Well… it only took ’em 7 episodes.
Friends, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret. I may be incredibly difficult to really impress, but I’m also exceptionally easy to please. My only requirement is that you tell a coherent story with a clear beginning, middle, and end, along with some entertaining dialogue and/or characters. These are exceptionally easy things to accomplish. So why did it take Black Clover this long to deliver an episode I actually like?
Yup. As I’ve stated before, there are far worse things than being a stock Shounen. I never found myself saying I disliked an episode, let alone developed the unbridled hatred for the series as a whole that a lot of people seem to have built up. But right until this point, I’ve basically “nothinged” it. They’ve been harmless, and that’s fine. Just not particularly something I’d openly recommend to broader audiences. Unless they Plus Ultra the heck out of the remaining episodes, it’s never going to impress me. But at the very least I can hope to be entertained. And for the first time in the series, we actually have an episode that was consistently up to the task.
The first half of it is more or less dedicated to Asta getting acclimated to the Black Bulls’ base. And if I’m honest, I enjoyed that portion of the episode for what it was. Which I would normally be surprised by because it shoved both of the loudest, most annoying characters in the show to the forefront. But I liked the tour of the base. It was accented with a few genuinely funny moments. And the reaction earned at the church when they learn Asta passed alongside Yuno was expected, but amusing nonetheless.
Speaking of Yuno, we still don’t get much out of him. Just his supervisor being an arse to him again because he’s a peasant or whatever. You know, for a world where “magic is everything,” social status sure seems to still be as needlessly important as ever. We get it. He’s from the boonies. We needn’t be reminded so consistently. I’m thankful they stopped feeling the need to remind us how Asta sucks at magic, but replacing it with this is not at all better. The saving grace in the scene is that Yuno doesn’t just take it. He doesn’t snap or anything, but he asserts himself, and that much I like seeing.
From there we’re formally introduced to the princess from before. You know. That one. With the ironic high opinion of herself? So her name’s Noelle, and her schtick, in case the OP didn’t make it obvious enough, is water magic. If I’m honest, I actually like the interaction when Asta first meets her. Not so much on her part, mind you, but his. It’s amusingly in-character for him how he reacts after learning she’s a princess. I also enjoy Magna’s approach to dealing with her. He’s not havin’ it at all. Not that she really cares, but it’s always satisfying to see people not just put up with that kind of elitist attitude. And this is the scene where we’re really introduced to the “problem” of the episode.
So it turns out Noelle can’t really control her magic. This is something I knew from cursory research, but I didn’t really know how it was implemented. Turns out she just can’t aim. Yeah. Not kidding. While Asta’s wandering around later, he’s hit by a stray water sphere attack. How bad a shot was it? The target she was trying to hit was maybe ten feet away, directly across from her. Asta was several yards away, behind her. Her problem goes a bit farther than that, but the way they decided to introduce the issue was giving her problems firing in a straight line.
Of course, this is the point where we’re informed a little about her background. Her lack of control making her the subject of ridicule from the royalty- wait. Is magic everything in this world or not? Because she’s ostracized for lacking control of her magic. Meanwhile, Yuno, who has extremely high magical control and powerful magic is talked down to for his social status. Show. Make up your mind, already. Which story do you want to tell? I’m hoping these mixed signals are dealt with, fairly soon. I know the situation is engineered to make us dislike the royalty. That much is obvious. But there should still be at least a little logic to the system.
Anyway, perhaps the weakest aspect of the episode is what follows – the climax. It’s not bad, mind you. But it’s basically still in-tune with the rest of the action we’ve gotten from the series, thus far. Barring that one backstory segment. It’s fine, but a bit underwhelming by the standards of a Shounen battle anime. Especially when compared to recent spectacles of animation we’ve gotten from the likes of things like Midoriya vs. Todoroki, over in Boku no Hero Academia. Noelle panics and loses control, creating a huge water death-sphere thing that threatens… I dunno, the base, I guess. None of the bulls, themselves, seemed all that worried about it. Even Yami was more concerned that they’d hurt her than the other way around. Also, just a side note, but she was in that thing for several minutes and clearly can’t breathe in there.
They use Asta to save the day (and I mean “use” very literally), and all’s well that ends well. Asta, being Asta, manages to endear himself to her due to his genuine nature, which was expected. Will she cool it with the elitism? Hopefully. My concern was that they’d spend a long amount of time on an arc revolving around her learning to not be a spoiled brat. That is a hard arc to do. It runs the risk of making the character too annoyingly stuck-up to really sympathize, removing your ability to care or, in particularly bad cases, believe they even could make that change. That said, it’s hard but certainly doable.
However, based on her closing line, she’s at least somewhat humbled by all of this. I don’t expect her tune to change completely after this one event, but baby steps, and all that. Magna reminds her that she’s special, like everyone else, and she’s welcomed into the dysfunctional little family that is the Black Bulls. Overall a perfectly satisfying, and somewhat touching end. It could’ve been made better had she interacted with more of the team before now, then they all had that little moment where they accepted her. But that probably would’ve taken one or two more episodes of runtime. And her being accepted is a foregone conclusion, that wouldn’t be entirely necessary. Just an enhancement to the arc as a whole. Also:
The episode wasn’t revolutionary. It’s not going to completely win over anyone who already wasn’t fond of the series. It really hasn’t even changed my own mind regarding the series. It has a long way to go, but it certainly can improve. And I’m evidently not the only one who thinks that. As it stands right now, this is the first genuinely enjoyable episode for me. Complete with some funny interactions and a bit more character than the show’s really dealt with up to this point. Also, the OP continues to grow on me. The episode’s not going to blow anyone’s mind, or really impress anyone hugely familiar with Shounen as a genre. But it is decent enough that I can comfortably call it junk food. But if you’re tired of Black Clover (and believe me, I can totally understand that), we have plenty of reviews and recaps of other things for you to check out.
But if you’d like to see for yourself that the show got a little better, Black Clover is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Tuesdays at 6:25am EST