Black Clover

3 out of 5

Directed by: Tatsuya Yoshihara

covers season 1

Erring toward a youthy vibe, the anime adaptation of Black Clover interestingly revels in go-nowhere stakes to start with, instead opting to take a light-handed approach toward having us get to know its principles: Asta and Yuno, orphans raised at a church on the land of the Clover Kingdom.  While this understandably led to some early dismissals of the show, the format does engender an early exposure to a mainstay in the tone: fleeting seriousness backed up by repeated gags and a general sense of do-it-for-the-team camaraderie and goofy friendship.  Black Cover never really manages to up its stakes, and its characters are fairly one-note variations on different personality types, but the wide swath of types it offers – and its colorful, energetic representation of each – keeps each episode feeling rather varied, and, assuming that tone hasn’t turned you off, works to make the draw of watching interacting with everyone as opposed to its sketchy “become the best magic user” plot.

Because that’s mostly what it boils down to: Clover Kingdom is led by the current master of magic, The Wizard King, and Asta and Yuno make a childhood pledge to each become the King.  Yuno is all cut and dry smarts; Asta is the do-good clod, and when it comes time for their audition for a Magic Knight squad – squads tasked with protecting the realm – it’s confirmed that Asta is an unfortunate standout in the Kingdom, completely lacking in magic at all.  While Yuno is a hot pick for the best squads, Asta winds up with the Bad News Bears of the world: The Black Bulls.

It becomes clear soon enough that Asta’s tale and those of the oddballs in his club are infinitely more interesting than Yuno’s, so after playing at showing us both boys’ stories, told via the various tasks the squads are sent to tackle, Black Clover smartly starts to focus on Asta and the Bulls, and despite, again, not really having any long-lasting stakes (there is an overpowered group intent on wiping out magic users, but it’s handled with that fleeting sense of seriousness), the drawn out focus on character hijinks makes the viewing time akin to a hangout session; the welcome comfort of pitter-pattery jokes and barbs of a group of friends.

So I’m not sure I care if Asta ever becomes the Wizard King, and his episode-ending claim of “my magic is not giving up!” is as eye-rollingly silly as anything else in the show, but it’s an enjoyable 20ish minute excursion to take, week to week.