Nick D
Well Jake, it's taken us a long while to get here, but we're finally covering the latest hit action-adventure series from Shonen Jump. It required a lot of patience and marathoning, but we're finally covering Boruto! ...Right?

Maybe? I'm not sure. Is this thing a boruto?

No that's a screech gremlin. Easy mistake to make.

Yes, Asta. Yes you have.

Fine, we'll cover Black Clover if we have to.

Seriously, I marathoned 19 episodes of this thing over two days and fully HALF of it was this One. Single. Line.

I would say "ha ha that speaks for itself" but no. No it gets WORSE with context. All of those screenshots are from the same episode and there were even more to choose from. And in one of those, he's saying it IN HIS GODDAMN SLEEP.

I'll give Asta this much: he knows what he wants from life. Now if he could only find the monster who replaced his voice box with a broken accordion.

I know Shonen Jump formula is supposed to be a little familiar, but it's hard to think of a shonen more mind-numbingly repetitive than Black Clover's been so far.

Yeah, BC ain't exactly a groundbreaker. Basically since the day it launched way back in 2015, the comparisons to other shonen series have hung over it. And now that the anime's here to adapt all of the weakest material first, we get to do it all again! Doesn't help that somebody decided along the way that this show should move slower than molasses in an igloo. In the span of 21 episodes, the anime has covered only 25 chapters.

I get that you guys don't want to catch up to the source material but

To be frank, even if this same story were told in twelve episodes, I'm not sure what I'd get out of it. Saying that Black Clover has no original ideas probably isn't fair (and we'll get to some positive things here I'm sure), but it's safe to say it has extremely few novel ideas. In a world with Dragon Ball Supers and One Pieces and My Hero Academias and even lesser, weirder options floating around, that's not a good problem to have.

Shonen Jump material almost always runs on formula to some degree. You'll occasionally get anomalies or exceptions, but any time you get a battle series, you're gonna be in for a familiar setup. Which I'm honestly okay with—I have a lot of patience for this kind of show and I can usually forgive a cliche premise if the characters are engaging. And as a manga reader, I can say Black Clover does eventually get there in some regards but takes a long time.

Before that can happen, we gotta get through this first arc which was uh

I struggled, shall we say.

What, you weren't impressed by the thrilling action?

Well, this is definitely an antics-heavy kind of shonen manga. But as comedy-driven Jump titles go, Black Clover seems to be skewing a little younger than I'm used to, basically pulling from the Minions playbook where the joke is that PEOPLE YELL A LOT. I'm not just talking about Asta. The entire guild of misfits that he joins is introduced SCREAMING AND BREAKING THINGS, and it never gets any chiller from there.

Yeah, the Black Bulls don't make a good first impression. Bands of rejects forming a found family is a tried and true idea that can work with good chemistry or compelling characters, but so far the only characters who have been fleshed out are Asta, Noelle, and...I guess Luck?

Well, we did learn that Magna's desires are...unconventional.

Props where they're deserved, it takes a lot of effort to have the most questionable fetish in a guild with a siscon character. But yeah, everyone else is more or less a singular joke that they repeat ad nauseum. This one drinks a lot and hangs out in her underwear. This one eats a lot. This one is Marilyn Manson's socially anxious brother. It's all pretty flat fare that bounces around the periphery of our protagonists' adventures.

Which is a problem when our hero is Asta.

Weirdly, it's this big problem the show has with its cast that lends it an unusual strength: one of the least likable character archetypes in shonen is the most likable character in this show.

Noelle seriously needs a bigger role, because her personality as the haughty noblewoman who looks down on everyone (while being secretly enthusiastic and sweet) fits really well with the Black Bulls. Usually this character type is unbearable because they're unreasonably mean to the likable rest of the cast, and we're supposed to give a shit when they stop being unreasonable assholes I guess. But I'm completely on Noelle's side in Black Clover, because the Black Bulls are a truly loony bunch of troublemakers that deserve all the negging they can get. At the same time, the noble enthusiasm they share with her in their fleeting moments of non-idiocy helps bring out her inner child, allowing her to embrace an environment where she'll be loved unconditionally instead of judged like in her family. TOO BAD SHE DON'T GET TO DO MUCH. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Noelle's actually my favorite character in the series by a good margin. For one thing, she's an underdog who actually feels like one. For all the talk about Asta being a peasant with no magic, he still fights with a weapon that literally nullifies everyone else's powers.

