Dec 7, 2017
Goober-fish (All reviews)
"If you flip the 10, it becomes a 01!" -Some Jerk

Let me preface this pre-review by saying this, I am in love with this series, but for all the wrong reasons. Black Clover, or, Black Clover as the gringos say, is the sophomore effort of mangaka Yuuki Tabata, and it is a far cry from his debut work, Hungry Joker. Hungry Joker had the unfortunate fate of being axed by the higher-ups at WSJ, thus is the fate of most new kids on the block who don't have a proper sense of what they are doing or are given little time to spread their wings. I'm not attempting to white-knight Hungry Joker or anything, but the politics at WSJ are as murky as the Academy Awards Committee. While it wasn't exactly a Dostoyevsky or Hemmingway, Hungry Joker on a conceptual level at least had a fun gimmick to play around with. Couple that with some pretty unique character models and a good sense of panel-work, it easily had the potential to grow into something much greater than it ever did.

I imagine Tabata's frame of mind when conjuring up the idea for his follow-up was one of both pragmatism and...a cheeky disregard for creativity. Black Clover is one of the most creatively bankrupt series I have ever had the pleasure of watching or reading. I am utterly convinced that Tabata wrote this as a cheeky retaliation/statement against the higher-ups at WSJ, and no amount of rationalizing or fanboying can change that perception for me. Black Clover is terrible, it's like the shonen equivalent of The Room except it gets away with convincing people that it's good. The only thing Black Clover is good at is highlighting how by-the-numbers this style of series can get.

Briefly touching on the technicals of this series, the voice acting is god awful. Asta's voice actor has one setting and one setting only, although that has been covered ad nauseam. He makes Junko Takeuchi's work as Naruto seem warm and inviting like Morgan Freeman. It is probably the only time watching a series that it actually elicited a physical reaction from me. Although, as a small caveat, if you attempt to watch this series from the perspective of someone knowing what they are signing up for, the subbed version adds an extra layer of grease to this disgustingly satisfying sandwich. I.e. if you want the genuine Black Clover experience, the voice acting is like icing on that cake.

The animation is in a middling ground of both extremes. It can be good when it wants to and it can also skimp on its budget when it needs to. I feel that Tabata's art style wasn't properly translated from panel to screen. I have conflicting feelings on the animation though. Had the source material been in more capable hands like Bones or Madhouse, I feel that it could've been leaning more towards "beautiful spectacle" territory as opposed to "beautifully terrible". So despite my compliments to Tabata's art style, the mediocre animation mostly serves to its benefit.

Now that the technicals are out of the way, I feel I shouldn't even have to harp all that much on the story and characters. If you've watched Naruto, if you've watched Fairy Tail, if you have even a basic knowledge of writing propensities when it comes to shonen and fantasy, you've already gotten a taste of Black Clover. The story is bereft of shallow gimmicks and instead opts to stuff itself full of cliches and archetypes. The overarching storyline and subplots all have parallels to other works and the characters all have doppelgangers floating around in some other manga.

So why the 10? Honestly, I'm not even really sure myself. They say that there are certain series that require you to take a step back or a dumbed-down open mind to enjoy. I don't even really feel either of those things are required to watch and enjoy Black Clover. I've seen what it looks like when it earnestly feels like Tabata is trying, and he has a lot of genuinely good qualities to the way he draws and writes his manga. In fact, I have no doubt that this series has the potential to grow into something greater than the sum of its parts considering that it hasn't been given the axe at this stage. Black Clover was not a labor of love or a passion project, that is apparent to me. From my perspective, Black Clover is a frustrated and rebellious statement on the current status of shonen manga and the politics that goes into publication. Because honestly, it takes a real genius to write something this stupid. Or perhaps I'm just reading too much into it?

Whatever the case may be, Black Clover is my ultimate guilty pleasure and I wave that 10 with pride.