Categories
Anime Rant Blog Post

All the Right Moves and All the Right Faces: A Black Clover Review

This article, “All the right moves and all the right faces: Black clover Review” is a guest post by Jon Walquist. More about the author at the end of the post!


SPOILER WARNING: If you haven’t seen Black Clover, and you’re ok with some spoilers, let me convince you to watch it; if you aren’t ok with them, you’re probably watching it right now, so hit this up after you’re current, alright? Ok.

Well-Read

When I was… fourteen, and still quite awkward, I entered a public school for the first time in years for high school. During this time, I spent my free hours at the local library while my parents worked late. Between my brother’s suggestions and the stacks of manga set all around the teen zone of this library, I soon found myself reading some of them to pass the time; I thought “Comic books are fun, so why not try these? Huh. They’re in black-and-white. Interesting. Oh, the inside of the cover says to start on the opposite end and… read upper right to bottom left. Weird.”

You can guess how it went in the years that followed. I read Naruto, Naruto Shippuden, and Bleach; then I watched the anime adaptations of those, plus Hunter x Hunter, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Sword Art Online… I consumed all of it. Everything that caught my eye. The time passed me by and by the time I was in the middle of my university studies, I watched and rewatched, and picked up short series that looked interesting, cute, funny, you name it: 

Bakuman, Golden Time, “Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon-Maid”, Fruits Basket (2001), Kaguya-sama: Love is War, One Piece (got thrown in there because I felt obligated), Boruto: Naruto Next Generations (I never left this universe), My Hero Academia, Nichijou, Nisekoi, K-On!, “Food Wars: Shokugeki no Soma”, Konosuba, “Rascal Does not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai”, One Punch Man, “Is it Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?”, Toradora, “Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions”, and Gabriel DropOut, to name a few.

So, after all that exposure, I saw this:

Black clover anime review

I Got Spoiled and I Liked It

It was circulating on YouTube with some mysterious level of ferocity: the 10th opening for the series Black Clover, Vickeblanka’s Black Catcher; it just dropped earlier this year. People posted reviews of the openings and even the endings. I was perusing videos in search of the next longer series to sink my teeth into.

So, Black Clover came out in 2017 and nobody told me about it?

That’s rhetorical. Its front headliner honestly never caught my attention amidst the deep, dark pool that is shonen anime. I’d glossed over it about a hundred times in favor of the other popcorn I had my sights on.

I’m the sort of guy who doesn’t really mind getting spoiled on something as long as he later sees how the story gets to that point. However I also sort of appreciates the intensity of watching something without being spoiled about it first. I can go both ways. And in this particular instance, some of the reactors had seen the show, and spoiled me on a major plot point near that point in the series, the identity of the little bird who appears in every opening. But somehow, that actually broke the ice and made me willing to pick the show up for the first time. I thought, “What kind of reveal is this, exactly? How would the story land there, and would it feel natural or earned?” Those are the kinds of things I considered as a storywriter.

So, I dropped the other media and binged the show, as I normally would; except, that’s not how it went with this one. I’d seen many shows that did things to me, but I never expected it to be that way with this one; the way it made me stop and think, like it was showing me an important perspective on life, and the characters made me feel like I was part of their future, watching them.


Related >> +13 Motivational Black Clover Quotes!


Black clover review

Attitude and Atmosphere

The whole premise of Black Clover, initial setting and characters, and the way the protagonist Asta acted and sounded rang all of my bells like they had a hundred times. I’m not so sure I could stomach another samey shonen. However, I have more patience than a lot of consumers, so I stuck with it; it wasn’t as though I had anything else on the plate at that time.

The first thing that hit me was that Asta and Yuno aren’t the kind of rival pair you normally see in this genre and medium. In Naruto, Naruto and Sasuke started out as friends simply by proximity and empathy. But then, they quickly grew apart and seemed like enemies for the majority of Shippuden. All this only for their story to tie off in a nice bow thanks to Kishimoto late in the series. 

Then in MHA, Midoriya and Bakugo never act like friends, and their goals diverge pretty quickly when you consider the implications of their different images of what an “Ideal Hero” ought to be. But Asta and Yuno are friends before they are anything else; they are brothers from the start, and they act like it. They only become rivals because they share a dream they assume only has one spot on the finish line. From the flashback of the snowy night with the drunk man, the two of them support each other and compete in their kindness and hard work, and they watch each other grow. 

Growing Apart, Keeping a Promise

Honestly, that could have thrown me off. I thought I was watching another mass-produced shonen anime. Never did I expect a dynamic relationship between two of the characters so early. I also want to point out how much I love how Asta and Yuno are separated by joining different Magic Knight squads so they maintain their promise on their own in two entirely different environments: the Black Bulls, the misfits and outcasts that the Wizard King comes to rely on, and the Golden Dawn, a perfect selection of only the most individually powerful and royal individuals from the Clover Kingdom’s highest classes. 

