Only one Diamond Kingdom mage stands between the Clover Kingdom forces and the treasure at the end of the dungeon. But what’s his secret? Remember, if you like this article and 5 Point Discussions, please share it on Facebook or Twitter! It really helps. And if you’ve got any comments or questions, please hit me up @SageShinigami.
1. Sometimes seeing a character animated can drastically change one’s opinion of them. In the manga, Lotus was a minor threat who got dealt with in a matter of panels. He outsmarted Luck, but then Asta smacked him with his giant sword and that was it. In the anime, just a few lines of development (and the adorable Petit Clover at the end of the episode) turns him into this crafty old guy who’s just trying to take care of his wife and kids.
He’s easily outpowered by his opponents, but every time they gain the upper hand, he finds another way to outsmart them: this week, he’s about two seconds away from considering killing himself rather than being captured…but instead he uses his smoke powers to make a getaway train car! What makes him doubly likable and sells the whole thing is that as he’s leaving, he picks all his buddies up, then uses one last smoke screen to trick Asta and Luck while they get away. By the end it’s hard not to want to see him escape–he’s tried to perform this entire operation as harmlessly as possible and his motivations are even more pure than the Black Bulls. He’s just trying to be a good husband and father, while the Bulls are children fighting to be assigned gold stars.
2. As Lotus escapes, he pins all his hopes of recovering what lies in the dungeon on the Diamond Kingdom’s ace mage, Mars. We zip over to Mars as he’s trouncing Yuno and the Golden Dawn, where the field leader of the team, Klaus, recaps what he believes are Mars’ origins. Unlike the Clover Kingdom, which relies on a combination of social stratification and a simple Magic Knight exam to populate their army, the royals of the Diamond Kingdom have taken a much more…proactive role. They find especially magically capable students and implant them with items to augment their capabilities, then force them to fight to the death until only one, ultimate soldier remains.
…This is how crazy anime is: most people sat through that entire story and their entire reaction could be summed up as: “Seen it.” Admittedly, part of the muted reaction comes from the disappointing fact that this story wasn’t told in any sort of interesting way: it was just background noise while Yuno did his best not to get bifurcated by a giant diamond sword. We weren’t given a point of view character, and we didn’t see what that potential POV character might have suffered through to make it to the present day. It’s just a rainbow-tinted recap that won’t be properly filled in until the next episode. But the other half of that is that it doesn’t take more than a couple years of intense anime watching before over the top stuff like human experimentation and child exploitation doesn’t merit an eyeblink.
3. Much of the first half of this episode is devoted to Yuno’s hopeless battle against Mars. In a way, Yuno just might be the most unique part of Black Clover. If you’ve been watching anime for long enough, the expectation is that he’s this impossible wall that Asta just can’t get over no matter what. If Yuki Tabata had been just slightly lazier putting him together, he would’ve just been Black Clover’s Gary to Asta’s Ash, constantly getting praised and succeeding with ease at everything Asta fails at. But because he and Asta have the same goal, more often than not they wind up being challenged in some of the exact same ways. He’s not allowed to be invincible because we have to see him grow the same way we need to see Asta’s. Here his magic is just easily countered by Mars’ diamond abilities, leaving him pushed against the wall until…
4. This isn’t a perfect anime episode by any means, but it still might be the first legitimately good episode of Black Clover since the show started. The way they set up this all-powerful villain that just won’t go down, how they tie that into Yuno never giving up and how that’s a lesson he learned from Asta…it’s all very basic stuff but its executed well. And it all builds into Asta arriving as the Big Damn Hero who immediately becomes a major threat to Mars. Though I can’t help wondering if the story’s been lying to us all this time. Asta may not have magic, but the strength and speed he displays this episode is absolutely superhuman–they play it off as him having worked his body out to the limit, but no human could ever achieve what he uses this episode to dismantle Mars.
And dismantle he does–Mars tries everything from creating diamond clones to giving himself a massive, diamond body to lay waste to the Golden Dawn and Black Bulls, and all of it fails. Asta barely even needs help, he just strikes Mars down on his own while being insulted Mars has such a cavalier attitude towards human life to begin with. It’s everything viewers have been looking for as far as Asta proving himself as a proper main character, and it actually feels like a satisfying victory to boot.
5. Next Episode: Our heroes have brought down the enemies of Clover Kingdom, and now treasure awaits! What sort of strange magic lies at the end of the dungeon?
This is actually where the manga starts to crank up in terms of intensity and story development, so hopefully they don’t take the gas off the pacing. The next twenty chapters or so run the gamut from high-intensity action to introducing some pretty cool characters, so hopefully we can get through that in the next third of the series.
Black Clover is available for streaming on Crunchyroll and Hulu.