Blu-Ray Review: Black Clover – Season 1 Part 1

The Shonen Jump anime sensation ‘Black Clover’ finally begins its debut in the UK with this Season 1 Part 1 release; but what can we expect from this release and the episodes contained within? Well let’s take a look and find out.

Synopsis:

Asta and Yuno are two orphans who want the same thing: to become the Wizard King. Locked in a friendly rivalry, they work hard towards their goal. While Yuno excels at magic, Asta has a problem uncommon in this world: he has no powers! But, on the day they receive their grimoires, they surprise everyone. To reach their goal, they’ll each find their own path to greatness—with or without magic.

Our View:

Prepare for plenty of shouting, wishful dreaming and a lack of noticeable progressive storyline as the anime adaptation of Yūki Tabata’s Black Clover manga makes its anime debut in the UK with this Season 1 Part 1 release by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment UK and FUNimation. The traits of a Shonen Jump franchise run strong in Black Clover, with drawn out dialogue, outbursts of rage and the occasional battle between characters but unlike Bleach, One Piece and Dragon Ball Z it does not offer that seem level of engagement… a shame as a world filled with magic could lead to an interesting story; but this aint no Fairy Tail.

Black Clover follows the journey of Asta, an orphan who along with along with another orphan known as Yuno, who aspires to become the Wizard King. The Wizard King is an all-powerful mage who defeated a huge demon in the past and now all mages strive for this title. It’s not entirely clear why Asta wants to achieve this all powerful title – but it is his dream; despite having no magical potential. Initially this journey begins with Asta and Yuno by highlighting their daily life but it soon sees them venture into the Clover Kingdom to obtain their own Grimoire; a personal spell-book which demonstrates their magical potential.

Unfortunately for Asta he has no magical potential but surprisingly receives his own Grimoire; the five leaf Black Clover but Yuno on the other hand obtains a four leaf clover Grimoire which causes uproar the kingdom. One particular mage opts to take this “injustice” into his own hands and attempts to take the four leave clover Grimoire from Yuno but upon doing so faces the wrath of Asta and his black clover Grimoire. Bizarrely its here where the series decides to offer an explanation into how Asta and Yuno chose to be on this path of becoming magic knights as well as strive for the Wizard King title; but alas it does nothing but disrupt the flow of a story being told.

Ideally the back story of Asta and Yuno’s resolve (of which takes place when they were younger children) should have been saved for a later date rather than a simplistic fight with a wanabe; but that’s how it goes. With the Grimoire’s in hand Asta and Yuno then venture off to the Royal Kingdom in order to take the Magical Knight exam and despite sounding interesting its a rather short lived experience. The exam is supposed to test the skill of each mage so that squad leaders can recruit new mages but instead of highlighting this in spectacular fashion it is simply still-shots of each event until the one-on-one duels – and even these are short lived Basically it is a bit dull for what should have been a highlight of this particular release.

Regardless despite Asta’s inability to use magic Asta is recruited by the Black Bulls and for the next handful of episodes we see him introduced to the squad and their ideals as well as the other new recruit; Noelle. Noelle is a noble and is a relative to those within a high-ranking-squad; however despite all of this she is unable to fully control her powers. As such Noelle is reluctant to trust anyone and continuously acts out; so much so that it sees her power go out of control and Asta is left to take charge of it. Ironically this particular episode became the highlight of this release so far; that is until the final two episodes of this release which spark the mystery of an enemy threat and a bigger story lurking in the background.

In this case Magna, Astra and Noelle are sent to a nearby village in order to defeat bores that are running rampage amongst the outskirts of the village; but upon completing the quest (which was extorted out of the squad leader from a game of Poker) Magna, Astra and Noelle return to find a mysterious ice wielding magic user attempting to take control. It’s at this point the typical Shonen Jump anime action you would expect to see appears and Black Clover finally starts to come out of its disappointin shell; but at this point it’s far too late to keep my interested in the characters and events that are taking place.

Black Clover – Season 1 Part 1 may have a strong cast for both its audio languages but the pacing and presentation leaves much to be desired; it’s a disappoint start for sure but it will be interesting to see how the story will unfold in future instalments.

Extras:

It’s worth a doubt that, for me at least, the supplementary content included this Blu-Ray release of Black Clover – Season 1 Part 1 was more interesting and entertaining that the episodic content of the series itself; as we actually have a fair amount of North-American but surprisingly none of the ‘traditional’ bonus content such as trailers or textless songs.