I remember in Naruto Shippuden when Sasuke reminisces for an entire 2 episodes to show us how he felt the entire time the events took place, after the final battle had been fought. But I didn’t have to wonder with Yuno; you can tell exactly how he feels when he is given his room and not treated with any respect by the other members of the squad. It was an immediate contrast to the warm welcome Asta received. At that moment, I drew the parallels and saw the two paths. I never saw that with Sasuke until the end.

And the kickers just didn’t stop coming. Next we have Black Clover’s second main character, Noelle. Taking stock of her background, she is royalty, yet her family dropped her into the “lowest” squad; she has more magic power than most people, yet she has no control over it whatsoever; and her family mistreated her for her entire life. I couldn’t find a better recipe for exactly who she was, and who she becomes in this show.

BC Noelle

The Real Tsundere

Here’s my talk about tsundere. Creators throw this staple archetype into every show, if it isn’t purely serious. The girl who falls directly for another character, usually our main character, but then is consequently afraid of her own feelings, and being rejected.

Period. Stop there. Remember Noelle’s background? She has more reason to be systemically afraid than anyone else, of being rejected. Heck, all she’d ever been was rejected, until she met Asta. I still remember what he said after she almost drowned herself. “Wow, your magic’s pretty amazing!” And there we go, the “falling in” was established..

I can’t blame her, really. That would be quite the shock, a jolt to a heart that had been crumpled up for fifteen years. 

I often see the Black Clover cast compared directly to Naruto characters, Asta to Naruto, Yuno to Sasuke, and Noelle to Sakura. But Yuki Tabata made sure to set these three apart, and Noelle is a prime example of that. She, you know, does things. All the time. She is at the center of the conflict right next to Asta, and her own power comes to rival the best of the other characters. It seemed like early on, her position wasn’t stagnant or underused. The creator designed her to break the expectations and limiters placed on her, and become a force to be reckoned with.

Fighting is a Girl’s Job Too

Another quick pause here to cover the bases of relativity. Various other Black Clover reviews point out how much “more useful” Noelle is to the conflict in the story when compared to Sakura. But, as an avid Naruto fan myself, I can attest that Sakura is by no means useless. I think the issue is expectation. Fans expected Sakura to always be on the same level as Naruto and Sasuke, because she was part of their team after all. But that’s not how the world Kishimoto created operates. Naruto and Sasuke were part of a two-person system that transcended their former team 7.

In contrast to that, Noelle is in a position where it is reasonable and likely that she fights alongside Asta at the same level. And because of her latent power, she can achieve great power by herself. A lot of it has to do with the way the magic system is set up. Spells are gained through hard work and talent, yes, but they are also written by emotion. 

This concept allows characters to develop believably when it wouldn’t be logical otherwise. Trying to protect the innocent village of Saussy and watching her own family fall before her eyes are good catalysts for that. Not that she never works hard; she spent a week mastering a single spell to get the crew to the underwater palace.

Another area in which this show impressed me is its setting, its themes.

Asta BC

Thematic Sense

I’m talking about the class system, Asta’s devil, and the story of the Elven massacre. 

The Clover Kingdom is broken up into physical tiers of living. People of the Forsaken Realm, who have low levels of magic power and generally belong to the working class or peasenthood. They inhabited the vast lower areas of the land. The orphans Asta and Yuno grew up in a village on the very edge of this land, next to the remains of an ancient monster. 

Then there is a huge multi-steppe plateau covered with dense living spaces and markets. The first level of this is the Common Realm, where we find an analog for the “middle class”, those who score medium on their demographics tests, so to speak. Above this lies the castle town and the royal palace, which house the nobles and royal families. This all sounds about right for a medieval setting, until we are told that each person’s quantity of magic power is essentially defined by their status, with few exceptions. The rich get richer and the poor remain poor.

And doesn’t that sound familiar to me? Oh, yes it does. I live in the United States and I grew up with stories in similar settings.

But it isn’t just the structure of this kingdom I find interesting; what pulled me in the most was how realistically the show represents it. The sneers of the nobles that just grate your bones, and the pitiful sorrow of the misfortunate. Both hit hard, and begged me to root for Asta. 

His perspective on society is another thing that sets his character apart. He doesn’t make everything tie into some central ideal he follows. Instead, and I feel, more powerfully, he addresses everything he encounters in its face. He asks what would make someone end their own life for the sake of a mission, says that he won’t listen to fate because he won’t let it change who he is, and when confronted with the hatred of the elves, asks why they are fighting in the first place. 

“Why?” he says. “We’re just the same as them. We’ve both had our loved ones taken from us. So why can’t we understand each other?”

Getting the Big Evil Right

That moment called back to the moment I started to really enjoy Naruto as a character. When he stood in front of Pain and refused to take revenge, because he was able to understand his enemy.

And while Naruto had to watch as his enemies fell one after another, their hearts changed. But the source of their hate, unanswered for the majority of the series, Asta and the elves saw it with their own eyes: the devil who started it all.

