What They Say:
Asta’s hard work is gaining him recognition from the Wizard King and he’s given a new task—investigate a magical dungeon! Together with Noelle and Luck, he’ll learn they weren’t the only ones sent to explore. Yuno and his Golden Dawn teammates are also after the secrets. But their race to the treasure takes a dangerous turn when they come up against mages from the Diamond Kingdom.
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 nine episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a seven/two 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 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 Yuno 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 Yuno and his group in battle which looks great from the perspective used.
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 as there’s a seventeen-minute casual chat between four of the actors as they talk about their characters. We also get two audio commentaries with the cast and this volume brings in the clean openings and closings that we didn’t have on the first set. The inside the episode pieces are cute as well, clocking in at about three minutes and highlighting a few episodes at a time with some colorful commentary.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I’ll admit it, Black Clover just feels weird in how it’s being presented. With the first set having ten episodes and this one nine, there’s just a flow that feels off while watching it compared to what we usually go through. There is a kind of “arc” sense about it but when most shows just barrel through events getting it in this form doesn’t feel right. That said, there’s some good fun to be had with these episodes and how they unfold so it works well enough as Asta gets some decent time early on before the bulk of the focus shifts to Yuno. The balance between the two is nice as they each bring their own style and competence to the story and you get a good flow from it with the way the focus shifts.
The initial fun of the set works well for me as we get Asta all excited that the Black Bulls have gotten a star after what happened with Saussy. The stars represent good deeds done by the various squads and are used as part of the competition between them. With their main opponent of Golden Dawn at seventy stars, that has Asta really hyped to be moving toward catching up to them. At least until he learns that the Black Bulls are at negative thirty – and that’s after his star got applied to it. It’s a long road ahead to be sure but I’m just looking forward to and hoping for more silliness on the side for this since it’s an easy comedic beat to work with. And it helps because the Black Bulls get some enthusiasm and encouragement out of an achievement like this and that starts to again alter the flow of how this squad operates.
The first few episodes of this arc deals with Asta and his group as they have to deal with some stuff that feels like one-off material as they go to different places and deal largely in standalone-ish adventures. There’s an overall theme of bandits to some degree but even that’s not all that consistent when you get down to it. There’s plenty of standard growth material for Asta here as he gets more experience with his weapon, working with others like Noelle and Yami, and getting a feel for some decent locations and how to handle it all. A lot of it is kind of forgettable but there are some good reaction shots and moments throughout from most of them, especially Asta and Noelle when they open a chest at one point and it’s like all perfectly laid out organs in colorfully bright good shape.
We do get some good material with Yuno and the Golden Dawn group as well as they’re on their own mission, one that goes bigger than expected. Working with Glaus and Luck, the trio end up coming across Mars, who has his own villainous plans in motion and is intent on taking them out. With him in his ice-like form that’s seemingly impossible to break through,the group really is struggling well against him. It shows Yuno really committed to dealing with this in a way that pays respect toward Asta and his way of fighting and training, which is why I was really glad that when Asta does show up to save the day, it’s just for that moment and not the entirety of the situation. He provides help and support, and a critical save, but it becomes something that rallies Yuno amid all the other chaos going. Mars doesn’t click well for me here, both through his design and expressions, so the actual meaning of the fight is kind of superficial. But what it does here for Yuno is very solid, humanizing him more, but also for Asta as he gets to impress others that continue to write him off. Just for his commitment to the moment and staying in the fight alone it’s worthwhile.
While Black Clover is working through fairly familiar material for a property like this, it’s doing it with a really solid production that continues to surprise me. The visual and color design is very strong throughout with some really good fluid material that enhances scenes in a way that elevates it. This set provides good stories for both Asta and Yuno as their progress continues but we also get more about how the other members of their respective squads are understanding what these new members are like. It’s a fun show that I’m still surprised is working as well as it is and I’m definitely looking forward to more.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 12 Commentary, Episode 15 Commentary, Black Clover: Inside the NEW Studio J, Inside the Episode, Clover Clips Special Edition, Textless Opening & Closing Songs, Trailers
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: November 6th, 2018
Running Time: 250 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
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.