It feels like a long time coming but we have now reached the fifth and final part of Black Clover’s first season with the release of Season 1 Part 5. Coming to the end of its lengthy 51 episode run, we would expect it to end with a bang and the culmination of several of its plot threads up to this point. Although, we shouldn’t expect any definitive conclusion as it has been renewed for three seasons at this point, but we still hope to see Asta take on a big “boss” level threat and really put a stamp on this first season.
The series continues by delving deeper into the main plot of the story, with The Eye of the Midnight Sun now revealed and declaring themselves enemies of the Clover Kingdom while working behind the scenes with the intent of establishing their own sovereign state. They have secretly been on a quest to gather magic stones which they believe will allow them to be reborn in their “true forms”, granting them incredible new levels of magical power. However, the Clover Kingdom stands between them and collecting the remaining three required to achieve this goal. We start this next adventure with Asta and his fellow members of the Black Bulls Magic Knights squad as they head off to an underwater temple with the intent to claim one of the stones for the Clover Kingdom.
This release has a rather odd start as we delve into a beach episode straight away. The Black Bulls must travel to the seaside village of Raquey in order to get to the underwater temple. With that said, if there was ever a time to shoehorn in a beach episode, this is the time. It is, as expected, a lighthearted episode. Surprisingly though, it responds to a criticism I had with Part 4: the character development of Noelle. In Part 4 I was fairly disappointed that one of the series’ most interesting characters had been reduced to fawning over the series’ protagonist. The beach setting begins a series of developments to really flesh out her character as she learns to understand and control her power as well as appreciate her new dysfunctional family in the Black Bulls. I hope they continue down this path with Noelle, as her growth in this volume has been really refreshing, particularly after the misstep in the last part.
There are some new colourful characters introduced in the form of Temple Mages such as Kahono and Kiato, who are surprisingly well-rounded despite their relatively short screen time. This portion of the series in particular throws a huge number of supporting characters into the mix with multiple factions and even a whole new culture included. On the whole, it is all juggled effectively and is more varied than just delivering one obstacle after another for Asta to overcome. The small flashbacks that give further development to Black Bulls members such as Vanessa and Finral take up little screen time but are invaluable in developing them and giving a glimpse into how they became their eccentric selves.
The real standout is the main antagonist of these episodes, Vetto. A member of The Midnight Sun’s most powerful sub-group, The Third Eye, Vetto is a magical powerhouse to a level which Asta and the Black Bulls have not faced to this point. As a character he is a typical villain for the shonen genre, ruthless and maniacal, but his sheer force of power makes for excellent viewing. He provides a threat that is battled over several episodes and requires the combined force of the Black Bulls squad to even stand a chance which in turn creates a great battle to close this first season.
The animation of Black Clover has had some particularly rough moments, particularly through the middle of the season, and while it still may not be to the level of animation we are used to in other series, it has certainly become more consistent. There are several moments of outstanding cuts of battle animation as the series’ final confrontation progresses. The only criticism I have is that the same odd-looking textured background is used repeatedly but it’s probably due to a large number of battles in the series to this point taking place in cave-like settings. However, this is a minor nitpick and I am happy that the series animation is improving.
We are treated to a new set of opening and closing songs for this volume. The ending is “Four” performed by FAKY, which is a more subdued song with some great vocals and tonally matching muted visuals of several female members of the cast. For the opening we get “Guess Who Is Back” performed by Koda Kumi with a guitar-based rock track, as is becoming fairly common for the series. I found this song to be really catchy as any good opening should be, with strong female vocals and an excellent range of colours on show through the opening visuals. I also really like that the visuals are showcasing the (almost) full Black Bulls squad (sorry Gordon), particularly since this arc focuses on the entire squad to some degree.
On a different note, the opening origin vignette which for the vast majority of the season has been the same description of a huge, sweeping battle the Wizard King fought to defend humanity against a giant demon. This has now been adapted to also include previous episodes’ events so if anyone is coming into an episode without prior knowledge, or has simply missed an episode or two, it provides some much needed context. This also gets around a major shortcoming a great number of ongoing shonen series have with being hard to jump on to as they progress into the higher episode numbers. It also provides a solution to a gripe I had with Studio Pierrot’s previous series, Naruto, where the first portion of an episode would just repeat the end of the previous one for several minutes.
This set contains 11 episodes (Episodes 40-51) along with a number of special features. These include: Episode 45 and 51 commentaries (English voice-over cast), Inside Studio J: The Art of Acting, another Clover Clips Special Edition, Textless opening and closing songs for “Guess Who Is Back” and two versions of “Four”, along with Inside the Episode Black Clover Highlights of all the included episodes, where we have continued discussions with the English voice cast.
Black Clover may have had a rough go of it in the beginning, however, if you continued to stay with it to this point then I think it has gradually improved and has become a really enjoyable experience. It is still a very predictable series, as shonen series tend to be, and this genre may not be for everyone but its characters have developed and its main plot has a clear path that has gradually built and in this first series, I think, reaches a rewarding conclusion. It wastes little time in setting up Asta’s next challenge and hopefully it won’t lose the magic going into its second season.