Black Clover First Impressions
“The three leaves of the clover represent faith, hope and love. Within a fourth leaf dwells good luck. Within a fifth leaf… dwells a demon.”
Thinking back, I’m not actually sure how long it has been since I saw a proper “traditional” shonen anime. I guess My Hero Academia qualifies, but, due to its particularly smart writing and character dynamics, it feels as if it elevates itself beyond such a classification. Black Clover feels generic. I feel like the best way to sum up this first episode would be to refer to it as a slightly more irritating version of Naruto. It has all the hallmarks. We have two orphans who are rivals. One is a quiet prodigy with black hair named Yuno, and the other is an incapable loudmouth with lofty ambitions and blond hair named Asta. It actually becomes a little hard to make a Sasuke/Naruto joke when the similarities feel this obvious. Any quip that I can come up with feels like it is too on the nose. There are a multitude of issues with Black Clover’s introduction, but perhaps the most prominent is that the show is just plain annoying. As I watched this, I gradually reached the conclusion that almost every aspect of this first episode rubbed me the wrong way.
Asta is our main character, and when I say he’s a loudmouth, I mean that a sizable percentage of his lines are shouted. Part of me wanted to go back through the episode and form a tally, but I don’t believe I have the patience necessary. He aspires to become the Wizard King, but is widely mocked due to his complete absence of magical capability. However, he hopes that, when he is bestowed his magical grimoire, his magical ability will finally awaken. If you think it will be difficult to remember that this series is set in a magical world, don’t worry. Black Clover has got you covered. Even when they aren’t showing off magical powers for no real reason other than to say “Hey look! Magic!”, characters have an annoying habit of reminding Asta that magic is vital to their world every few minutes. Of course it turns out that Asta is actually linked to a great and powerful magic, and possibly a demon. Part of me wants to conclude that the series must have been speaking metaphorically when it brought up the demon, and it couldn’t possibly be that oblivious to its similarities with Naruto, but I don’t think I have that much faith in the show. Our other major character is Yuno, who serves as the cold and quiet counterpoint to Asta. His demeanor grates on me less than Asta’s does, but it also is used to build a false sense of tension between the two, so he doesn’t exactly land on my good side either.
The production for this series is not particularly great. Between Yuno and Asta, there is a sense of stylistic dissonance at play here. Asta has large eyes with spiked hair and is often presented with cartoonish angles, and almost looks like he could have been a discarded character from My Hero Academia or Twin Star Exorcists. Yuno has a more subdued design to match with his character, but, with his softer angles and bishonen appearance, he looks like he’d be more at home in something like Alderamin on the Sky. I’ve never viewed Studio Pierrot as being the most polished production studio, and I’m sorry to say that Black Clover does nothing to change my perception. The latter third of the episode also features some poorly computer generated chains that are more than a little distracting. All in all, I think it is fair to say Black Clover lacks polish on almost every front.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- The villain that show up towards the end of the episode rivaled Asta for most aggravating voice. It was nothing but a constant simpering pitch that approached nails on a chalkboard levels of auditory distress.
- When Asta was attacked by the evil simpering chain wizard, there was one of those stylistic black and red cuts where it looked as if the chains were literally ripping Asta’s body apart. Turns out that was a particularly misleading cut, as, when we get a proper look at him, Asta’s limbs are still intact. This show baffles me.
- Wizard King is one of those terms where I have to question whether it sounded better in Japanese. It’s such a generic title that I actually had to go back and check to make sure I hadn’t misremembered it (Turns out, I had. I was about to refer to it as “Wizard Emperor,” by mistake).
Black Clover appears to have dropped the ball in a big way with its first episode. It features an annoying lead, annoying supporting cast, annoying artwork and an annoyingly derivative premise. I don’t know whether this is due to the limitations of the source material or a botched adaptation process, but, as far as this first episode is concerned, I can’t help but write it off as entirely disposable.