Little by little. We are very gradually getting there.
The grind of getting to this point is one rivaled only by the most sadistic of JRPGs, I swear to god. But at long last, these little inching steps have gotten us to an episode I enjoyed, and without as much reservation (though still with quite a few). Now, again, I am not difficult to please. But the fact that the episode didn’t begin with “Aaaaaaaauuuugh!” was a good start. Obviously over half of it was a simple fight. These days, I’m going to be increasingly difficult to impress with Fire and Ice powers because… well…
But at this point, I’m not looking to be impressed by this show. I’m just wanting basic satisfaction. And what I got did the job serviceably. At last, we have a fight where Asta doesn’t just one-off someone. As Noelle protects the villagers with her own spell, Asta actually gets a good hit in. But it doesn’t really work. From there he proceeds to follow through on his determinator spirit, but it surprisingly gets him absolutely nowhere. He just gets rekt. I’ll certainly submit that the nature of his getting thrashed was a bit boring, but simply having the nerve to not have him completely own this fight was appreciated.
They eventually win, of course, and they do so with an actual callback to a prior episode. Not only does this let them show off that Magna and Asta aren’t as moronic as they initially let on, but also that brute force alone isn’t going to get them anywhere in this world. It isn’t like, say, Dragon Ball Z, where overcoming your opponent is generally a matter of being faster, stronger, or what have you. That being said, the theme of Dragon Ball never was to overcome your obstacles with brains. It was to overcome your obstacles by surpassing your own physical limits. When you think about it, a lot of the more powerful baddies in that series wind up no-selling a lot of the more creative techniques.
The point is, being creative in this series works just as much, if not more than simply holding the power advantage. Even Magna pointed out that had he been at full power, he still might not have won on his own, type advantage or not. Thus they worked together and approached the fight strategically. Yes, they’re determinators and that’s what urged them to fight on, but their victory was won with more than tenacity alone, and that’s something I like to see in things like that.
I also appreciate the direction that Noelle’s abilities took, this go around. Finding one’s resolve in their societal standing is one thing, but she did that by discovering a meaning for her role that she previously had a flawed, exceptionally selfish perspective on. So when she came to that conclusion, the spell she got reflected that, rather than being something she could use to offensively smite the enemy. Next down the list of her character development is to get her to knock off the hair-flipping thing. Really. Someone needs to, like, count how many times she does that in a day and then show her a tally.
The villain continued to be wildly unimpressive, as he hardly had any lines worthy of note, looked down on everyone until he was getting beat, and generally just had next to no character of his own. He was just a tool. And considering what ends up happening with him, I might as well be saying that literally. If there was anything they could possibly be even more transparent about-
…Oh, for crying out- Subtlety, thy name is Black Clover. I mean, we knew where that was headed, sure, but… could’ve at least tried to not be so blatant about it. Whatever. Manage expectations. It’s cool, I guess. The amusing thing about Noelle is that she is a very standard, arguably even sub-standard character… and she’s still perhaps the best one in the show so far. I can’t deny that she does genuinely get a chuckle out of me, every once in a while. Her pettiness is actually kind of amusing. There’s a moment here where we hear her internal monologue for a split second after she does something awesome. It’s genuinely funny.
The development we got out of Magna was once again fine. They spent a bit of time on it towards the end, speaking to a couple of children from the attack. The scene was genuinely sweet, giving both Asta and Magna a moment or two. Noelle… well… bless her heart, she tries. She’s genuinely nice in the scene… but she cannot shake the pride for even a moment. Of course, she’s also just not given anything all that meaningful to do or say in the scene. Probably because out of the three of them, she has the least amount to relate to it. Asta and Magna are both from “the boonies.” Asta relates to the kid’s struggle and Magna knew the kid’s grandfather well. Noelle not having a ton to do or say seems natural to the scene, really. In the end, however, the scene is interrupted by “Aaaaaauuugh!” Because the episode realized it needed to meet its quote or something.
But then we have the episode’s tag. The one that’s setting up the plot of the series. Put plainly, I don’t think they could be more transparent if they tried. And the sad thing is that I can’t tell if they were trying, or not. But we now know a great deal about where things are heading. Granted, some of us who read (or, in my case, researched) the manga, already know this. But I honestly can’t tell if this was them trying to be subtle and utterly failing or not.
As should be expected, by now, the episode really isn’t anything particularly special. It’s still a pretty stock Shounen Battle anime, at the end of the day. It hits the beats one expects, but at least manages to show the characters in a slightly a new light. The action was par for the course, managing to make a swing toward being reasonably entertaining by the end. The real value of the episode was found more in the post-fight than the fight itself. Overall it’s an episode I can appreciate despite its faults as Junk Food. But if you’re tired of “Aaaaaaaauuuugh!” then maybe you’d prefer something a little quieter. We’ve gotcha covered if you’re interested.
But if “Aaaaaaaauuuugh!” is nothing more than a lullaby for you, then, by all means, keep watching. Black Clover is Simulcast on Crunchyroll, Tuesdays at 6:25am EST