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Black Clover Season 1 Part 1 Blu-ray Anime Review

10 min read

The path to becoming the wizard quick!

What They Say:
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.

The Review:
The audio presentation for this release brings us the original Japanese language track in stereo while the English dub gets a 5.1 bump, both of which are encoded using the Dolby TrueHD lossless codec. The series works a good mix of dialogue and action to it so that all quadrants are hit with the stereo design while getting a nice boost through the 5.1 where the rears get a bit more action and the impact is greater through the bass. The show works a good design for the dialogue across the forward soundstage with some fun placement from time to time in how it unfolds and the characters interact. The highs and lows are well captured while the action works the full range in a smooth and engaging wy. The bigger moments hit well so that the action feels like it resonates, again with the 5.1 mix getting more bass and impact, so that you get more invested in all of it. Both tracks are solid and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing beginning in 2017, the transfer for this TV series is presented in tis original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The ten episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a six/four format with plenty of room. Animated by Pierrot, the show has a really good look to it with a lot of detail in both character and backgrounds and some big action moments throughout. The show is not working on a budget design considering the number of episodes in the run and that definitely helps as the world is more fully realized because of it. These opening episodes lean more toward darker material in terms of where it takes place so the encoding works well here with the color solidity and keeping the high motion sequences free of problems such as breakup and noise. The vibrant areas stand out very well and the fluid sequences of action, particularly with some of the magic, look great throughout.

The packaging for this release comes in a slightly thicker than standard Blu-ray case that holds the four discs for both formats as well as having an o-card slipcover that replicates the case artwork. The image of Asta dominating it looks pretty good here against the black background while giving it a nice framing with some simple gold that mirrors the logo color itself. The season/part/episode numbers included are clearly shown on the front as well making it so that you don’t have to hunt around trying to find it. The back cover goes pretty dark with the same color used for the small summary of the premise while also showing off the extras and technical grid. It makes it a bit harder to read in a lot of lighting but everything is there and clearly laid out accurately. The shots from the show are kept simple but add a nice bit of color to it. While we don’t get any show related inserts with it, the reverse side artwork has a nice two-panel spread that showcases the main cast so far in a pretty fun way.

The menu design for this release goes for the clip route that has several good pieces playing through the loop that shows off the characters, the world, and some of the magic. It has a nice bit of intensity to it with what it wants to do to set the tone and ease you into the show itself. The logo takes a largely center placement to it where it dominates but it fits well with the material being looped. The navigation covers the bottom segment of the screen where it has a kind of leathery approach with a good font for the script that provides us with the standard menu selections. It works smoothly both as the main menu and as the pop-up menu during playback.

Funimation has loaded up nicely with the extras here for dub fans to make up for the shorter episode count as we get a look at the studio side of things, some fun clips from the show that highlights the first nine episodes, and two audio commentaries with the cast. Sadly, there are no clean versions of the opening and closing sequences, which is something that disappointed me.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the manga of the same name from Yuki Tabata, Black Clover is an ongoing anime series (as of this writing) that was initially announced for a 50-episode run. The manga began in 2015 in Weekly Shonen Jump and has been bringing out weekly chapters that have resulted in seventeen volumes so far since then. It’s a popular property that clicked well and I’ll admit I went into it with low expectations. Pierrot can be a mixed studio when it comes to long running properties, which often get lower budgets in general, and I’ve had very mixed results when it comes to Weekly Shonen Jump properties making the leap to anime for a while now. So I was quite surprised by this show – first for the fact that it only has ten episodes in the set – and second that it proved to be a lot more enjoyable than I expected it to be. To the point where the opening set left me wanting more.

The fantasy based series gives us a world where magic is the norm and as kids reach a certain age they gain their grimoires that helps to define their abilities and what spells they can use. Most really end up staying in the various agricultural lands and working their while a number end up in the capital city where there’s a lot more going on. Within that we also get the government side of the kingdom where the position of Wizard King is handed down over the centuries after the first one helped to bring peace to the region all that time ago. You get a fairly standard class system here and those views filter into some of the main story elements later in this set with the first look at the villains causing trouble by eliminating the wasteful in their view peasants of the world. Those with great magic ability often find themselves wanting to becoming Magic Knights in service of the Wizard King and look to join one of the nine guilds that exists.

