Black Clover Review - The Big 3's Drunk Cousin
So…this is gonna be a slightly awkward review…
I’m not gonna make excuses for myself, but because I’m a grad student with a limited amount of time to spend each day doing things I want to do, I have to schedule how and where it goes. In regards to my stories for this site, that typically means I watch a good chunk of the series I’m reviewing over the weekend, so that way I have plenty of time to sit down and think about what I thought of the show on the whole. And this sort of planning has worked out for me so far; I’ve been regularly uploading reviews since last winter when CSMAC told me to start writing for them, so there wasn’t really any incentive for me to change up the formula.
And then Crunchyroll got DNS hacked.
The details are still a little hazy, but as I understand it, the site got hit with a ransomware virus, and Crunchy had to go offline to get it sorted out. And that meant I only managed one episode of this week’s offering this time around, when I typically give myself at least three, since that’s sort of the universal anime standard for preordaining how well a show’s going to be on the whole. Three episodes is typically ample time to lay down the setting, premise, characters, plot and tone a show wants to go for, and all five of those things are talking points for me when I go to review them. The more information I have on a show before I type up my review, the better the review turns out (to absolutely nobody’s surprise), and needless to say, the Crunchy hack meant that my opinion is not going to be quite as well materialized this time as it otherwise would be.
All of that said however, I think one episode is really all I need to give a well-informed first impressions look at this week’s show. My thoughts on this series coalesced so quickly it was almost intimidating. For reference, I thought the first episode of my favorite animated punching bag Casshern Sins was bad, but it took me the rest of my three-episode trial run for me to come to grips with just how much I utterly despised that show.
If Black Clover does any one thing well, it knows what it wants to accomplish and then sets off at breakneck speed trying to do it.
And for those curious as to what exactly that thing it wants to accomplish is, it’s driving me up the friggin' wall.
Black Clover is easily one of the most annoying shows on offer for the fall season, and let’s keep in mind it’s sharing a season with the Himoto!! sequel. I couldn’t stomach more than one episode of it, and keep in mind that, up to this point, for every single show I’ve watched for this site, including the ones I’ve given Fs to, I have watched no less than three episodes of it for my review.
That should be pretty telling what my first impressions of Black Clover are, but since I have to put in another thousand words or so to stave off the voices, we may as well give it the full review treatment anyways. Black Clover is a manga adapatation brought to you by the grand daddies of long-form anime themselves, Studio Pierrot. Responsible for two-thirds of the Big 3 anime shows, namely Bleach and Naruto, you may also know them for their work on Tokyo Ghoul, GTO, Yuu Yuu Hakusho, and my persoal favorite of the bunch Tokyo Mew Mew (yeah, forgot that existed didn’t you?). Their library is…let’s agree on “mixed” for now, but when you’re in command of the majority of the Big 3, people tend to view that as a mark of competence.
Pierrot excels at telling long-form stories, to the point where they have it down to a formula. So on that note, let me recount the plotline of Black Clover’s first episode and you can tell me if any of this sounds familiar. The story takes place in the Clover Kingdom, where, as a forgettable kid side character tells us to our face, magic is everything. Asta (Gakuto Kajiwara in his debut role, more about that later) is a peppy, energetic, but outcast and orphaned teenage boy aspiring to one day become the Clover Kingdom’s Hokage of the Wizards or whatever the hell they call it. He’s joined by his dark haired, more serious and silent friend Yuno (Nobunaga Shimazaki, Ace of the Diamond, Parasyte, Ore Monogatari!!) as they set out to receive their grimoires, magical books used to amplify their wielder’s power. Everyone gets one at age fifteen, but because Asta can not use magic, he never receives one, to the ridicule of his comrades. But little do they know that there is a deep power resting inside of Asta, waiting for the perfect opportunity to unleash its full potential.
So Black Clover is essentially Naruto but transfered into a medival fantasy with everything good and credible about the latter completely absent in the former, with all of the Big 3 machinery forcibly crammed into the show with no regard to how well it would run in practice.
But you’re not reading this review to hear me pick apart everything this show does wrong, oh no. You’re here because you want to hear me completely rip apart Asta’s voice acting and tell you how much nicer it would be if I gave myself a chainsaw labotomy than listen to his screeching for another second and a half. His yells cause airplane cabins to depressurize. His voice used to be a warcry for barbarian tribes five thousand years ago. If his voice was a Magic the Gathering card, it’d be banned in all formats.
What I’m trying to say is Asta is annoying. Incredibly annoying. I hate his very existence. I’m not sure how much of this is Kajiwara’s fault, but considering that he delivers almost every single line with a high-pitched shrill scream at the end, I don’t think it’s unfair to say this was an awful casting decision. And yeah, he’s new shouldn’t be too hard on him, and if you want to believe that then go right on ahead, but this is why you hire new VAs to supporting roles first and not leading roles to a fairly prominent seasonal show.
But although Asta’s voice alone could be enough to make you want to shut the show off on the spot, if you somehow manage to endure it…somehow…then your reward for doing so is just generic Big 3 noise that you have seen time and time again in other, better shows. The emo kid turns out to be extremely powerful compared to everyone else, but our “hero” has a powerful spirit or demon or whatever lurking inside him that lets him do absolutely insane stuff whenever he decides to awaken it.
And not only does the first episode cut out at an absolutely terrible time for a completely unnecessary cliffhanger, it decides to punctuate itself with one of the stupidest lines I think I’ve ever heard come out of a narrator’s mouth. The three clover petals represent faith, hope and love. Fine. The fourth is good luck. Sure.
The fifth apparently represents a demon.
I guess the show itself looks alright, but if you pause it in a bad spot, then it is very easy to end on a frame that just looks out of place compared to the rest of the show. A lot of the time studios will make undetailed drawings and “smear” them together during quickly animated scenes to save on budget and draw more attention to the action at hand. And when you do smear frames correctly, then nobody cares too much about them because the decrease in quality is not going to be too big of a deal compared to what you’re getting out of it.
But when Black Clover wants to look like crap, it really does look like crap. I had the displeasure of pausing the show right as Asta’s face gets slammed by an opening door, and I just sat there in exasparation for a few minutes, stupefied by how lazy and unaware the QA for this show had to be in order to let that happen.
So we have annoying characters, inconsistent art, a plot that’s been worn so thin you can see through it, so what else is there? The writing? Sucks; it’s 90% exposition. The humor? Awful; there’s a nun at Asta’s orphanage that repeatedly punches him into the ground, which should be immediate grounds for dismissal. The action? What action? The only serviceable thing that could quantify as action happens right at the butt end of the episode, and that’s cut short before it even really gets good.
I’m struggling to find something nonvapidly nice to say about Black Clover, but nothing is coming to me. I-I’m not sure what to say here. I want to say something nice, just one tiny compliment I can pay to Black Clover so I don’t have to give this thing the F it deserves.
But that’s kinda the problem isn’t it? Badness is defined by the lack of goodness, and the fact that I can’t say anything nice about Black Clover no matter how hard I try should be indicative of my overall feelings towards it. I just can not recommend this. At all. It sucks. Horribly. And I honestly can’t say anything more about it without repeating myself.
Black Clover needs to be exorcised, and the only fitting way I can think of is for it to get impaled by a zanpakuto, served to a nine-tailed fox, and then run over by a pirate ship.
THE VERDICT: F Next time: A new mini-series