New shonen series Black Clover takes place in a world where “magic is everything”. It begins when two babies are left unceremoniously outside of a church. Taken in by the local holy man and raised together, as the story fast forwards 15 years, you find that the children couldn’t be more different. There’s the calm and collected Yuno, who exhibits tremendous magic potential and is the pride of the town. Then there’s Asta.
As is fitting for a shonen protagonist, Asta is boisterous and overly loud. He approaches everything with way too much energy, and often ends up making a fool of himself. To top it all off – he has no magical abilities whatsoever. Of course, that doesn’t deter him from setting the lofty goal of becoming the Wizard King, and establishing himself as Yuno’s rival despite the chasm of skill between them.
Sounding familiar yet? Ok, just let me know.
Anyways, now that they are approaching their 15th birthday, Asta and Yuno attend the Grimoire-granting ceremony. The presentation of a grimoire is meant to serve as a coming-of-age event that typically heightens someones innate magical abilities. In Asta’s case, the hope was that receiving a grimoire would actually grant him magical powers in the first place.
As it turns out…
In a shocking revelation, the guy who has previously exhibited no magic talent whatsoever ends up not getting a grimoire?! Raise your hand if you didn’t see that coming!
Yuno’s is granted a legendary grimoire featuring a Four Leaf Clover – said to be the same grimoire that the first Wizard King possessed! The crowd goes wild when he makes his own bold claim that he will become the Wizard King, and Asta’s thoroughly mocked for ever thinking that he could possibly be Yuno’s rival.
Unfortunately for Yuno, the flashy arrival of his legendary grimoire attracts attention from an unsavory character, who promptly follows up and attempts to steal away the exceedingly valuable grimoire.
Wielding magical chains that restrict magic use and bind his enemies, the thief catches Yuno by surprise and thoroughly thrashes Asta – mocking him for his lack of magical ability. While Yuno watches helplessly, he defends Asta, re-affirming what he had been saying for the majority of the first episode:
With that, something within Asia is triggered, and an eerie grimoire materializes, bearing an unnatural Five-Leaf clover. While the fourth leaf is said to bring power and good luck, the fifth indicates something different altogether.
What’s up with that huge sword? And the spooky demon? I suppose we’ll find out more next week! In the meantime, there are two things that really stood out watching this opening episode.
First, Asta’s voice actor is incredibly annoying. The characterization is like if you took Uzumaki Naruto from the very early episodes of the long-running ninja series and made him louder and more grating. Maybe a day will come when he will mellow out and become more reasonable, but if Naruto is any indication, it’s going to take 10+ years, a lot of angst, and apparently having a kid. I’m just not sure I have the patience to wait for that.
Second, in a world where My Hero Academia exists, new shonen series have a pretty high bar to clear. It’s no longer enough to set a talentless nobody on the path for greatness while disregarding pacing and quality character development. Setting the two side-by-side, it doesn’t take a keen eye to see that Black Clover falls painfully short.
If you’re a fan of the manga, or just a sucker for shonen series in general, Black Clover will likely scratch that itch for you. There’s certainly some opportunity for greatness, if you can get past the tropes that you’ve likely seen a dozen times before.