Sure, it can sound cheap. The ultimate evil set everything up and now we have to work together to stop him. It’s a broken record at this point. But it’s the little things that matter. The devil doesn’t act like it doesn’t have its own agenda. It isn’t simply an answer to the big bad plot question. And when it is finally brought down, Asta’s own devil declares victory. Nothing ultimately ends here, and one 500-year conflict gives rise to the next, because every character makes their own decisions, to the best of their abilities.

Some people reviewing Black Clover start to mention the devil who lives in Asta’s grimoire. I’m not a manga reader of this series, so I don’t know who this devil is quite yet. I do see the effects of its power, and how Asta is learning to master it, or what little he can reach at this point. I don’t want to leave any final comments on this device, mainly because it could go many different ways in the coming narrative. 

But I appreciate how the “hidden dark power” Asta has does not function as a temptation to fall into evil, or a boost of unexplained power. It hasn’t hurt his friends (except for when the witch queen almost forced it to happen) and it doesn’t have that much danger surrounding it. I’ve come to just accept it as part of Asta’s identity. He’s the magicless anti-magic wielding kid. Not just the kid who has a demon inside of him

Side Development is Good Development

More recently in the show, characters, even minor ones, have started to undergo internal development. They face themselves, and their own problems, try their best to solve them, and learn something valuable along the way. I’m glad the side characters are allowed to grow and we get to see it.

Another character, I enjoy on the basis of design rather than growth at this point, and that is Secré Swallowtail, better known as Nero. It’s almost funny how she stayed with Asta since the Magic Knights exam and even before that. It’s strong evidence that Tabata knew how the story would play out before he started, which is a move for which I have only respect. 

My knowing about her before watching the series actually rewarded me. I didn’t have a name or a time, only the fact itself. It was so satisfying for me when I reached episode 117 and met her. I felt like I had accomplished something, because I had been thinking about it the entire time. So, imagine for a moment that you saw what she saw: the slaughter of hundreds of elves during a wedding, by the very people who should be protecting them, using a device that she helped create. Then, she saw the prince be forced to destroy his best friend. She did the only thing she could think of: she sealed them, and woke up years later in the form of a bird.

Black clover review

Feeling Vicarious

I found it strange how easy it was as a viewer, to see through her eyes. I could imagine how it would feel to see Asta grow up and take hold of the item she was trying to protect, how it would feel to watch him all that time. And I was able to imagine how tired she would be after watching the Clover Kingdom grow in its injustice over hundreds of years. But also what it would feel like to hope again, when she joined the Black Bulls. It is such a warm feeling. (If you want to see the extent of my feelings towards this character, check out the poem I wrote for my website at www.wordsofchange.net/post/growing-closer)

This was my review of Black Clover through the lens of story and characters, since that is my area of expertise, but I’ll leave a few notes about the animation and music. 

The animation isn’t as consistent as some other series, but if you were to take its objective quality and turn it into a graph over time, it would look like a mountain range. Sometimes the animation blew me away, and other times I was just paying attention to the plot because it didn’t catch my eye much or was a little hard to look at. It averages out to the usual high-quality I would expect from popular series, so overall it didn’t bother me much; and very recently, in the last few episodes, the quality jumped up to the top, especially with the opening and ending 12. 

As far as music goes, I could have written only about that and still ran on this long. Because the music in this show is the best there is in this medium, in my honest opinion. I consider Ending 10,  New Page by Intersection to be the best piece of music ever brought to Anime, and all of the openings to be works of art, especially the two done by Vickeblanka, #3 and #10, and the most recent Everlasting Shine by TOMORROW X TOGETHER.


Jon Walquist on Anime Everything Online

About Jon Walquist

I’m a freelance writer from Colorado who loves Anime. Age 22. Started writing in middle school, started watching anime in high school and I still keep up with SAO, Boruto, MHA, Black Clover, and One Piece. I work as a certified shift lead at Walgreens to pay the bills.

Thank you for taking time to engage in this web of opinion. If you want to get more of my writing, my novel and poetry, or see my brand new weekly everything blog when it comes out, visit my site via the link above. But come over whenever. I won’t be going anywhere.

Silver is the admin of Anime Everything Online. He has been watching anime for over 6 years and writing about it for over 3 years. His favorite genres are isekai, comedy and sports.

4 replies on “All the Right Moves and All the Right Faces: A Black Clover Review”

Tbh I always thought Black clover was just a rip-off of the popular shonen, but I’m real big fan of the op and ed. I think I will finally give it a try.

I’ve been watching anime off and on for years and for some reason I’ve always had a hard time getting into Shonen (One Punch Man and Demon Slayer being the exceptions). I know my boyfriend loves this show and even though he hasn’t asked, I know he wants me to watch it with him at some point. Maybe this anime will be the one that helps me appreciate the genre more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

en_USEnglish