Misaki Hayato returns to his hometown and enrolls in the same high school as his two childhood friends. A lot has changed in the years he has been gone, his former best friends are seemingly distant from each other and leading relatively normal high school lives. Hayato's sudden arrival soon changes that and sends shockwaves through the entire town's delinquent population with his willingness to do anything for his friends and his love for a good fight.
Clover is in essence a simple battle shōnen in which through numerous fights the readers are showcased the power of friendship - a characteristic often used in the genre. While this manga may be nothing revolutionary or outstanding in any aspect, it was arguably quite an enjoyable read for a number of reasons: the initial presentations of the various characters, and the intriguing fights that break out in a logical and satisfying manner. However, it becomes apparent that the manga follows a very formulaic approach after the initial introduction of the most important characters, which is to say, after about 100 chapters.
The story of Clover is mainly focussed on Misaki Hayato, who after several years of being separated from his childhood friends, enrolls in the same highschool as them. To his surprise, a lot of things have changed since then: they're very distant with each other. Misaki feels the need to reunite them to the old days, which directly involves him in numerous fights for the sake of restoring their friendship. In turn, this makes him famous around the delinquent population. This can arguably make quite an interesting narrative, meaning developing the respective cast with it - which happens to a certain degree.
The manga centers around the fights and the characters involved, whilst developing and presenting friendships and to what extent the importance of it is. The various conflicts are well executed, following a simple approach: a person is in need of help, which usually involves fighting some delinquents, and with that, encountering new people. This often turns out in the main character winning. It could be said that the manga also presents the ascension of a young boy in the ranks of the delinquent population.
The problem associated with this is the fact that the manga becomes increasingly linear and formulaic: this accentuates the probability that the author had no idea anymore how to continue the manga. Comedy is also present, which is generally well handled and not abused of, making the story much easier to digest, while at the same time making it possible to take the characters seriously. In some instances it may rely on the characters, others in some bizarre situations, and in some instances, an amusing play of words.
The characters presented in Clover are diverse, yet stereotypical for the genre. Character development is limited to the various main characters, yet for the side characters it is minimal and scarce. However, most of the cast is fleshed out accordingly, albeit not huge. The interactions between the characters is well handled, actions natural and according to the different personalities, despite being a bit off in some occasions. The main character Misaki Hayato is blunt and fight-lusty, yet deep down caring of his friends. Then there is the weak, yet kind-hearted Tomoki with a bright passion for motorbikes, or the big and timid Kenji. Naturally, as story progresses, a lot of different characters are introduced, but it boils down in essence to delinquents becoming friends to the protagonist, or just opponents of other schools/factions.
The art style of the manga is befitting, complementing with the great fighting scenes and the detailed states, both physical and mental, of the characters. Character designs are varied and distinguishable from each other, especially when the male designs are concerned; females ones are on the other hand lacking in both detail and appearance. The bacgrounds employed are often well drawn with a good use of shading techniques and angles of view.
For a simple fighting shōnen, Clover serves its purpose in a satisfying manner with entertaining fights as well a likeable cast of characters. I enjoyed the manga, yet was a bit disappointed by its formulaic approach. It may not have a grand overarching story attached to it, which can be a bit disappointing considering the premise of the story. As a whole, this manga is recommendable who enjoys reading deliquent-type of manga, yet for those who are in search of deep story or great characterization not.