by Alice Morgan
The following is an analytical review of the first 2 episodes of Black Clover. I will be focusing on the structure of the story and character development. I will also mention episode 3 for a bit.
This is by no means a personal attack on you.
Black Clover vs. Naruto
Compare and Contrast
A lot of people compare BC to Naruto, and it’s not just because they are the same genre. It is very difficult not to notice all the similarities, so let’s take a look at some of them.
The relationship between Naruto & Sasuke, vs. Yuno & Asta is very similar. Both Asta and Naruto fall on the least talented side of the spectrum. Asta can’t use magic at all, while Naruto can’t control his chakra. They both struggle at first and have to learn to use their abilities effectively. On the other side, Yuno and Sasuke are both natural at using their abilities; what takes the others blood and tears comes to them effortlessly. This will most likely become an important part of Yuno’s and Asta’s rivalry in the future. (Also, both Naruasta and Sasuno look very similar. Yuno might even have a discount sharingan, or something, unless people have naturally yellow eyes in this universe.)
Naruasta have similar goals that they like to share with anybody who is listening. They do this often and loud. One wants to be the Hokage (president ninja); the other the Wizard King. They are mocked by their peers, who don’t take them seriously.
Both series often show the same major landmarks. They exist to remind us to the goal of the protagonists.
(If you watch the 3rd episode of BC, you might also recognize that the kid with the brown hair — who calls Asta an idiot all the time — has a striking resemblance to Konohamaru. Not in appearance, but in purpose. Konohamaru is introduced in the 2nd episode of Naruto, so they appear at the same time. The episode also has the same conclusion.)
childhood and trauma
At the very beginning we are introduced to Naruto as an orphan, a troublemaker, a misfit who is considered to be an annoyance and avoided by all. He is shunned, neglected and hated by his peers and feared by the adults. The hostile behavior of the adults acts as an enabler for the children to bully Naruto. The older he gets, the more isolated he becomes. His constant failure to make friends and connect with other people eventually turns into frustration. He acts out because this is the only way for him to get any attention. When Naruto decides that he wants to be Hokage, he does it because he desperately wants to prove himself to others. He wants to prove that he is as good as any other person in the village and he deserves the love and respect of others.
“And I will be the greatest Hokage of all time! So that everyone will finally learn to accept me!”
Now, with that in mind consider Asta’s story. He is an orphan, but he has a father figure in his life. He is not hated. He is not discriminated against. His peers don’t resent him just because he was born. He lives in a poor community but he is being taken care of and he is loved. There is a traceable cause and effect relationship between Naruto’s development and why he turned out the way he did. His problems are also related to this: lack of teamwork, trust issues, etc.
Asta had no reason to grow up to be an insufferable, obnoxious moron. He just did. His over the top personality is more suited for a supporting character, the comic relief. His voice and mannerism indicate that that’s what he was intended to be, as most of his “charm” comes from physical humor. He IS supposed to be funny. Instead, he comes across as extremely annoying. He would probably fail even as a supporting character, but he would be more tolerable in small doses. As of right now, he definitely can’t carry an entire episode by himself.
There is this running gag where Asta keeps asking the nun (Sister Lily) to marry him. Now, having a 3 year old asking the same could be considered cute, but having a teenager/older kid do the same is a cause for concern. It’s not cute anymore. It’s alarming.
It takes balls to start your second episode with a 15 minute filler
If the first episode was the nail in the coffin, then this one was the shovel that buried it.
I timed the whole thing, so let’s see how the episode looks when broken down in minutes.
0-3:24 directly copy-pasted from the first episode.
3:24-4:57 end of the opening. Cut to flash back 10 years ago.
17:38 flashback over, back to present
18:38 bad guy gets wasted. One minute of relevant action. ONE MINUTE. This is where the second episode should have continued to begin with. Anything before this is basically pointless. Notice that the episode is almost over.
18:38-19:11 wheezing, magic sparkles
19:11-20:38 more flashbacks 😀 yeah, seriously
there is some talking etc. in between until we get to:
21:44 yup, you guessed it! More flashbacks. It’s really short this time, a few pictures cut together.
There is talking, more magic sparkles, aaaand that’s it.
22:10 ending song begins
This entire episode is a disaster with severe pacing issues and that’s the nicest way of putting it. There was no reason to not continue where the first episode left off. This flashback is something that should have happened maybe 20 episodes in, if ever.
I will argue that it shouldn’t exist at all because:
a. We already know all this from the first episode! We do! There was a picture of Yuno carrying Asta and there were minor flashbacks of them fighting with someone. That was enough information to figure out something happened and that’s all we needed to know. It really wasn’t that relevant.
b. As Stephen King put it:
“The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting. […]”
c. It didn’t result in any meaningful character development. Good character development can’t come from a flashback. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important one is that we are watching something that happened in the past a long, long time ago. Our protagonist already went through the events that changed him for the better or for the worse. The Yuno that is with us in the present time, is the changed person. In a way, we are taking a step back by being forced to watch something that is no longer relevant. The sense of urgency is completely lost because we already know how it will all end. From that they forward Yuno will never cry again and Asta… doesn’t really change at all.
“I will become the Wizard King, and prove to everyone that anyone can be awesome, even if they are poor or just some orphan.”
Wonderful! This is the moral of the story and it was clearly established in the first episode. If this show would be a research paper, this single sentence would be the thesis statement. It makes sense too because it ties in nicely with Asta not being able to use magic (at first.) He is going to have to work extra hard for something that comes easily to others.
So, if the moral of the story is that hard work gets you anywhere no matter where you come from, then there is no need to establish a second, weaker set of motivations, specifically Asta promising to Yuno that he will become the Wizard King when they were both really young. Asta’s main motivation of being positive in adversity and setting a good example for others is undermined by introducing their rivalry this early on. They can absolutely have more then one reason to strive to achieve greatness, but it was introduced so abruptly. (Also, having to do something because they made a promise when they were young is like… anime cliche number 2.) So, what would have been a better way of handling this entire scenario?
Offering an alternative
First of all, I would remove the flashback. If that childhood memory is so important that you have to squeeze it into the 2nd episode then just start with it. Show them as babies arriving to the church, then play out the flashback and focus on their rivalry as motivation. Asta wants to become the Wizard King because it’s cool. Yuno is a wuss and Asta becomes his role model after standing up to that thug. He now also wants to become the Wizard King because Asta does too. It’s so very childish, but it makes sense because they are just kids. Their early years are characterized by trying to outperform each other. Then we fast forward to present times when they get their grimoires. They go on adventures, they see and learn things and as a result they became more mature. About 25 episodes in their motivation changes. They are less self absorbed now. Hell, Asta probably learned how to talk without screaming every damn second. Now, they want to show everybody that they can be awesome, that they can accomplish great things and that they don’t have to settle for the poverty they were born into. That is character development.
So, that’s that. Do you agree? Do you disagree? How do you like the series so far? Leave a comment below, and someone will be chosen at random to get a 48 hour Premium Guest Pass for Crunchyroll.