5 Point Discussions – Black Clover Episode 1: “Asta and Yuno”

by Sage Ashford

The second series I’ve picked up to cover on 5 Point Discussions, Black Clover follows the adventures of a young boy named Asta, a teenager with zero magical talent born in a world where magic is everywhere.  Tons of absurd fight scenes and shonen situations await!  If you like this, be sure to share it on Facebook and Twitter.  And if you have any questions or comments, hit me up @SageShinigami on Twitter!
1. As much as I would’ve liked to overlook it, I’d be remiss if I talked about this show without mentioning the absolutely horrible voice acting done by the main character, Asta. The character in the manga is presented as the energetic, overly enthusiastic sort of idiot that shonen fans are used to, so you’d expect him to sound that way in its animated version. But there’s a difference between sounding super-excitable and this, which sounds more like the delivery you’d get from Goku while firing the last Kamehameha needed to put down Vegeta…except all the time. Asking a girl out? End-Fight Kamehameha scream to do it. Talking to yourself about how you need to train? Go ahead and get that scream in. It was seriously bad enough to cut the show off at several points, and shonen anime is one of my favorite things in the world.
This isn’t just a failing on the part of the voice actor–the voice director should’ve caught it as well. Hopefully with time the guy learns to calm down, because what we have here is just…frustrating to watch. It’s like he’s trying to imitate Natsu of Fairy Tail, but cranked up to an unbearable level. I’m clearly not the only person who thinks so–Twitter has been buzzing with similar commentary on it since the show aired. Of course, these are English fans so if similar complaints from Japanese audiences don’t happen then this is a lost cause.
2. The biggest complaint Black Clover’s going to get is that it’s basically a clone of Naruto and Fairy Tail combined. That’s not without merit. Asta’s a loud, obnoxious orphan with a rough childhood and a cool, far more talented rival in Yuno. That’s the dynamic of Naruto and Sasuke all over. And then he’s a kid without magic in a world where magic is everything, right down to utilizing magic guilds–that’s basically Fairy Tail. If you wanted to be cynical, this is just a sign of how creatively bankrupt the anime industry is–where you take two of the most popular shonen series and smush them together for your own series. But looking at the series from a holistic point of view, how many ideas these days ARE original? Break most stories down enough and eventually they fall into one of seven basic plots. Get even more simplistic and nearly every story is about one thing: [A Person] wants [a thing], and [stuff] is in their way.
From that perspective, very little is original and stories become less about ideas, and more about executions. In the world of Fairy Tail, wizard guilds are independently run organizations that are no different from blacksmiths or tailors. They supply the economy with services only they can provide through the use of their talents. In Black Clover, wizard guilds are government-sponsored groups that essentially serve as their nation’s military, with the greatest member among all the guilds eventually rising to the level of “Sorcery Emperor”/”Wizard King”, basically the President of the country. They run the country’s military forces while a separate handles the other day-to-day issues. The first episode is filled with things just like this that set the series up to be its own thing, and worthy of at least a glance even if you don’t become an avid fan.
3. Speaking of unique aspects, Black Clover also uses magic as a method of social stratification. Near the middle of the episode, Asta and Yuno join the rest of the people in their small village to get awarded with their grimoires–magic books that can awaken or increase the abilities within an individual. In this world, magic is so ubiquitous that people actually look down on Asta for being incapable of using magic–and he’s laughed at by nearly the entire village when not a single grimoire comes to him, leaving him utterly bereft of magic. Later that same episode, the episode’s villain points out that without *any* magical ability Asta will be unable to even get a job.
Of course, there’s more to it than just magic talent. A pair of rich kids in the village also assume that birthright and magical talent are connected–an assumption carried well into the series by more important characters–which is why it’s all the more shocking when a mere orphan like Yuno is gifted with a four-leaf grimoire, the highest level of them all. It’s a colder, more cruel world than Fairy Tail ever was–where most of the bad things come from people who at least started out with good intentions. Black Clover has a social order to things that people are looking to enforce, and Asta and Yuno are looking to turn it on its head. Of course, whether the story actually says anything profound while that happens is unlikely, but you watch shonen for almost overly honest emotional connections and the ridiculous fight scenes and not a statement on society, so that likely won’t be an issue.
4. Lastly, we have the Asta/Yuno rivalry that will make up one of the longer-lived conflicts of the series. Asta and Yuno are essentially Naruto and Sasuke, but…not quite? They’re still both the classic example of talent versus hard work that you’ve seen before in Goku versus Vegeta or Naruto versus Sasuke, but there’s a different tone to their rivalry. Yuno’s still a jerk, but there’s a much more obvious level of respect between the two of them. This episode, Yuno gets tracked down by the aformentioned rich kids who attempt to burn his grimoire because in their eyes he’s a poor kid that doesn’t deserve it. Yuno easily dispatches them, but then gets caught off-guard by a third assailant, a former wizard knight who wants to steal his tome and sell it on the black market.
At the last second, Asta arrives to save him but without a magic tome or any magical powers all he has is his own physical strength. Against an opponent who utilizes chain-based magic, this is essentially worthless and so Asta’s easily put down, but because this is anime that’s not quite enough. The villain mentions his ability to detect magic levels in a person, and claims Asta has no magic at all, causing him to lose all faith in his dream and chance to compete with Yuno to become the Wizard King. But just as he’s losing hope, Yuno acknowledges Asta as his rival, and the renewed Asta is suddenly presented with his own grimoire–one with five clovers instead of merely four. What’s it do? Well, we’ll leave that for the next episode.
Goku had to beat Vegeta to a pulp before he acknowledged him. Sasuke ignored Naruto until it looked like he could surpass him. Yuno is the first shonen rival to acknowledge that hard work has as much value as talent without having to get his butt kicked first, and that’s a welcome change of pace.
5. Next Episode: Asta faces off against the chain magic user. His new power is…?
Most of the next episode is going to be devoted to explaining just why Yuno has always recognized Asta as a friend and rival, and the fight scene between Asta and the mage. After that, there’s a lot of set-up to do for Black Clover to explain the way its world works and get both characters into guilds, so expect things to be slow for the first few episodes and then ramp way up afterwards without coming back down.
Black Clover is available for streaming on Crunchyroll.

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