Hungry Joker may not be a name familiar to many, probably because it was a short lived Shonen Jump manga. A large part of why that series failed was that while it had potential it simply lacked direction or a grander vision. So what does a series that fell short of greatness have to do with the recently launched Black Clover manga? Well for one they share the same author, Yuki Tabata, but more over the thing that makes them such interesting companion reads is just how far Tabata has come as a mangaka because Black Clover succeeds in every way Hungry Joker didn’t.
Right from the first page, Black Clover feels like a fully formed world with a deeply rooted history behind this fantasy setting. It was hard to not be reminded of manga such as One Piece and Naruto with their richly detailed in-world history. Furthermore the first chapter wastes little time setting up a narrative direction and momentum thrust. I am of the firm belief that great shonen manga all have three things in common: a strong setting, a memorable cast of characters and a sense of purpose. Black Clover displayed all three of those things in this first chapter.
The series follows Asta a young boy who was abandoned as a baby on the doorstep of a church in one of the poorest regions in the land. His dream since childhood was to become a Wizard King like the ones of legend, unfortunately for him he has no inherent magical ability which in a world run on magic is essentially a life sentence for a meaningless existence. So begins Asta’s uphill battle to become the Wizard King. It’s a simple concept that is reminiscent of manga such as One Piece and Naruto with a bit of a mix of Fairy Tail as well, but Black Clover has a very distinct style and take on the whole ‘I wanna be the best’ story that feels rather fresh in a busy Shonen Jump line-up.
I was particularly fond of the gothic design of the world, coming off like a grim take on Fairy Tail. Asta is quite clearly a redesign of the protagonist of Hungry Joker, but his look is distinct and he comes off as a shonen hero in just about every regard. Another thing worth noting is Tabata’s excellent panel flow. The action sequences had a sense of motion that few mangaka manage to capture and the reaction shots were spot on. He has a great future as a manga artist that much is obvious.
Ultimately Black Clover proved to be a major departure from Yuki Tabata’s scattershot first serialization Hungry Joker. They always say third time lucky but with Black Clover it may very well be second time lucky for Tabata. Maybe he has a 4 leaf clover up his sleeve? Regardless Black Clover is shaping up to be a new shonen manga worth following and you can do so in Viz Media’s Weekly Shonen Jump app.