English Dub Review: Black Clover “The Life of a Certain Man”

One step forward, one step back.

Overview (Spoilers Below)

Finral lies battered and beaten on the ground, and Langris stands over him, preparing to deliver the final blow to his brother, murdering him in cold blood. Thankfully, the other Black Bulls step in at just the right moment to stop Langris’s psychotic rampage. Finral’s life is safe for now, but Langris is still out for blood. He wants a fight with Asta now, desperate to prove that he is superior to the lowly Black Bulls. Asta and Langris charge at each other, ready to beat the other into the ground, but at the last minute, Novachrono steps in and holds the two of them in time stasis. He informs them that they can fight each other in the semifinal match, which they’ll set up properly right now. Novachrono then directs one of his mages to heal Finral as the Black Bulls look on, wondering what will happen to their friend.

The teams are assembled, and the match between Asta’s team and Langris’s begins. This is no mere tournament fight, though, this is a grudge match, and Langris makes it clear he doesn’t want any help in this fight. He wants to do this one on his own. Asta’s team, however, is much more of a team. They work together to compete against Langris, who is clearly much more powerful than them and is able to keep up a steady assault. Mimosa’s healing is vital for keeping Asta going, who is unable to tap into his demonic powers because of his inability to concentrate his ki.

Asta calls in Zora to help, who steps in to block an attack from Langris. We then take a look at Zora’s past, seeing what it was that made him into such a delinquent. We learn of his father, Zara, who was an aspiring magic knight and the first commoner to actually make it into their ranks. He was a man of principle and duty, which made it all the worse for Zora when he was killed by one of his comrades. This incident is what motivated Zora to go around hunting corrupt magic knights wherever he walks. That same motivation pushes him to fight back against Langris, who embodies everything that he hates about the magic knights.

Our Take:

I was infatuated with last week’s episode, which actually managed to earn my affection with it’s superbly done brother story between Langris and Finral. It was one of the first conflicts that felt real and somewhat nuanced, which made it far more compelling than the rudimentary backstories we’re forced to suffer through in this show. Yet, after that great episode, Black Clover back up to its old ways, falling back into the same tired problems and leaps in logic that make it a real groaner. It’s not the worst thing I’ve seen, but it’s still pretty disappointing.

The first major issue is how little actually happens in this episode. We barely even get into the fight, which is completely lacking in exciting visuals. Asta just spends time running away from Langris’s blast and doing an internal monologue, but the visuals are far too cheap to make that interesting to watch. Following that, the rest of the episode is just a glorified flashback, which isn’t even an interesting story. Zora’s background is totally predictable and, like most everything in this show, completely one-dimensional. It’s just another rehash of the same “Magic knight arrogance” plot that we’ve been going on for fifty episodes now. Having recurring themes is one thing, but those themes have to develop over time and become more nuanced as time goes on, otherwise the show has the same legitimacy as a children’s book.

Zora’s backstory also decries his “antihero” personality. The show makes it clear that Zora only kills “bad” magic knights, as we never see him put the screws to anyone who doesn’t deserve it. This just makes him some kind of virtuous revolutionary instead of a troubled rebel with a broken past. I’m glad that we learned a little bit more about him, but Zora’s background is nothing to write home about. And we can’t forget that he doesn’t even do anything in this episode other than treating us to his flashback. It’s weird to take one single moment to discover the entirety of a character’s background. Usually, it’s best to break it up into pieces within the fight so we can keep the focus on what’s happening in the story.

A broken clock is right twice a day, I suppose, and even Black Clover can manage to hit a good episode every now and then. I’m disappointed, but not terribly. You can’t expect too much from this show.

Erich Hau

Erich is a northern California based writer on the front lines of the nerd frontier. When he's not burning the midnight oil he enjoys musicals, smooth jazz, and a good cup of dark roast. Cream and sugar not included.

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