Title: Black Clover Vol 1
Author: Yuuki Tabata
Publisher: Viz Media
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Black Clover follows a young orphan boy named Asta. Raised in a rural, backwoods town with little to provide for the orphans who live there, Asta is filled with big dreams. He wants to become the most powerful mage in the kingdom; however, he can’t use any magic at all! Fortunately, one day, he receives a disheveled five-leaf clover grimoire that gives him the power of anti-magic. Can he still become the Wizard King if he can’t use magic?
Asta is an outcast from a small country village who aspires to be the Wizard King. He and Yuno were abandoned at an orphanage when they were still infants so poverty is the only life they have ever known. Even still, Asta takes part in the ceremony where everyone receives a grimoire in order to enhance their magic powers; however, since Asta was born without the ability to use magic, he doesn’t receive his… until one day where he takes on a thief who used to be a magic knight and a mysterious black grimoire bearing a five leaf clover finds him, granting him the ability of anti-magic. With this newfound power, Asta looks to join the Wizard Knights and eventually become the Wizard King.
This story is about as by-the-book as it can get when it comes to a shounen battle formula. You have an underdog main protagonist that’s different from all the others, who is looking to become the strongest in the land. Then he just happens to get these unique powers that no one else has to aid him in his goal. Even though this was a by-the-numbers plot, I still found myself enjoying it to an extent. While the story lacks severely in imagination or originality, it has a certain flavor about it that holds your interest. Even though you could predict a lot as you read along, it somehow felt a little bit satisfying.
Josh summarized the story very nicely – there isn’t much else for me to reveal. Readers follow two young boys from an orphanage in a small town. Asta and Yuno seem to be friends – they watch out for each other, but they are also competitive. They’re both determined to become the Wizard King. The key difference is that Yuno has magic – and very good magic at that. Asta only has his courage and determination to keep him moving towards his goal. They’re also complete opposites. Yuno is mature and attractive – he looks like he’ll be an instant success. Asta is immature and looks his age. He may be determined, but people can’t seem to take him seriously. He can’t even get a normal grimoire at the ceremony like everyone else. When Asta finally gets a grimoire it’s like a reward for his courage. As Josh mentioned, he receives it during a confrontation – one could say the grimoire was protecting Asta from the damage that might have befallen him during the encounter.
The story is very predictable and I feel like we’ve seen this before in this genre. The medieval style setting is nothing new either; however, I don’t mind it because it is a break from magical schools and the modern day. There were times when I enjoyed the story.
The characters are about as cookie cutter as you can get. In fact, Asta seems like a complete ripoff of Naruto in the sense that they both don’t have parents (but what manga/anime character does have parents in this day and age?), both are made fun of and looked down upon by everyone, both are loud-mouthed and obnoxious (and downright annoying at times), and both want to be at the top of their respective worlds (Naruto wanting to be Hokage and Asta wanting to be Wizard King.) Asta is also getting the standard shounen main character development treatment. Give him a weakness, give him a power, put him in his first fight against an opponent who seems elite and have him win…. or does he? That’s where the first volume ends… right where Asta is about to have that typical first-time victory so we actually have to wait until volume two to see if the formula actually plays out.
Yuno is playing the part of Sasuke in this story. He’s calm, cool, quiet and is being portrayed as a genius in the first volume. He’s also Asta’s rival if you need that bit of info to seal the comparison between the two. They also each go their separate paths in this series so you know there will be an eventual showdown between the two of them someday.
We are also introduced to all of the Magic Knights’ Captains and their respective squads. Each of them seem like your standard Shounen powerhouse right down to their character designs. They all have a unique look that matches their personalities and probably have some sort of reflection on the type of powers that they will have. They are made to stand out because they are supposed to have a higher status about them. It’s kind of like playing a handheld RPG and going “Oh! Unique Sprite Alert!” The only group we really get accustomed to, however, are the Black Bulls because Asta ends up joining them. They are the misfits of the Magic Knights so Asta, naturally, would fit right in. The group kind of reminds me of a slums version of Fairy Tail, to be honest.
Fairy Tail and Attack on Titan came to mind as I read this volume. Every character in the book seems like somebody we have seen before in this genre. Knowing this, I’m not quite sure what kept me engaged with the story? The characters make this volume even more predictable because you already can tell who has to become successful and who will drop off as the plot advances. I couldn’t find anyone in this lineup of characters to really love. I thought the members of the Black Bulls were very generic for their place in the story. They do provide some comic relief to an otherwise dry story, but they’re all complete rejects.
Asta finds himself paired up with Noelle Silva who is supposedly royalty. She is a huge snob who thinks she’s too good for the Black Bulls. Despite being far up her own butt, she can’t control her powers. Although she has magic, she’s essentially on the same level as Asta. I found the inclusion of this character to be a sweet touch because it shows that the playing field is actually level between someone with magic and someone like Asta. Noelle is pretty annoying and rude but I think we’ll need to get used to seeing her because I predict she’ll be around for a while.
Oddly enough, despite the standard formula, the cookie cutter characters, the predictable plots, and the abundance of tropes, I’m still giving this my recommendation. For some unexplained reason, the manga has a certain charm about it that makes you want to keep reading it despite seeing this kind of story so many times. The writing isn’t particularly bad and while the plot points are simplistic, they are still interesting. You still want to know more about the world, its social structure and the like. Even though Asta is an annoying main character, you still feel like you want to root for him when you see the effort he puts into his goals.
I will need to read more volumes to see if this series can take off in a different direction to set itself apart, but as far as shounen battle series go, this one is pretty decent and I think it’s worth checking out.
I’m going to have to agree with Josh on this one. Something about Black Clover draws you in. I didn’t think there was anything about this book that I would like, despite this, I still found myself turning the page. There is something addictive about the story or characters that keeps you hooked. I can’t imagine what because everything here is as generic as it comes. I’m on the fence about this one; however, since I’m not sure how long a cookie-cutter series can hold my attention.
I’m going to need to read a few more volumes before I can optimistically suggest diving into this series.
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This item was provided for review by Viz Media