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Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Black Clover, 51 Episodes, And Why It's So Bone-Crunchingly Bad

Black Clover, 51 Episodes,
And Why It's So Bone-Crunchingly Bad.

Last week, it was officially announced that Black Clover's initial order of thirteen episodes would be expanded to a whopping fifty-one episodes and, not coincidentally, I decided on the same day that I just couldn't do it as an ongoing any more. Thirteen episodes I can handle. Fifty-one episodes I cannot.

So, for now and forever, because it's doubtful this show is ever going to improve, let's break down exactly why Black Clover is so very, very bad.

Glacial pacing.

At this point, the show's horrifically glacial pacing is perhaps what it's best known for, especially considering that the manga it's adapting is so fast-paced.

The pacing is so poor that by the end of episode five, the story was barely up to halfway through the manga's third chapter -- this in an industry where it's not uncommon for a single episode to adapt multiple chapters into a single episode. For a comparison, My Hero Academia's most recent arc adapted ten chapters into five episodes, and did it while literally adding in extra material. 

Highlights of the absurdly slow pacing include 'taking a single page flashback and spinning an entire episode out of it,' and 'starting an episode by showing the last four minutes of the previous episode again.'

Terrible voice-acting (and terrible direction).

Every time Asta talks, I lose five years off my life, and he talks a lot. Or perhaps it would be better to say that he screams a lot.

It's easy to blame Asta's voice actor, for whom this is his debut role, for Asta's horrific, crunchy, shrieking voice, but that is rather missing that, actually, all the voice-acting is bad. It's just that most of the voice actors are boring to listen to, not actively painful.

Whether it's down to bad casting or bad directing (let's face it, it's probably bad directing), this show is an assault on one's ears.

So cliche that it's not even remotely original.

Here's what I wrote during my first review:

"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 AcademiaA Certain Magical Index), whose personality is hot-blooded and determined (Aoi no ExorcistOne PieceNaruto) and the cold, remote rival who is nevertheless quasi-friends with them (NarutoBleachMy Hero AcademiaAoi no Exorcist). In time, however, the main character is revealed to have a dark power (NarutoBleachAttack on TitanAoi no Exorcist, Fairy Tail, Yu-Gi-Oh) which is the reverse of the powers possessed by everyone else (BleachA 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 AcademiaAoi 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 TailBleach), along with some kind of interim villain appearing."

Well, since then, the main character has indeed joined a team of quirky characters and the power trio has indeed been filled out with a girl we're told is really powerful but who never does much, and we've also had an Exam Arc in which the main character appears to fail but actually succeeds due to a last minute success (My Hero Academia) and a smug quasi-rival who uses underhanded tactics to get ahead (literally everything).

The cliches wouldn't be so bad, but there's absolutely nothing beneath them. For a lot of shows, these are jumping off points to doing something that might not necessarily be original, but has some depth, maybe some interesting twists on those ideas, some kind of soul to it. Black Clover has nothing but a smattering of superficially sketched out cliches masking its deep, deep emptiness.

Bland, boring animation.

It's worth clarifying that Black Clover's animation isn't overtly bad. What it is, however, is bland. Middling. Uninspiring. By the numbers, but by the numbers in the most extreme way, where you could splice scenes from it into any anime, by any studio, produced and published in any year, and you probably wouldn't be able to tell.

It's full of cut corners, but none of those cut corners are noticeable, and the overriding feeling of it is just that it's -- there. It's boring to look at, visually unattractive, and perfectly middling -- and that's already by the standards of Studio Pierrot.

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