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Black Clover Season 1 Part 3 Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read
A new challenger enters the ring to give Asta something to fight against.

A new challenger enters the ring to give Asta something to fight against.

What They Say:
After a close call against Mars and the Diamond Kingdom knights, Asta and his friends are honored by the Wizard King. But the celebratory event is more jeers than cheers as the other Magic Knights show their true colors. Before things get too heated inside, they learn there’s a more serious problem happening outside. The rising dead, an energy-sapping witch, and other horrors plague the capitol!

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 its 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 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 Noelle 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 fun and engaging 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)
The Black Clover experience continues and it’s one that’s working fairly well since the sets do seem like smaller arcs with a few standalone pieces mixed into it. The gaps between installments isn’t too bad overall, even with the reduced episode count per set, and you feel like you get a pretty good experience with each one. The third set brings us episodes twenty through twenty-nine and there’s a growing sense of what’s going on here but it also keeps things kind of simple and small, which helps since going into the big storyline so early in a longer run can be off-putting. Getting to know everyone and the world setting a bit more while throwing things against the leads and the kingdom hits the right spot for me.

The smaller but enjoyable moments are seeing some time with the Wizard King early on where a number of Magic Knights from the various groups are all being brought together for an increase in rank and general acknowledgment of how far they’ve come. It’s all hugely impressive to Asta as he takes all of this in but you also know that based on what we’ve seen before of how poorly ranked his guild is when it comes to the stars and all that, well, they have their work cut out for them. But events like this are also welcome to provide nods to other characters that exist in the other guilds and giving them a little time so they can be drawn into more of the stories later. For those reading the manga they may get more out of this than those just watching the show. But overall it helps to expand the world nicely.

While we get this kind of material at the start and the last episode is a recap episode, the events in the middle are what draws you into it. The Clover Kingdom, as we knew, is being targeted for annihilation and that takes a new step here. There’s a kind of wearing them down approach being taken and sending in a necromancer named Rades to cause trouble works very well. Originally part of the Purple Orcas, he’s now part of Eye of the Midnight Sun and causing lots of trouble in the Clover Kingdom here. It’s kept focused to a particular area but the visuals really give you the impression of the entire kingdom being on fire in order to make the stakes feel high. Rades comes in with some solid power and a few others with him causing trouble as well, which helps to put everyone on guard as they don’t know what’s coming at them.

The show gives us a good sequence where we see Fuegoreon getting wounded pretty severely here and that just serves to inspire Asta and the rest to really get onto this fight in a big way. The fight is solid and we get lots of little nods of encouragement for Asta along the way that ties back to other areas, but a lot of it really comes down to how protective he is of what’s going here. The encouragement of the hero is always a baseline kind of story but Asta feels like it’s more natural with him and his abilities make it pretty engaging. When he gets amped up later after seeing people taken down by Rades and then others that have shown up to clean up his mess, there’s a sense of skill coming into it as he deals with their magic with his sword that clicks really well. Though the story we get here overall is pretty simple I’ll admit that the visuals are driving it for me with this arc overall. Asta and the rest are all slightly overacting in a way that works for it and that helps to give it the energy it needs.

In Summary:
Black Clover continues to be a fun series and I do think that the release pattern works overall but it still leaves me feeling a bit discombobulated with it all. This set is focused on mostly the Rades attack arc on the Clover Kingdom and it’s all action with lots of inspirational moments along the way. The character material gets its fun here and there outside of that, including an amusing speed-dating episode that just makes you laugh with the absurdity of it, but capping it all off with a recap is kind of bleah. It’s to be expected with an ongoing series like this though so I can’t hold it against it too much. Funimation continues to do a solid job here with lots of fun extras for the dub fans including a pair of commentary tracks to give you some good replay value.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 20 Commentary, Episode 23 Commentary, Inside Studio J: The Technical Team, 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: January 15th, 2019
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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