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Black Clover Season 1 Part 4 Blu-ray Anime Review

8 min read
Prelude to a beach arc.

Prelude to a beach arc.

What They Say:
What should have been a relaxing vacation turns into a chilling adventure when mysterious magic snow lures the children of Nean into a deadly trap. Joining up with Gauche, Asta will face his toughest challenge yet—trying to work with the stubborn mirror mage! While Gauche is more focused on protecting his beloved little sister, Asta is stuck fighting in the mud. But when members of the Eye of the Midnight Sun show up, this battle goes from dirty to dire! Luckily, an unexpected pair arrives as reinforcements. Will they have what it takes to face the powerful Licht and his elite squad, the Third Eye?

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 way. 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 Yami 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. Even though I’m not a fan of the whole cigarette thing it at least adds a little something-something to the design. 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. The main one here runs about fourteen minutes and brings in lots of the male actors to talk about the show. 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)
Black Clover continues its odd little push in how it’s being presented that just feels weird. These ten-episode sets are a little off-putting even if they do generally seem to contain a couple of smaller arcs without much overlap to the next set. Intentional or not, it is helpful but I still can’t help but to feel like these sets just aren’t right in some weird way. The show has worked through a lot of stories so far and gotten us to know the main cast well while also showing off the world in a pretty good way. It’s still very much standard shonen fare in a lot of ways but it has that more solid and polished feeling about it that keeps it from feeling like another Naruto, even though there’s plenty of similarities when you get down to it.

With this season, we get things starting off well with Asta’s advancement being found out as he’s now a Junior Magic Knight Third Class. And at the same time Yuno moves up to First Class, so there’s certainly the usual rivalry when you get down to it but we’re also seeing some quick progress. Asta has shown his value so far with the way his anti-magic abilities work so it’s no surprise that he’d find some key uses along the way (and does during the final arc of this set) where he gets to stand out, which earns him a good bit of attention and praise alongside advancement. Of course, Asta is the type to be all flamboyant about it whereas Yuno plays it pretty straight. But that’s what you’d expect and everyone sticks to their personalities well. The early bits with this dealing with it and the orphanage is fun, especially the seduction attempts that get underway.

The show does stick to its usual design with a couple of different fights and encounters happening across the ten episodes. The initial one didn’t do much for me in even being memorable but when events shift to bring Licht into play it feels like it becomes more serious. His possession of one of the four-leaf-clover grimoires help him run the Eye of the Midnight Sun group well and having them face off against Yami and Asta and his group definitely plays out well. Licht has that creepy aspect to him in both personality and design but he gets to back up some of it with his abilities and it makes for some good sequences here. While Asta plays some importance as you’d expect it’s really Yami that stands out the most here as he has a good sense of power and ability behind him and that makes for some impressive material. A good part of what makes Yami work is that almost blank/dead expression to his face as he doesn’t react a whole lot. It’s not that it makes him cooler or anything but that kind of casual focus is definitely appealing.

There’s a lot of little moments throughout that are enjoyable as the various fights move along and I particularly like part of the later events involving some of those they fight, especially Asta dealing with an opponent that it feels like he was bred to fight in how his abilities turned out, but these are very much in the minute kind of experiences. What I get from Black Clover is a show that doesn’t do much for me in term of memorable story arcs, since we get a couple in the space of the ten episodes here and the setup for the next arc – which is going to take us to an undersea adventure, which means there’s lots of time coming up involving more awful swimsuit shenanigans, but the show manages to make it charming. The epilogue installment we get at the end of this set with Yami and Asta getting the mission from the Wizard King is fun enough but seeing Yami deal with the unruly crowd he has that’s super excited for some beach time? That works even better. The small moments are delightful but they’re harder to really express here.

In Summary:
Black Clover is a strange series for me when it comes to shonen works. I generally like them and I do like this one but there’s still something about it that hasn’t really cemented it with me yet. The shorter episode counts, the shorter arcs that we get, a sense of a big picture storyline being there but just out of reach, I’m not quite feeling where Black Clover is going. That makes it easy to enjoy the action in a kind of dispassionate sense while also enjoying the character moments because they are very fun, such as how Yami deals with events here, Noelle with the thought of a swimsuit, and just how Asta is so pumped about everything. Funimation continues to do well by the release with a lot of great extras, a solid packaging mirroring the Japanese artwork side, and a dub that captures the right elements of the show. It’s definitely a fun release.

Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Episode 20 Commentary, Episode 37 Commentary, Inside Studio J: New J City, 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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