It was in the early months of 2015 when Black Clover was first introduced to Western audiences thanks to Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump “Jump Start” initiative that showcases three full chapters from a brand-new Manga as a way to gauge audience reaction and determine whether or not to continue featuring it within the pages of the weekly issue release. Yuki Tabata, who was more well known for his short-lived series Hungry Joker at the time, began developing Black Clover after his previous Manga was cancelled abruptly.
At the time of Black Clover’s pilot chapter release, I was nowhere near as open-minded as I am today, writing it off as a distinct duplicate of Masashi Kishimoto’s Naruto in disguise as Hiro Mashima’s Fairy Tail. From what I am lead to believe; many people felt the same way as me at the time. The strange thing about this series is that it is still going strong today despite the heavy judgment from Shonen Jump readers early on in the piece. It isa case wherein which the loud negativity drowned out the humble positivity, and while many thought that this Manga was instantly despised, it was instead very much well-received upon release.
Over a year later and Black Clover has become one of the more popular contemporary Shonen Jump titles, and is still featured within the pages of Weekly Shonen Jump. VIZ Media has finally compiled the initial seven chapters of the series into it’s first volume and released it in the West. I felt as though, as a big fan of what Shonen Jump has to offer, that I should give this series another chance to prove to me that it is more than just a simple clone of a Shonen Jump great.
Young Asta was born with no magic ability in a world where magic is everything. In order to prove his strength and keep a promise with his friend, Asta dreams of becoming the greatest mage in the land, the Wizard King! – VIZ Media
Reading the first chapter of Black Clover for the second time allowed me to properly identify why it was promptly judged so heavily; it does bare great resemblance to Naruto, but it also happens to feature certain small story segments from other popular Shonen Jump Manga that make up a bulk of what the first chapter has to offer. Fortunately for the series, these are really only present in the very first chapter, with later chapters still featuring Shonen-style tropes but without specificity, thus stopping it from being compared heavily to that of other Manga.
Whilst the story contents of the first volume are too fast-paced to be enjoyed properly, Black Clover does have a great deal of heart that I believe will come to shine bright in future volumes when each of the characters introduced are properly established and can be developed upon. As of right now though, Black Clover is a jumble of childish jokes and silly character quirks that, unlike One Piece, have yet to become too much to handle. This really only applies to that of less-important characters who have yet to be properly introduced to audiences through their own personality-building arcs.
Black Clover’s protagonist, Asta, is perhaps the only relatable character at this point in time, which is perfect for a Shonen Manga because it is the main character that we are meant to connect to instantly. His particular character quirks are ones that I find to be, at this point in time, quite amusing, and genuinely funny. Because it’s only early on in the series’ run, we havn’t been introduced to many more characters, but it seems as though his guild comrades, The Black Bulls, will make for some incredibly interesting additions to the main character lineup once, as mentioned, they are given the time to develop. If only the Manga wasn’t so rushed, we could have been given the time to properly connect with the few characters introduced in volume one.
Black Clover has an incredible visual presence the likes of which can be related to that of Yuki Tabata’s mentor Toshiaki Iwashiro who you may know as the creator of Psyren and the short-lived series Kagamigami. All of his illustrations are incredibly detailed and clean, and his panel placement is nothing less than masterful. Black Clover being populated heavily by combat and action sequences, it is easy to see just how talented an illustrator he is with every panel featuring combat coming across and wondrously cinematic. His character designs are also immediately likable thanks to their detailed simplicity and individuality. Visually, Black Clover is incredibly appealing, and it is hard to dislike even if you’re not a fan of the story simply because of how good it looks.
Despite it still being early days, it seems as though Black Clover has won me over, but I am expecting it to become more of it’s own series as it continues into the future, straying from what it was clearly inspired by and blazing a trail of it’s own; something I think it has the capacity to do. Yuki Tabata is a great writer that has had to make certain cuts for the sake of mass appeal, unfortunately this is the case for many Mangaka whose series’ are published by Shonen Jump. They demand that a Manga hit certain milestones very quickly, and sometimes the only way to do that is to take from other popular titles. Regardless, it only took Black Clover a single chapter to figure out exactly what it is, the only thing it must do now is expand upon that to create a world, a story, and a series of characters that it can be remembered for of it’s own accord and not because it is a cheap knock-off of others’.
I have incredibly high hopes for this series, and I already want to read the second volume…which doesn’t come out until August. I think Black Clover is a series that should be followed by anyone who likes Shonen Jump publications from the late nineties like Naruto, One Piece, and Bleach. It seemingly fits in more with older titles than with newer ones, and that doesn’t make it bad, it just means it’s for a different generation of Shonen Jump readers. Fact is; you really wont know until you try it out for yourself, so take the leap! Chances are you will not be disappointed, and if you are…it wont be for very long.
Purchase the Black Clover Manga through Viz Media’s official online store: Click Here