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[Anime Review] Black Clover

I had nothing better to play this week (I am making progress in Cuphead, I promise) so I decided that I’d use the time to wax lyrical on the anime I watched and dropped quickly afterwards: Black Clover – most notably, the first few episodes. Since, well, they’re all I’ve seen of it.

“So, Black Clover,” I asked as Crunchyroll loaded up the first episode. “What’ve I got to look forward to?”

“Well!” Black Clover announced with an unnecessary twirl. “I feature the adventures of Yuno and Asta (but mostly Asta, who is the main protagonist) as they journey to become the Wizard King.”

I then stared at Black Clover for a moment whilst it coughed awkwardly. “…Is something the matter?”

And I think something is the matter. First off – Wizard King?! That’s the most generic ‘battle shounen title-that-everyone-wants’ I’ve ever heard. But, it is apparently driving our plot, as the magical beings of We-Forgot-To-Do-Worldbuildingia all have magic, and those with the best magic can become the Wizard King. Yuno, the quieter, more studious of the two, already has a masterful control of wind magic, whilst Asta, the more brash and loud one, has no magic to speak of.

Asta is… a special case, as protagonists go. He’s extremely loud, quite irritating about it, and his voice actor really nailed this to a T. Then nailed it to a fucking bench, then set the bench on fire and kicked it into the path of an oncoming train. What I’m trying to say is listening to Asta talk for any length of time (remembering that he’s our damn protagonist) is infuriating. …I see you over there, Black Clover, skulking in the naughty corner. What do you want?

“But but but!” Black Clover interjects. “He’s supposed to be loud and annoying! That’s his character!” And this, THIS is the argument that I hate. I hate it when people give annoying characters a pass because that’s what they’re supposed to be. A piece of advice I’ve taken with me since hearing it is from Yahtzee, who knows what he’s talking about (mostly): Deliberately Annoying Is Still Annoying. Take that to fucking heart, Asta.

The other characters aren’t that funny or interesting, either. Yuno is perhaps the only likeable guy in the entire thing, as he is quiet, doesn’t make himself out to be a complete asshole, and has a relevant and relatable interest. To be relegated in importance to being Asta’s rival rather than the protagonist himself is kind of annoying, honestly, because I feel like following Yuno’s journey would be far more watchable; that said, he’d still be surrounded by annoying characters – the villains are boring, the generic bullies are super generic and bullies almost to the point of genuine sociopathy and the supporting characters either display more sociopathic tendencies or are about as interesting as watching the staring contest world finals. Special mention has to be made to the object of Asta’s affections, Sister Lily, who acts as a demure nun and yet gets remarkably violent towards Asta whenever he asks to marry her – sure, Asta’s at fault too, since that’s as creepy as my Uncle Peter, but she knows he has no magic and yet proceeds to attack him knowing that he can’t defend himself. What the hell, Sister Lily?

The plot is… average. It conforms rabidly to the genre of shounen anime, and honestly, that’s depressing in itself. We’ve seen the ‘dreams of being a hero, doesn’t have powers in a world where everyone has powers’ done better – hell, we’ve seen it done better very recently with My Hero Academia. There’s also some seriously strange decisions here, like episode 2 having TOO MUCH GODDAMN TALKING AND NOT ENOUGH FIGHTING, and don’t even get me started on episode 3 being 90% flashback and 10% cool stuff happening. Asta finally gets a tome, because we all knew he was going to get one eventually, and it turns out to be special and unique, no way, I’m so invested now… ugh. The animation is fine, perfectly passable, but I don’t feel the visceral nature of the fights in the same way as I do in Gurren Lagann or My Hero Academia.

I suppose I’d better give some begrudging positives to Black Clover, though. Asta is at least kind of relatable when he’s not being an annoying little shit – for the three minutes where he’s not being annoying, I like the fact that he spent his childhood focussing on honing his body because he didn’t have magic, and was able to use his physical strength to hold his own against Revchi for a short while. That felt real, and interesting – of course, that’s immediately reversed by Asta getting his magic and thus becoming boring again. Well, perhaps that’s a bit harsh, but it would be nice to see a shounen anime where the protagonist IS at a disadvantage the whole time, and uses his wits and human physicality in order to succeed against vastly superior opponents. Midoriya has a bit of that in My Hero Academia when he can’t use One For All, like his first fight with Bakugo, but it would be really interesting to see a full anime like that.

What else..? It’s hard to say. I dropped it very quickly, mostly because I felt a subconscious desire to flagellate myself with a spiked whip whenever I was watching Asta screaming at someone for no reason; exaggeration, maybe, but you get the picture. The show is simultaneously dull and annoying, which is impressive in a stupid kind of way. Honestly, I don’t think it’s terrible, and that’s the main problem with it – it is aggressively generic. There’s nothing here (except maybe Asta’s voice actor, who needs a smack in the face with a volume control) that genuinely offends, but also nothing that makes me leap up and say “All is forgiven, Black Clover! Holy SHIT! I gotta see how this all ends!” And if you can’t provide either intense dislike or fanatic appeal… you’re boring.

Speaking of boring, I’m getting bored of talking about Black Clover. I don’t want to devote any more time to this than I have to, and I’m impressed I got this much mileage out of three episodes in the first place; time to find an anime better than this. I hear King’s Game is decent.

[Anime Review] Gurren Lagann
[Anime Review] Yu-Gi-Oh!

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