Asta and Yuno have overcome their toughest challenge yet as we move onto Part 3 of Black Clover (Episodes 20-29). Having overcome their first dungeon, you would think Asta and friends had earned some time off, but there is little time for rest as their next challenge presents itself quickly into this latest arc.
The majority of the episodes contained in this volume concern the Royal Capital arc, where hot off the heels of Asta and Yuno conquering their first dungeon, they now have an invasion of the capital to contend with. Before this though, we open Part 3 with a banquet, introducing even more Magic Knights to the supporting cast. We get a further look at the eccentric characters that inhabit this world such as the Wizard King and many other distinguished members of the Magic Knights. These first episodes make it very clear that Asta, Yuno and even Noelle are not regarded highly by their peers, in fact, they are seen as very much beneath them. The theme of class in the series takes a front seat and we quickly learn who the likable, and truly unlikable, members of this larger cast of Magic Knights will be.
A personal favourite of these new additions is the brash Leopold Vermillion: a fiery magic knight who is as bold as Asta and soon declares himself his new rival. He is another headstrong character as is commonly seen in shonen anime but is perhaps more endearing than Asta was originally. With Leo making his strong-willed, loyal character known while also keeping his volume much lower than Asta did in the beginning.
The invasion itself sets up a good number of battles with several colourful enemies. This also seems to set up what could be the series’ overarching antagonists. An organisation known as, The Eye of the Midnight Sun, a group who serve a leader simply referred to simply as The Master. I do appreciate that Black Clover seems to be dedicated to developing several of their villains. It already did this with a couple in the dungeon arc by giving them a backstory and keeping them around to be further developed down the line. With the series already having a large supporting cast, even at this early stage, it it probably isn’t necessary but certainly welcome, particularly in a genre that can have a tendency to focus on power levels and battles rather than character.
It’s quite common for animation to be very mixed with ongoing shonen titles such as this. An ongoing structure that Black Clover’s producers, Studio Pierrot, will already be very familiar due to their experience with other shows in the genre. Titles such as Bleach and Naruto. Quite often the animation can step up when it comes to the battles in these series, however, this doesn’t happen with Part 3. The animation is inconsistent and during Episode 23, particularly bad. In this episode animation is off-model frequently and some of the perspectives are baffling, with viewpoints being behind conversing characters or even prolonged shots of characters’ feet. Perhaps it is due to budgetary or time constraints but it is rather jarring, particularly when The Royal Capital arc has a number of battles and is not considered filler.
“Black Rover” by Vickeblanka, is a piano-centric, upbeat opening that has been my favourite so far in the series. It’s a catchy song as well as showing off some fluid snippets of battle animations. “Black to The Dreamlight” by EMPiRE is a return to a more subdued ending after the hard hitting song used previously (“Amazing Dreams” by Swanky Dank). Although, I was a big fan of the previous closing song, the softer closing by EMPiRE is a nice winding down to many of these battle-focused episodes.
In terms of extra features there is quite a lot here, particularly when the episode count overall is quite low again at nine episodes. The extra features included are; Episode 20 and 23 Commentaries (English VO cast), Inside Studio J: The Technical Team, Inside the Episode Highlights, Clover Clips Special Edition, and textless opening and closing songs (both the old and new sets of opening and closing songs).
In terms of story and characters, I’ve been enjoying this latest release of Black Clover. Although it has very predictable character tropes for the genre, I’m enjoying the series’ approach to at least trying to flesh out it’s many characters outside of the main cast. The aspect that really lets the series down at this point is the spectacle. Particularly when there are quite a few battles in these episodes, I was hoping that the animation would step up like it has previously, but maybe it is just because we are building towards a larger conflict that will justify it. In a genre that has seasonal shows such as My Hero Academia, that frequently produce consistent and often excellent animation, it can make issues like this seem glaring by contrast. I am enjoying the series a lot more now that the story is beginning to hit its stride and am still optimistic that it can reach a point where it can become the best sum of its parts.