At some point in every anime fan’s life there comes a time where having high quality anime tastes define you. This phase of anime elitism is obvious when anime fans sprinkle terms like “narrative” and “plot holes” at every opportune moment, often used incorrectly.
Then, the next phase arrives, where you don’t really care about any of that.
The penultimate state of the anime fan is to enjoy anime, appreciate junkfood titles, and take it all in for what it is.
Some titles are of course objectively bad, like a bunch of recent ethically dubious isekai that I’m not going to mention.
However, we also have somewhat mediocre titles that receive a lot of backlash, seemingly for no concrete reason.
One of which is Black Clover, a title that’s much better than the internet would lead you to believe.
What is Black Clover About?
In a nutshell; magic good. No magic, bad.
Yuno (left) and Asta (right) are both commoner kids from a podunk town. Yuno has magic, Asta does not. This is a big deal when everyone in this universe relies on magic to function.
Classism persists in the Black Clover universe. Affluent nobles get picked for Magic Knight squads without much effort, because nepotism is a fact of life. You see where this is going.
Their shared status doesn’t stop them from applying to be Magic Knights. Nor does it prevent the pair from striving for the title of The Wizard King. In fact, it fuels them because they want to prove anyone can be great.
Asta is the main character and spends much of his time screaming and using his newfound “sword that cuts magic” Black Clover Grimoire to pull off impossible feats. He never gives up.
Yuno is the reserved rival, having scored the Four Leaf Clover Grimoire, and is positioned as the character who has the highest chance of making their shared dream come true.
This story setup isn’t handled poorly. This begs the obvious following question, one haters of the series underline in bold:
Do anime fans hate Black Clover because Asta is annoying?
Sources say yes, but actually, no
Because the first sin of Black Clover is that of Asta being a bad Naruto clone, let’s focus on his characterization. Asta has one mode and it is loud. He is annoying to the point of being grating, and sometimes feels very one-dimensional.
Problem is, other titles—and the fanbois they attract—pretend their fave protagonists are novel and God’s gift to shounen, when they aren’t.
Let’s compare Asta to Deku of BNHA, a protagonist many fans set on a pedestal. Deku has no Quirk (superhero powers), until his hero passes one down to him.
BNHA positions Deku’s narrative as the Hero’s Journey, with a slice of “underdog to top dog”. He struggles with the secret of gifted power. He has a rival who hates him, and faces various hardships.
However, Deku is not the humble underdog fans describe him as.
Deku was given the chance of a lifetime by his childhood hero. His disadvantage of not having a Quirk is negated very early on. Asta, on the other hand, gains power because of his disadvantage.
There’s a subtle difference.
Asta isn’t just an underdog. He’s actively belittled. Not even his adoptive family believes in him, to start. They expect he’ll come home with his tail between his legs when he fails the Magic Exam, which they’re certain of.
Asta rarely gets encouragement until he physically earns it. The one person who’s always in his corner is the magically talented Yuno. Yuno, his rival and his best friend.
We rarely see amicable rivals. We rarely see a shounen protagonist’s family doubt them repeatedly. We rarely see a hero have to earn respect this doggedly throughout an entire series.
This makes Asta subtly different than many other shounen protagonists, which should be acknowledged as a strength for the series.
What actually sucks about Black Clover?
Art style? Characters? Choreography? Writing?
Anime with its impossible speed of consumption dictates it must be released at a break-neck pace, especially if it’s seasonal. That often means quality suffers, which is unavoidable.
While Black Clover has its faults, even its earlier episodes are not the worst offenders by far.
Let’s snag some screencaps of various anime titles to give us all some perspective:
Suffice to say, studios cut corners, and the results speak for themselves.
However, I urge you to take a look at this wonderfully animated fight scene from Black Clover. I also ask that you be honest about the quality:
Let’s also be honest that the beginning of the Black Clover anime is completely overshadowed by how beautiful the latter episodes are. Let’s also make peace with the fact that Asta shows great character development, not to mention the rest of the cast.
Furthermore, let’s all admit that as many shounen series progress, they either overcome their follies or succumb to mediocrity.
Black Clover has only gotten better with time.
Black Clover has risen above the competition even with so many detractors, just like Asta has. It’s a thing of beauty to witness.
To malign the series for initial fumblings, when it’s made such a huge comeback, is unfair.
Is Black Clover Really That Bad?
At worst, it’s standard shounen fare. At best, it’s beautiful and just a little bit different.
I cannot help but think it’s a travesty it took me so long to get into Black Clover. I truly thought it would turn out to be the most boring, milquetoast, tropey shounen anime I’d ever come across. I listened to the haters.
Trouble is, when you compare every shounen to everything that’s come before it—and its peers—titles do appear derivative.
For instance, plenty have said Black Clover is too much like Fairy Tail, but I’d also argue Fairy Tail is too much like Slayers. My older age and wider anime palette allow me the grace to respect newer, if formulaic, titles.
Trends repeat. I know this, because I remember.
Maybe because I remember, I can also appreciate when an anime does something even subtly different than its peers. Maybe I can look at a title and compare it across the lifecycle of genres at large.
You know what? Perhaps I never did grow out of my elitist anime phase, considering I wrote a whole article yelling about a title armchair anime experts malign unfairly.
However, I don’t pretend something is worse, or better, than it is. I also don’t pretend anime has to be high-brow to be appreciated.
Pick up Black Clover when you can and let me know what you think.
If you go in with fresh eyes, realize it’s not reinventing the wheel very much, and resist the urge to compare it unfairly, you might just even enjoy it.