By Dustin Cabeal
At first, it was just the terrible voice selection and direction of the voice actors that made me dislike what I was watching. In all the pages of Black Clover that I’ve read in my head, never once did I imagine the main character constantly yelling like some idiot man-child that had watched a lot of DBZ growing up and suddenly thought yelling like Goku was “cool” to do. Maybe that’s what studio Pierrot wanted though, an instant comparison to one of the longest-running and popular franchises of all time. What could possibly go wrong copying something to such a degree?
Aside from the miserable choice for the voice actor and decision to make nearly all of the character unbearable to listen to, the main reason the Black Clover anime adaptation is a travesty is the story direction.
When it comes to anime, I’m not as well versed as I am with comic books. I have consumed a lot of comic books over my many years, but with anime, they were un-attainable or expensive to attain for many years of my life. Of what I’ve watched, and of what I’ve read of manga, I can’t find a bigger failure than Black Clover when it comes to an anime adaptation. I have gone through lists reminding myself of everything I’ve read. Remembering imperfect adaptations, but none of them fail so successfully as Black Clover.
The entire charm of Yuki Tabata’s manga is that it didn’t follow the exact structure of shonen. It didn’t have long drawn out battles; it didn’t feel the need to explain everyone’s past to the point that you wondered if it was really important. Instead, it reads like a condensed version of the formula. The amazing thing though, is that all of the character development, all of the over the top battles are still there, you’re just not left waiting a year to get to them.
An example of this is the event that ties Asta and Yuno together. A fight as children in which Asta saves Yuno, but then also motivates him in the way that we learn only Asta can. In the manga, this is handled in four pages. I counted. Four. Fucking. Pages. These four pages are given an entire episode of the show. Packed with filler and just an excess of dialogue that adds nothing to the plot and fails to develop the characters because it only takes four pages to actually develop them. It isn’t a deep scene in the manga, but Tabata’s artwork and presentation convey everything to the audience. Instead, the anime treats the audience like they’re stupid. Like they wouldn’t understand the story without an excess of pointless information that will never once be brought up again.
Therein lies the biggest problem with this adaptation, the studio doesn’t know it’s audience but also thinks they’re pretty stupid. The only other logic is that they felt they could stretch the story to get more episodes, which again is a massive mistake on their part.
When I tell people to read Black Clover, I tell them to get through the first volume as quickly as possible. Just get to the second volume, and that’s when it gets really good. The entire first volume gets compared to every other shonen made. Two childhood friends both want to be the Wizard King. Two childhood friends both want to be, “insert thing with a title that is lorded over everyone else” here. It’s a formula that’s tired and worn in manga/anime and in that first volume of Black Clover that’s all it seems like it’ll be. Just two boys, trying to be the best and having adventures along the way.
Only it’s not.
We can all pretend that Yuno is a big part of the story and hell, maybe in the tenth volume and on he is, but he’s little more than a rival that pops up here and there when the story wants to remind you of how much harder Asta must work to surpass Yuno. It’s not to remind you that they’re friends or rivals, it’s to show you just have fucking hard it is for Yuno. That every time you think he’s grown and made strides that Yuno’s natural magic abilities have made it ten times easier for him to surpass Asta. And the story does this sparingly. It never cuts to Yuno’s side of the world; he only arrives when Asta’s story crosses his path.
In the second volume, Asta’s story shines. Its hear that we see what Asta’s true power is and it’s not that he never gives up. It’s that who he is, inspires others to be better. To be better than they thought they could. He looks at them like they’re amazing when no one else has ever told them that. The Black Bulls is filled with talented people with a lot of emotional baggage. People that haven’t been treated or told they’re worth a damn, but with Asta, he treats them all like bright shining stars. His power of inspiration reminds them that they’re humans and deserve to be treated as such, rather than talked down to or spit upon by a class-based society.
Instead, Asta’s power is to yell a lot and be annoying with everything he says in the anime. How can you inspire people when you sound like you’ve been surprised by a chicken putting its head up your butt? How are we to believe that this boy can be the Wizard King when he’s not tolerable to be around for more than a minute?
There are a lot of problems with Black Clover. The filler is one of the biggest because it’s so unnecessary. Five minutes of the show was dedicated to the boys walking to the capital. In the manga, you turn the page, and you’re there. Nothing happens in those five minutes because the studio doesn’t have the skill to add anything to the characters or more than likely they’re scared to mess up the actual parts of the manga storyline by adding their own. Instead, they just draw out the same story parts and make them obnoxiously long-winded. Five minutes of walking… they used their Grimories… they walked… they ate… they used their Grimories… they walked some more.
My first thought, like a lot of viewers, was that perhaps I’d be better off watching the dubbed version of Black Clover. To be on the safe side I gave it a few more episodes, but what discovered was that at the end of the day, the voice acting only matters when the story isn’t decimated from the ground up. What could have been a groundbreaking anime was instead turned into the same old anime that the industry has made a hundred times. The difference is that the manga showed fans that you didn’t need all that filler. You didn’t need a man talking about two abandoned babies for three minutes when you could just show a priest picking up two babies on the steps of an orphanage and the audience would get it. It showed that the visuals could tell just as much of the story in a shonen as the people. Too bad it was picked up by a studio that was either too scared to break the formula or worse, they thought they were doing us all a service by putting back the excess fat that was cut off.
I for one will continue reading the manga. I will be reviewing the ninth volume this week in fact. But I will no longer waste time on the show. I will not give it a few more chances because it’s slated for 51 episodes and the way it’s trending it’s not likely to get very far with the source material if it even bothers to keep it. There are so many problems with the adaptation that Black Clover is one of the most painful shows I have ever watched. Not just anime, but TV shows in general. It’s not the next big shonen, it could have been, but instead, it’ll be like so many other water-downed adaptations that you’ll forget about until it shows up on some list article years from now. What a damn travesty.