Asta and Yuno
Watch Black Clover, they said. It'll be fun, they said. You can review it, they said.
Well, I watched it, and it wasn't that fun. It was predictable, and I've seen the concept a thousand times before in various forms of remix, and the main character wouldn't stop screaming -- so we're going to do this as an ongoing, reviewing all thirteen episodes of this series and seeing if it improves at all. First episodes are always awkward, after all.
Set in the land of Clover, where everyone has some form of magic, Black Clover follows Asta and Yuno, two orphans who are raised in a church in the town of Hage. While the calm and collected Yuno is a prodigious wind mage, the fiery and feisty Asta has demonstrated no magical ability at all -- and the differences are only compounded when it comes time for them to receive their grimoires, and while Yuno receives a four-leafed clover book, Asta receives nothing. When Yuno is attacked by a thief hoping to steal his grimoire, however, Asta comes to help him, and in so doing receives a demonic five-leafed clover grimoire.
It's actually kind of alarming how much this episode tries to just be a crystallisation of every single shounen trope in existence -- and, let's be honest, most shounen anime aren't exactly bastions of originality in the first instance. You've got the powerless main character (My Hero Academia, A Certain Magical Index), whose personality is hot-blooded and determined (Aoi no Exorcist, One Piece, Naruto) and the cold, remote rival who is nevertheless quasi-friends with them (Naruto, Bleach, My Hero Academia, Aoi no Exorcist). In time, however, the main character is revealed to have a dark power (Naruto, Bleach, Attack on Titan, Aoi no Exorcist, Fairy Tail, Yu-Gi-Oh) which is the reverse of the powers possessed by everyone else (Bleach, A Certain Magical Index) but marks them out as special.
Do you see the problem?
I'm fully expecting to see the main character join a team of quirky characters (My Hero Academia, Aoi no Exorcist), with the power trio filled out by a girl who we're told is really powerful but who never really does much (Fairy Tail, Bleach), along with some kind of interim villain appearing.
There's nothing original or striking about this episode: It's a jumble of cliches, and they're not even refined cliches -- in actuality, they're written as if by committee, with no real direction. Asta isn't just a loud, fiery protagonist, he's a protagonist who literally does nothing except scream, and who screams 'I'm not done yet' so many times it might as well be his catchphrase, as opposed to just the standard issue rallying phrase of all shounen protagonists; Yuno isn't just a cool, calm rival, he's a cool, calm rival who until the end of the episode has literally nothing else to his character, spending the entire episode literally just remarking on how much better he is; the fantasy set-up is so painfully archetypal that it comes across as almost paint-by-numbers.
On a technical level, this episode is basically not in any way remarkable. The animation is fine, perfectly functional, neither remarkably good nor terribly bad. The voice-acting is solid, but there aren't any real stand-out performances. The music is unmemorable, at least for the moment -- you don't have any real stand-out tracks like, say, My Hero Academia or Bleach had. It's functional, but not noteworthy in any way.
That said, just because this series isn't remarkable at all yet, doesn't mean it can't become so in future -- there's no shortage of shows with mediocre first episodes that proceeded to quickly hit their stride and become much stronger, and the promise of Asta unleashing some demonic powers on his foes at least means that there should be a fun fight scene next episode.