Black Clover is not for everyone, I’ll admit. It’s the trashiest to mid-tier Shounen series out there that manages to gravitate to a certain group of viewers: Shounentards, with its cliches, tropes, and generic power fantasy. It lacks anything substantial or impactful. It doesn’t reinvent the Shounen wheel or elevates it. It’s a lackluster written series that exists purely for entertainment for people like me--who self indulges in battle shounen without a second thought--even if it’s the same type of blueprint that I’ve seen before, but with its own modifications. Thus, I don’t have any hate or resentment directed towards this controversial series. I simply can’t.
I’ve been following the series since its inception. I’ve read and re-read its source material and, I can say it does improve--for a Black Clover standard, that is. This series received hate, backlash, and terrible reception since the onset of its TV anime. And to nobody’s surprise, it’s the most hated series of modern Shounen--2014 and onwards, right after the era of the big three. If there’s any advice I can give for people interested in watching this series, it is to go into it for pure entertainment. Be open-minded, have low expectations, ignore the hate, and watch it for yourselves.
Black Clover anime started ugly. The pacing, sheer predictability, genericness, and the dreadful usage of Shounen tropes turned off people--understandably so. But for me, I loved it. I loved it not because it was good, but because it was the purest generic anime that was not afraid for what it was. It knows its production was constrained. It knows its plot and characters took “inspiration” from previous works with few tweaks here and there, and most importantly, it knows its target audience. With this, once the show solved its pacing issues, it quickly flew from arc to arc with hype moments after hype moments, and all I did was to turn off my brain and enjoy the shit show.
To provide some examples, after the dungeon expedition arc, Asta, Noelle, Yuno, and some other magic knight squad members were summoned for recognition medals. In that banquet, the show introduced more of its supporting casts. It demonstrated its power system, characters’ abilities, showcased some of its societal structure and prejudices, and then jumped straight to the Clover Kingdom’s invasion.
Throughout this invasion arc, it entertained me by never letting go of its accelerator. All the Magic Knight captains that were introduced previously got their moments to show off. Whether be their magic or personality, it showed all of it. The show then exploits each of its newly introduced characters to the limit by having them interact and fight alongside each other. The dynamics between characters such as Fuegoleon and Nozel, Asta, Yuno, and Noelle, Yami and Jack, provided the fun. It’s cheap, it’s lazy, but it worked so well for a braindead like me.
The other aspect of Black Clover’s storytelling is the seamless transition from an arc to another. If some terrorists brutally wounded a beloved character, the most logical route is for the main casts to go after them. And they do. If the vice-captain of the Golden Dawn is acting out of character, the most logical thinking is to seek out the true identity. And they do.
How do they do it? They do it by the classic shounen way: Tournament arc--my favorite aspect of mindless battle shounen.
But along the way, the show plants some seeds of suspicion--there’s something more sophisticated with the adversaries that the Clover Kingdom were up against. It’s these careful hints here and there that made the grand finale of Black Clover’s first saga a memorable one. And it is in my humble opinion that the first saga of Black Clover is one of the best of modern shounen. The finale wrapped up every plot point presented up to then, it concluded characters’ development until that point, and it answered every question along the way. Not to mention, the final plot twist was a phenomenon to be held.
Yuki Tabata’s writing isn’t anything revolutionary. He takes inspiration and does his own twists. He utilizes whatever skills he has got at his disposal and tells his own story within the Shounen genre’s confinement. And I enjoyed every second of it. I have no regrets.
As I aforementioned, Black Clover’s production was severely constrained. From the start, the anime lacked staffing--specifically, key animators and animation directors--and had an unsustainable schedule. Before the first episode of Black Clover even premiered, the Black Clover anime production team was given only 5 months of pre-production, for a long-running battle shounen. To put it into perspective, a 12 episode regular anime usually takes a year of pre-production. Thus, it’s no surprise that the animation in Black Clover declined significantly soon after it began airing. As that happened, it’s also reported that some of the staff working on the anime had gone through physical and mental exhaustion, which they eventually fell ill.
Now, why does it matter?
Well, it doesn’t--at least from a show’s quality standpoint. But then I don’t want to clown on Black Clover’s animation either because of this information. I know the animation and art are inconsistent; the consensus is that Black Clover’s animation is inconsistent. It can be mindblowing for a single episode, and then for the next 10 to 20 episodes can range from unbearable to mediocracy. I can list every single flaw of Black Clover’s art and animation, but then that would be repetitive since I’m sure those aspects have been talked about over the years. Lastly, I’m fine with it. I’m okay with its inconsistency in art and animation because I love this series. I grew up with it, I enjoyed it, and I’m willing to forgive its flaws.
If you have read this far, I just want to thank you for taking your time.