So it’s no surprise as we meet our two main characters in the form of orphans Asta and Yuno that both of them intend to be the Wizard King. Asta, as our primary view through the world, is a highly energetic and outgoing teenager that’s always trying to get the nun and the orphanage to marry him and uses humor to cover for the fact that he does not have any magical ability at all – a real rarity in the world. He’s used his time to train his body while waiting for the day he gets his grimoire that will help. His life is in contrast to Yuno who has exceptional ability beyond what is usually seen in the outlying areas and that’ll make him a top recruit once they advance into the city itself. The two are very close and complement each other well, though the differences in abilities is a growing problem. Yuno feels very much for Asta when they go through the first ceremony and Asta doesn’t get a grimoire, further cementing his place in the world.

The show takes its time over these first ten episodes to get us to where it wants to be. You can see the arc easily enough, it doesn’t try to hide it with their journey, but seeing Asta find out his unique ability quickly and move forward from there is great. An attack on him by another has a specialized grimoire appear out of nowhere that gives him the big sword that he uses now, giving him the ability to cut through or reflect magic with it. You can see that his no-magic side is something that will be uniquely useful later and giving him a way to engage with opponents through the sword works well, even if you know he’ll get cocky with it. It’s a little chaotic when everything first comes together here but it’s a good moment to show how Asta can handle himself going forward and that he won’t be reliant on Yuno. The problem is that his outgoing attitude has been there for years and a cockiness will come into the forefront because of the weapon and his belief that he will be the Wizard King someday.

Thankfully, the pair don’t have extended episodes of a journey to the capital and it shifts us right to the trials of getting into one of the guilds. It’s actually a good bit of fun because the leaders of the nine guilds that serve the Wizard King aren’t looking for just anyone. Asta’s inability to fly with a broom makes for some good comedy but it sets the stage you’re waiting for to see what gimmick is used to get him into one of them. What I like is that it is framed right when he’s challenged by Yami, the leader of the Black Bulls, with his overpowering presence trying to intimidate Asta. With his guild being kind of outcasts in a way he’s looking for more than just power. While Asta is young there is a lot to be said for standing in the face of the enemy like this and not giving pause. Yeah, it’s a cliche to some degree but it plays very well and says a lot in a little bit of time about Asta himself and the Black Bulls.

The trials aren’t an extended piece, no tournament material here, and we get some good intrigue with one member through Noelle, a royal who has problems of her own that has kind of exiled her to the Black Bulls. With the group being kind of misfits in a way, you can see a lighter tone here with the diverse group of characters we get under Yami’s leadership and there’s a lot to like in how they’ll come together. The opening training mission isn’t bad either as it gets us out into the field with Asta and the group while also setting the stage for the bigger bad guys to come in a kind of cleanse the world approach. They’re not detailed in a big way here with what they’re after, who is fronting them, and other pieces, but the slow build works well and feels like a natural approach with how the rest of the opening run goes here.

In Summary:
Black Clover is a run that because of the amount of episodes coming for it was something that I was pretty wary of. I’ve done my fare share of long running shows and those of a shonen variety tend to lean hard into their cliches. But sometimes a show can surprise and Black Clover did that in a huge way here. It has some really good pacing, avoids some of the usual pitfalls by shortening up areas that are often dragged out, and it left me with characters that I actually like this early on. Sometimes it takes a while for me to really connect with shonen characters of this nature but I like Asta early on and the Black Bulls have a lot of potential, as does Noelle. Funimation put together a solid release here, though the shorter episode count frustrates, as we get a really good looking encode, a very fun dub, and some solid extras in a good package. I haven’t been as excited for a shonen show of this nature in a long time.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Clover: Inside Studio J, Inside the Episode, Episode 4 Commentary, Episode 7 Commentary, Clover Clips Special Edition

Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+

Released By: Funimation
Release Date: August 7th, 2018
MSRP: $54.98
Running Time: 250 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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