After having scored their first major attack on Vetto, things are looking up. …Right? One way or another, one team finally comes out on top and takes the coveted magic stone. 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. Only in anime can someone allow themselves to get stabbed through the gut just so they can get an attack in. Last episode, with the help of nearly the entire Black Bulls squadron, Asta finally manages to get a clean hit on the otherwise unstoppable Vetto the Despair. But just as they’re celebrating, Vetto reveals this was part of his plan, and reaches out with his mana claws to snap Asta’s arms. Worse, Asta’s sword is trapped inside of Vetto’s muscles and he refuses to release it, leaving him without the only weapon capable of doing any damage. Unfortunately for Vetto, he gets too obsessed with beating them and makes a fatal error: allowing a sword that literally drains magic to be buried in his body. His regeneration slows and his monstrous strength weakens, making him an easier target.
I’ve been kind of down on Black Clover as an anime, but this scene was directed perfectly. Its as over the top shonen as possible, with Vanessa’s using her threads to keep Asta’s broken arms moving just so he can swing his other blade, just as a new power-up awakens inside of him, making him look like this conquering monster even though he can barely stand. Even Vetto starts to see Asta with new eyes just before he gets hit with the last blow to knock him out, referring to him as a “demon that eats despair”, which is the perfect level of cheesy and cool you expect from a shonen series.
2. I had to take a moment out to talk about the quality of animation in this episode. Studio Pierrot is frequently maligned because they’re forced to make so many shows and churn them out so quickly, and sometimes frames are drastically off-model or the show’s adapted poorly for the sake of running a continuous series. But when they decide to show off, we really get something special, and the final moments of Asta vs. Vetto are jaw-droppingly gorgeous. There’s even a moment where Asta’s strike goes into black and white, “animated manga” that’s both incredibly hard to do and usually really expensive, but it conveys the sense of desperation and the impact of the last blow that finally takes Vetto down perfectly. Jeez, you’d think with them already having gotten the second season of this they would’ve waited to go all out.
3. People like to ding Yuki Tabata for Black Clover not exactly being the most original manga series, and that’s fair. It’s Fairy Tail crossed with Naruto, and anyone who pretends otherwise is doing the show a disservice by not being honest. But what Tabata does well is developing the Black Bulls into likable personalities you want to root for, and this arc feels like a culmination of what he’s been working towards since the beginning. He’s allowed every member of the Black Bulls to share the spotlight with the main character in different arcs–from Magna and Noelle in the first arc, to Luck in the second arc, all the way up to now, where the entire team (sans Yami…and Gordon) has worked together to take out someone stronger than all of them. Sure, it was super sloppy and they’re all beat to hell, but up till now the only thing they did together was argue at their base.
Right now, this is the most believable and lovable family in anime. The moment after Asta wins the battle and Vanessa yanks him back into her and Finral’s arms out of concern for their little brother is the most heartwarming thing I’ve seen all season.
4. Of course, it would be pretty bad if Yami spent this entire arc locked in a bubble and never did anything, so he gets to take the finishing blow. Despite having hit Vetto so hard they slipped back into the pages of Shonen Jump for a few frames, he starts reminiscing about the past, and the rules of Shonen Flashbacks apply to villains as much as they do to heroes. He remembers being a friend of Licht’s a long time ago, when he was much kinder, and needed Licht to save him from the “awful humans” who would attack the elves because they were naturally loved by magic.
Remembering this, Vetto wakes up one last time and decides if he can’t beat them, he’ll use his remaining magic energy to explode and take the entire underwater temple with him. Fortunately for the group, Yami arrives, having escaped using a new spell he got from watching his subordinates battle. That spell happens to be a sword strike that slices through dimensions… and looks an awful lot like Ichigo’s Getsuga Tensho technique. (Hey, I said Tabata wasn’t the most original creative.) Fortunately for them, it shunts Vetto into another dimension, making his final attack meaningless and saving them all.
5. Next episode: Well, with all the bad guys either unconscious or dead, guess it’s clean up time. Our heroes have obtained the magic stone, but not without suffering heavy consequences. The temple’s strongest protectors are dead, and Asta’s arms are completely wrecked. Where do they go from here?
Black Clover is available for streaming on Crunchyroll and Hulu.