By Dustin Cabeal
It's funny how so many of the manga, and really the anime adaptations of the manga, that I’ve been recommending for a few years are finally catching on. Black Clover’s anime adaptation is extremely popular for some goddamn reason. I wrote about why it’s one of the most terrible things to ever be done to a property (read here) and then I gave it the top spot on my Worst Anime of 2017 list (read here). Still, people are coming around on it, be it an inferior version of this fantastic manga.
I began reading Black Clover shortly after I started Twin Star Exorcists and My Hero Academia. All three shared a common theme in that they ignored the traditionally slow pace of the shonen genre and blew three fights and villains. It worked because in all three cases they had plenty of villains to go through. It was as if they saw the problem with just having one big villain at a time and said, “Let’s just do a bunch of evil fuckers!” And it worked. Unfortunately, in the case of the latter two, they eventually slowed their pace and expanded their battle scenes. Now three days in the story ends up being half a fucking year in real time.
I was afraid Black Clover was heading down this path with the last volume, and it could very well still head that way. But, here in volume nine, it finds it’s way back to being the charming, blow through every battle self. That and the ending alone is worth picking up this volume. The story is straightforward, they finish the underwater battles, there are twists and turns, and Asta continues to inspire the Black Bulls which unites them in a way they’ve never been connected before. It’s what his real power is, not yelling like a fucking idiot man-child. He’s the ultimate cheerleader because you actually believe him. Hell, his arms are broken, and at one point he holds his sword in his mouth and hurts someone. In his fucking mouth! How can you not like this character? Don’t answer that if you’ve seen the anime, I already know the answer… ten minutes of screaming, that’s how. Asta faces a ridiculous challenge at the end of this volume, and I never wanted to read another volume more in my life.
The writing is spot on in this volume. There is a lot of character development, but the great thing is that Tabata keeps the supporting characters in the background. He’s developing them all and giving them quick pops into the story, but it’s not their story. Their popularity isn’t dictating the story which can’t always be said with other manga. More of the mystery surrounding one group of villains in the story is fleshed out more, and we learn even more about how amazing the Wizard King is, which makes it even more believable that Asta could one day take his place.
The artwork is full of imperfections, mostly due to the intentional variations in the style. It's charming and full of personality. It’s not bad because of the flaws, but better for them. It’s living breathing artwork instead of being a product that needs to be cranked out no matter what. That’s the only downside in my opinion to the weekly manga; the artist rarely gets to grow or stumble. Tabata’s style is so charming and varied that gets away with things that I think would tank a lot of other series.
While I’ll never watch the anime again, I will continue to enjoy Black Clover as a manga for as long as I can. I get inspired by Asta when I read this story, and that’s just remarkable. Hopefully, it stays true to its beginnings and only learns to grow and change rather than fall victim to the same old editing and drawn out style of the genre because right now Black Clover is the best shonen on the market.
Black Clover vol. 9
Story & Art by Yuki Tabata
Publisher: Viz Media