Orphans, Asta and Yuno were abandoned together at the same church shortly after being born and grew to be close friends. While growing up together, they both made a promise to compete for superiority and that the victor would become the Wizard King. However, it is not long before the differences between the two boys comes to light. Yuno proves to be incredibly skilled with magic, with seemingly limitless potential, while Asta is an outcast, possessing no magical power whatsoever in a world where magic is incorporated in every aspect of life. With the boys reaching the age of 15, the time has come for them to receive their Grimoire’s, the object which will decide their magical futures. However, while Yuno receives an incredibly powerful Grimoire, Asta receives nothing at all.
But events are about to transpire that will change Asta’s world completely…
I think it’s becoming pretty evident that I just don’t agree with the consensus opinion when it comes to what’s worth watching every season. Right now, everyone’s losing their mind over URAHARA, a show I couldn’t care less about and have virtually no interest in, while glossing the show that has, so far, had my favourite premiere episode of the season.
That would be this show: Black Clover.
Perhaps it’s just my inherent love for all things Shonen Jump, or maybe it’s my weird and questionable tastes at play yet again, but I genuinely thought that this premiere was absolutely solid. I’d even go as far as saying that it’s one of the best first episodes of an Anime I’ve seen in quite a while.
The main criticism I’ve been seeing from both anibloggers and professional reviewers is that Black Clover is generic and falls victim to the usual genre trappings you’d expect from the average Shounen series.
And I’m not going to deny that. Black Clover is pretty generic. However, I don’t believe that being generic is necessarily synonymous with being “bad”. Something does not need to be unique to be good. It’s all about the execution and, similarly to My Hero Academia, Black Clover executes the formula established by its predecessors in the best way possible.
It’s the usual underdog story of an outcast striving to prove to his peers that he’s more than useless and is deserving of their respect and acceptance. Similarly to Deku and Naruto, Asta is an individual with no talent, born in a world where talent determines ones place in the social hierarchy and future path. Everyone in this world has the ability to use magic, and their society functions entirely around its use, but Asta has no magic and is shunned by his peers because of it. And to make matters worse, his childhood friend, and arch rival, Yuno is an exceptionally talented mage, on track to become the best of the best.
And that’s the show’s biggest strength. Asta’s story may be an all too familiar one, but that doesn’t make it any less compelling or emotionally investing than something like My Hero Academia. The episode did a fantastic job conveying his determination to prove everyone wrong, and the feelings of frustration and sadness he keeps hidden behind an overly confident and cocky exterior.
I’ve seen a lot of complaints that Asta screams a lot and has an incredibly irritating attitude, and while I do agree that it’s pretty grating, I can also understand why he’s like that. It’s all an act. Asta is putting on a brave face to increase his self-esteem, to prevent himself from feeling inferior to those around him who have something he’s never had. When he’s around others, he’s a loud, hyperactive kid who screams that he’s going to become the best at the top of his lungs. yet when he’s on his own he’s far more reserved and focused solely on improving himself.
This is further emphasised during a scene where everyone gets their new shiny Grimoire’s and Asta, naturally, gets nothing and is ridiculed by all his peers. He runs off, on his own, depressed that he’ll never be special, like Yuno, or that he’ll never achieve his goal of becoming the best.
I can agree that Asta’s rowdy attitude is a tad irritating at times, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel sympathy towards him. There’s far more to his character than just “loud, obnoxious, Shounen protagonist” and to say otherwise is missing the point entirely.
Yuno is also a fairly interesting character, and serves as a sharp contrast to Asta. He’s exceptionally talented at magic, he winds up with a legendary Grimoire and he’s more or less on track to achieving Asta’s dream of becoming the best. Yet, it seems the two were close in their childhood, and seem to have grown distant over the years. I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationship develops over the course of the series.
I guess my biggest concern is, as usual with Shonen Jump adaptations, the future of this series. How long is this going to be? Will it be 13 episodes? Will it be ongoing for the foreseeable future? Will it get a second season? The Manga is currently a long running series in Shonen Jump, and it’ll probably last for years so it’d be a shame to see it end at 13 episodes and never continue beyond that, especially when there’s so much material to adapt. Only time will tell I guess.
Production wise, Black Clover is absolutely beautiful. The art style, while a little dull in terms of colour, is otherwise fantastic. The characters have striking designs, and the world itself is beautifully constructed, with some fantastic looking set pieces. The gigantic skull shaped structure near Asta and Yuno’s church is particularly memorable. That thing was awesome.
The animation is also practically flawless in its execution. Things are moving constantly, no matter how insignificant the scene is and the movements themselves are fluid with no stiffness to them at all. The final scene in particular is absolutely breathtaking in its presentation, with some truly fantastic effects animation that is so stunning your eyes will feel spoiled. The camera work is also excellent, with tons of dynamic movements. This is how Berserk (2016) should have utilised its camera.
In terms of presentation, Black Clover is the best looking thing Pierrot have animated in years. This is the studio that gave us the aesthetic disasters that were Tokyo Ghoul and Naruto, yet they’ve managed to make something that actually looks good. You’d think Madhouse animated this thing. Aside from My Hero Academia and Hunter x Hunter, I can’t remember the last time a Shonen Jump property looked this good in Anime form.
The music is also fantastic, and the opening theme has the most kickass riff ever and makes me want to jam out. As mentioned before, Asta’s constantly loud voice is a tad grating at times, but as someone who’s read the later parts of the Manga, I know that’s not going to remain an issue for too long. The rest of the cast perform their roles relatively well, and I have nothing to complain about so far, aside from the fact that the villain at the end of the episode was a tad over dramatic with his delivery.
Black Clover is proof that a show does not have to be unique or break new ground to be something that’s an enjoyable watch and worth your time. It’s by no means a perfect show, and if you’re tired of the Shounen template you may want to sit this one out. But if, like myself, you have an inherent love for these kinds of shows, and enjoy a solid, emotionally gripping underdog story with fantastic visuals, I urge you to look beyond the “generic” aspects of the series and see what’s lurking underneath.
Perhaps you’ll find something great.
What are your First Impressions for Black Clover?