Noelle, on the other hand, is at a distinct disadvantage in most fights and has to confront her own weaknesses to grow as a person and a fighter.

The rest of the Black Bulls are looked down on by the other Magic Knights, but you get the impression they could kick nearly anyone's ass, so seeing them show up their haters rarely feels satisfying by comparison. Now if only the show would give her pants.

The more I think about it, the more confident I am that I would be totally okay with Black Clover's extremely formulaic story if I liked the characters more.

Because after really searching my brain for someone in this cast who A) has a personality that B) isn't just monkeycheese, my second favorite character to Noelle is

And I'm pretty sure this hilarious chode's feature episode was filler.

Hoo Ha Man is certainly an...interesting choice.

Yeah I was trying to remember if he had a name, but he's mostly just called Ba-hah Man. Didn't even give him a name, and I still got more comedy out of him than the main cast.

erm, not bah-ha man like

more like

Personally my second favorite character is Yami, if only because he's a mentor character who clearly does not give two shits.

I want to like Yami, but much like Asta, it seems like 50% of his dialogue consists of one line ("you must surpass your limits!") repeated ad nauseum. Even when the comedy in Black Clover does work, or the action gives us a nice cut of animation, most of the show relies on repetition. It's like the manga already relied on beating a few jokes to death, then the anime repeats them more to pad its pacing, and it just becomes exhausting.

The anime's pacing is probably the most glaring problem for me, because it really didn't need to be this way. The manga's greatest strength and biggest weakness has always been that it moves at a lightning-fast pace. Rarely does any fight or plot beat last more than 1-2 chapters before moving on, and while this means character moments can get hamstrung, it also means you're never stuck with anything for too long. If one story's not working, then something new next chapter might be more entertaining.

That would definitely seem to fit the show's style of comedy better!

This is by far the funniest gag in the show, and it's especially good because it has nothing to do with anything. It just happens and is never spoken of again. I'd dig the show's overwhelmingly zany tone if it was more stuff like that!

It's a good gag! And it works because it's a quick, unexpected punchline rather than repeating a character's gimmick for the 30th time. Though for my money the funniest joke in Black Clover is Luck's character "arc".

Yeah...I thought we were getting some real drama finally. But I didn't understand that backstory at all. @[email protected]

It's a pretty convoluted flashback. We start with Luck's mom abusing him because no matter how much she berates her kid, he won't stop that creepy smiling thing. Then he beats up a noble at Magic School and she congratulates him? And then she dies.

it was A Lot

And all of this somehow taught Luck that he should fight only on his own and never have friends, I guess?

But then in the span of 90 seconds after he says that line, Asta arrives, helps him, says they're friends and

It's like a handful of tragic Shonen Jump backstory tropes got tossed in a box, shaken up, and then what came out the other side was "That's why friendship is stupid!" I was like "why is THIS the part of the show that's rushed?" But given that it's probably two pages of flashback in the manga, that would make more sense.

It really comes off like the laziest Power of Friendship attempt, putting even Fairy Tail to shame in lameness. Which is a shame because there are some interesting characters in Black Clover's cast that will eventually get some focus, but our first outings for the ensemble cast are Luck and Magna, the two loudest and least engaging choices.

Like I know I'm gonna sound crazy saying this but I can't wait til the anime gets to this guy's arc.

I had a much easier time trying to marathon the show over a short period (skipping at least SIX MINUTES OF RECAP/THEME SONGS every episode), so I'm sure I'll binge it again when we get to the next big arc. I certainly hope it improves, because while these slam dunk contests can be fun, they're also exhausting when you're lamenting what might have been done better for DOZENS OF HOURS of your time.

Like a great and terrible bowel movement.

Black Clover's never gonna be a favorite of mine, but having read it weekly for three god damn years, I have developed sort of an attachment for it, and there are truly parts that I think are good and worth checking out. But the anime's been so sluggish and spent so much time on the worst material that it's hard to recommend.

There are occasional bits of cool animation, sure.

But most of the time the show looks really dumpy. Especially in the Dungeon Raid arc.

So while there is good stuff ahead, I can't in good conscience tell people to sit through 20 episodes of mostly boring, mostly cheap-looking shonen formula just to get there.

Unless of course, it is your job! :'D So until the next arc:

Let's hope it's not the size of the grimoire that matters, but how you use it.

discuss this in the forum (41 posts) |
bookmark/share with:

this article has been modified since it was originally posted; see change history

This Week in Anime homepage / archives