What They Say:
A trip to the beach isn’t fun in the sun for Asta and the Black Bulls—they’re on a mission to recover a magic stone! Deep in the Underwater Temple lies new danger and mages with extraordinary powers. But getting in is the first challenge! Luckily, Noelle receives help from a mysterious girl with song magic to master a new spell to help her team. But real danger makes a splash when, Vetto of the Third Eye, storms the temple! He takes out Asta’s friends and allies, with unimaginable strength, like they’re nothing. Can the magicless mage face all odds and take on the beastly villain?
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 twelve episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a seven/five 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 style and design of this run have been good with it largely focusing on single characters but this one changes things a bit with two of the guild members getting some time, which means less of their upper bodies and more focused on headshots. It works well enough and the mixture of their abilities gives it a nice bit of balance. 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 some of the cast together at the beach for a moonlit moment that’s not fanservice oriented.
This set also has something that’s fantastic with a hardcover book. It’s a gorgeous piece that comes in just under a hundred pages where it provides a lot of illustrations and artwork from the show, settings and so forth, that really brings it to life. We also get a good chunk of it given over to interviews with some of the English leads, really giving them a chance to talk about their characters and the show in more detail. It’s a great addition for fans and something that’s unique that you can’t get on the Japanese side like this.
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 once again 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 some of the actors as they talk about their characters. The main one here runs about seventeen minutes and brings in three actors to talk about their being part of the main arc of this set. We also get a new audio commentary with the cast and this volume brings in the clean openings and closings that are relevant to these episodes. The inside the episode pieces are cute as well, clocking in at about three or four minutes and highlighting a few episodes at a time with some colorful commentary.
After a good run of largely ten-episode sets, Black Clover gets over the hurdle to twelve episodes here – as it’s what wraps up the first season of the series. At the time of the original broadcast, it wasn’t a surprise that more was coming but the series is a rare one that as of this writing is still ongoing. It’s rare for a show to last more than a single season, that it’s going on for almost two years with no breaks continues to be a testament to its popularity and the draw that it is for viewers in Japan and abroad. The episodes we get here are definitely fun, and they intentionally lean into that a bit more at first, and while it doesn’t wrap up anything huge or significant, it does feel like this is a bit of closure on the first chapter of Black Clover with what’s to come.
The previous set put us in a place for some beach fun and it delivers on that pretty well here. Beach episodes are what you expect and this one opens with lots of silly fanservice, such as Noelle looking for the best swimsuit to wear in order to get the attention that she wants. It’s over the top and flashy and naturally doesn’t work as intended but you knew that was a pretty standard option. It’s enjoyable just watching everyone goof off and have fun with their powers or abilities coming into play here and there. There’s a lot of cuteness in how Noelle does her best to get Asta to see her and I like that it comes down to the two of them working together after she masters creating a water shield that lets them head underwater. Of course, this is an easy lead-in to the next part of this mini-arc.
That there’s an Underwater Temple that becomes a focal point isn’t a surprise and it’s nicely handled as we get our entry to it through a new character named Kahano. She’s an idol wannabe that draws the group in with her singing and dancing and there’s a lot of good stuff in the early part of this arc as they get to know her and understand aspects of the place all while Noelle gets more and more confident about her abilities underwater. But Kahano’s disappearance is what spurs them to truly seek out the temple and find out what’s going on there, which is a good trade of information since nobody has visited this place in a decade and there’s plenty of back and forth. Of course, there’s a bit of action before getting there with the passage requiring some fighting elements but that’s the weaker point for me. The show handles action well but like a lot of series of this nature, especially as it goes on, it becomes less interesting to me than the characters. It’s a lot like Fairy Tail in that respect for me.
The nature of Black Clover has been a lot of one-off episodes and then a mini-arc before wrapping things up so as to repeat that. All while showing Asta’s growth or what Yuno is going through. Here, we get the mini-arc piece with the Underwater Temple and the group of magicians that the Bulls get to fight that are on their own mission down here. It’s the kind of piece that fills up several episodes of various pairings for the fights and they’re pretty good, though being underwater doesn’t mean we’re getting Aquaman style fights or anything. It’s not got the budget to really do that kind of thing here. But they’re fun pieces as we see the battles while Yami is largely kept to the side dealing with other things until toward the end when he gets to swoop in. The fights are enjoyable but I loved how at the end with the praise that comes out that Noelle gets miffed about it and calls him out for taking more credit than he should. As we saw in the extra, the actors enjoyed having a few episodes to really work with their characters and play with them more than one-off villains and you can tell both in the dub and original that there’s a lot of enjoyment there. But at the same time, I’m not ever expecting to see them again so there isn’t a big investment in the fight overall.
With a bit of epilogue material to follow and teases of what’s coming next, the first “season” of Black Clover comes to a close with this set. That it ran for four-cour is just fascinating to me because so few shows accomplish that these days, though if any of them will it’s something out of the Shonen Jump playbook. The property has all of the right elements for longevity with familiarity, humor, solid fighting and animation, and what still feels like no larger story to really latch onto. But you watch for the characters you like, such as the leads in Asta and Yuno, and enjoy their journeys. While I dislike the ten-episode per set approach of the run, Funimation has otherwise handled the show really well with lots of original extras, a solid pace for releases, and they close out the season with a fantastic artbook version as well. Add in an enjoyable dub with actors that are definitely enjoying their roles and the stories and you’ve got something that will resonate for some time to come for a subset of this generation of anime fans.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Inside Studio J: The Art of Acting, Inside the Episode, Episode 45 Commentary, Episode 51 Commentary, Clover Clips Special Edition, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: Funimation
Release Date: July 2nd, 2019
Running Time: 300 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.