In this case the first Blu-Ray disc features audio commentary from the English Dub voice actors for Asta and Yuno as well as the English Dub director; whereby they each discuss their experiences with anime as well as what it as like working on the English Dub of Black Clover. A similar English Dub cast audio commentary can also be found on the second Blu-Ray disc alongside bonus features such as “Inside the Episodes” and “Inside Studio J” – each of which offer something different to the norm.

Inside the Episodes are three short video bursts featuring feedback from anime fans and reviwer quotes for those who watched the show during its original North American broadcast.Inside Studio J meanwhile is a sixteen minute video which is an ‘round table discussion’ between notable voice actors of the series and the director. During this video segment we get an inside look into the dubbing process, how voice actors were cast to play their respective parts as well as learn more about their own individual personalities. It’s a different kind of bonus feature and those interested in the dubbing process will find this piece of content interesting.

In addition to all of these ‘behind the scenes’ type features we also have the inclusion of a “Clover Clips” segment which is a stand-a-lone short featuring characters seen within these first ten episodes. Clover Clips are animated shorts (of which have been dubbed into English) that take place after selective episodes. These are more ‘comical’ than the traditional episode and provide ‘what if’ scenarios as well as additional story elements. Regardless this ‘Special Edition’ is a longer variation and offers its own type of story.

Specs:

Media:  BD 50, BD25
Region: B
Running Time: 2:23:12 (Disc 1), 1:35:30 (Disc 2)
Video: MPEG-4 AVC
Audio: DolbyTrue HD 5.1 (English) & DolbyTrue HD 2.0 (Japanese)
Subtitles: English (White)
Resolution: 1920×1080 (1080p)
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Frame Rate: 23.976 fps

Overall:

Adapted from Yūki Tabata’s manga, Black Clover is an anime series that follows the journey of Asta; a wannabe mage who wishes to achieve the almighty dream of becoming the Wizard King. As such the ten episodes contained within this first part introduce us to the world of Black Clover, the magical tools of Grimoire’s and what it means to have magical power by joining the ranks of the Magic Knights within the Clover Kingdom. An introduction is what best describes this first part as other than introducing us to this magical filled world it does little in the way of developing a story.

Popular Shonen franchises such as My Hero Academia, One Piece, Naruto and Bleach have all started with a “big” episode that ease viewers into a story before delivering the origins of the characters involved; but with Black Clover things seem to be opposite and are done at a much slower pace  – and the series suffers as a result. It’s not until the final three episodes of this series do things begin to get interesting; and even then things seem familiar to Fairy Tail with guild members, rouge magicans and quests – but Fairy Tail does it better with its mixture of comedy and action rather than screams of nonsense. It will be interesting to see how the story unfolds; but so far the episodic contents of Black Clover – Season 1 Part 1 are met with boredom and regret.

Despite my complaints of the episodic content of each disc this set does have a few redeeming features; namely the selection of supplementary content that is offered. Although we do not receive any Japanese centric exclusives, such as promotional trailers and textless songs, we do receive FUNimation created content that further explore the world of Black Clover as well as take fans behind the scenes into how the dub was produced; which is a rarity in this industry. Of course those uninterested in the English Dub, which to be fair is pretty good, may not like these bonus features but I find them to be the highlights of this release.

Presentation wise Black Clover – Season 1 Part 1 remains consistent with other FUNimation produced releases, with white (clearly readable subtitles) that translate text, dialogue and songs in addition to a strong English dub that is presented in 5.1 Surround Sound. Unfortunately the episodic content within is not only limited but disappointing; sure enough it has some few ‘good’ moments but so far Black Clover doesn’t add anything new and takes far too long to get anywhere worthwhile. Too much shouting and screaming; not enough progressive storyline – but this is just first part.

Score: review-stars-2

Black Clover – Season 1 Part 1 is now available within the UK as a Blu-Ray and DVD Combo Pack.

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About Scott Emsen
Scott is the Founder and Executive Editor of AnimeBlurayUK but in the past he has worked at ZOMGPlay, Rice Digital and Funstock and was once a Community Moderator for the Nokia N-Gage forums. Based in the UK, he loves anything related to Games & Anime and in In his spare time you'll mostly find him playing on one of his many gaming consoles; namely the PS Vita, PS4 or Xbox One.

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