Oh, look! Things finally decided to happen!
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a tournament arc. So much for all my hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Anyway, Black Clover continues, and at long last things begin to actually develop. Having arrived at their destination at the end of the previous episode, Asta and Yuno are now set to participate in the Chūni- I mean Magic Knight Exam. This consists of a series of tests to gauge the magical ability of the applicants. Asta… does about as well as you probably expect.
Honestly, this episode was fine. Still marred by some of the problems the show has had up to this point, but also free of others. Seeing more characters introduced in this episode was certainly a step in the right direction. Especially given how much information is and isn’t provided about them. We know enough to get us interested, without any of them actually overstaying their welcome in the episode. In other words, at long last, the show has learned how to focus.
Asta meets a guy during the exam who seems friendly enough. It’s through him that we get a fair amount of this information, especially on the captains. But we’re also introduced to another character who is evidently royalty, looking to participate in the exam. And yet she’s told not to, on account of her title. Though she clearly seems pretty uncertain of herself even before then. That said, she’s the one most prominently featured in the opening (aside from Asta and Yuno, themselves). Of course, she’ll wind up being more important than that.
Oh, and speaking of the opening, I neglected to bring it up before. I like it. It’s not amazing or anything. Certainly isn’t going to be ingrained in anyone’s mind for generations like any of the Dragon Ball Z openings, Pokemon, Sailor Moon, or anything. However, it is a catchy tune and does effectively get you pretty pumped up. Though ironically, even Net-juu accomplishes that much, and it’s just a Slice of Life Rom/Com.
This episode doesn’t do anything particularly stellar, but it isn’t so overwhelmingly average that it’s a slog to get through, like previous episodes. It’s still as generic as they come, with only the absolute slightest of tweaks to established genre conventions. For example, I do find Asta and Yuno’s relationship to be far more interesting than a lot of these stock Shounen rivalries. They’re rivals, but still good friends. I do like seeing how Yuno is genuinely happy when Asta succeeds at something. Though the dude still looks half asleep, even then. (Bob Edit: I mean… look who his rival is. I’d be tired, too.) …Point.
That said, only some of the last few episodes’ problems are abated. Others are still prevalent. Asta’s yell is gradually becoming a contender for the most annoying sound ever. And I’d have made that video already, had I not been beaten to it. There’s also the matter of the joke getting old. We get it. Asta’s bad at magic. It stopped being funny at least two episodes ago. It can be forgiven more here because it actually did have something of a storytelling relevance here, and didn’t exist to make him the butt of a joke. Could it be done better? Oh yes. But this worked fine.
That “friendly” character I mentioned earlier actually only got all buddy-buddy with Asta so they’d stay near one another. Then he could look even better, by comparison. Of course, then it swung around to the battle portion of the exam. And as we’ve pointed out before, that would be the part Asta’s most adept at. It’s not even a real spoiler because you see it coming a mile away. You know how it’ll go. And that’s not even a factor of the show being generic, that’s just because they made it obvious. The result is a moment that makes Asta look admittedly kind of cool. Not visually, mind you. I just mean you get to see the strength of his character come out a little more, which is nice.
So how is the episode overall? It has the potential to take things in a direction that will steer it away from being Naruto-lite. And this is a marked improvement over the last few episodes. But it still has quite a ways to go. The introduction of new characters was welcomed, and the visual style of the show (while still not great on facial expressions and movement) is still pretty solid in terms of style and location design, setting it apart from the other mainstays of the genre. It wouldn’t hurt to watch it, but there are other things, this season, that you can spend your time on if you please. But you could certainly do worse. As it is, the verdict on this is that it’s Harmless.
If you want to give it a try, Black Clover is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Tuesdays at 6:25am PDT