What They Say:
The Queen of Witches makes Asta her puppet, but a new spell in Vanessa’s grimoire will put the strings of fate into her hands. Meanwhile, the Magic Knights let loose at the Star Festival! Can they keep it together and make it to the ceremony on time?
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 nine episodes for this set are spread across two discs in a six/three 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 Vanessa this time around is definitely one of my favorites from the Japanese side as it just looks slick as hell and works some great color design to it with the magic aspect. 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 once again has loaded up nicely with the extras here for dub fans as there’s a fun and engaging chat between some of the actors as they talk about their characters. The main one here runs with another voice actor chat in talking about their characters under the amusingly named “Chat of Kings.” We also get a new audio commentary with the cast for the 64th and 72nd episodes, which is definitely a plus. And this set 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.
With Black Clover moving easily to a second season, the show continued its adaptation of the manga and moves at a fairly brisk pace. While I do continue enjoy the show on a superficial level as mentioned before, I’m impressed by what it accomplishes as so few shows really get this kind of attention and longevity. And while they do shortcut with wild takes and the like, including a lot of still moments, I think with its style it comes across as a well-animated show that delights its fans. There’s a lot to like in this set, especially early on, if you’re like me and a Vanessa fan. The only thing that really frustrates with the show is the episode count as we dip back down to nine episodes after finally getting twelve the last time around. It’s so uneven throughout and roughly centered on ten-episode blocks that it just feels weird and makes each release feel short.
The opening episode for this set actually wraps up events from the previous one where we get Asta trying to kill Noelle because of the condition that he’s in. That does come to an end during the episode and it’s fun to see later who he’s just not sure what happened, why he’s mostly naked, and all that happened during it. The whole thing circles around the idea that it’s time for the group to take a break for a while thanks to the boss and that’s what sets the early part of this set in motion. But prior to that we get some fun with Vanessa involving the Queen as she learns more of her past once again and it sets her off completely. There’s a lot of untapped potential there for this character and seeing her working some really powerful magic is a whole lot of fun – especially when it dips into the familiar realm of the red string of fate and how she has the capability of rewriting fate. That’s a huge thing in a lot of ways and I can see that being revisited in the future if this is some real foundation-laying material here.
With a recap episode early on in this set, which was done during a season change during its original broadcast run, that does mean this set is a bit shorter than even usual because most people do tend to skip these episodes. Once past that we get back into some good fun, however, as it deals with the Star Festival that’s coming up. It’s a big piece for the squads because it’s where they find out which squad has earned the most stars. And that does take me back a ways when we first learned about the stars and how awful this particular group was overall with a negative number of stars if I recall correctly. While the stars reveal is a part of things, the episode is also fun as it again does the relationship push thing that’s been played at for a while. With Kahono and Kiato in the mix, there’s some prodding to get Noelle and Asta where they think they should be and a whole haunted house sequence plays that out in a predictable but amusing teenage form.
There’s a good bit of fun over a few episodes involving the Star Festival as we get all kinds of familiar competitive moments, including some time with working a food stall and dealing with problematic people. But where the show got me paying a bit more attention was toward the end when the Wizard King gets to make the big announcement. Nobody should be surprised by who made out the best but I like that we see what we do for the Black Bulls in that they’ve turned things around for several reasons, a lot of them due to their more recent “new” members that have reinvigorated things and given the whole squad new life. But that’s hard to see from the outside, hence the calls of cheating being laid at their feet. Which is to me surprisingly because it doesn’t speak well of the Wizard King announcing the results and likely having verified it. While a display of abilities does help in quieting some of the louder voices, this is definitely an issue that will simmer.
The show does take things in a much bigger and dangerous direction here, as the subplot involving the Midnight Suns surfaces for a bit, and the calling out by Ask ends up getting him and Yuno practically sentenced to death. That’s the kind of period-based reactionary material I’m looking for and it changes the position for these two as they’re now fast-tracked toward the Royal Knight exam in order to understand how all of this works and why the Clover King gets away with what he does. It’ll be interesting to see how far this takes them into new territory, but at least one of the things we get before the set fully closes out is some hot spring training…
Black Clover has a pretty fun set with nine episodes (one of which is a recap) as it gets further into the second season. There’s some good serious stuff serving as bookend storyline pieces and the middle is full of a lot of festival fun that lets the Black Bulls cast and more play to good effect. I do wish there was more Vanessa throughout the set but her time early on is good and I adore the packaging for this set with how well it’s done. The episode length is the most frustrating thing with this series and its release pattern so beyond that there’s a good bit of fun to be had here with the latest round of episodes. With some good extras, a solid encode, and a fun dub as part and parcel of it all, Black Clover fans should largely be happy with this part of the run.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Black Clover: A Chat Among Kings, Inside the Episode, Episode 64 Commentary, Episode 72 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: January 7th, 2020
Running Time: 225 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.