‘Black Clover’ Represents the Best and Worst of Shōnen Anime

Lucas DeRuyter

Shōnen anime is pretty awesome. Shows like One PieceMy Hero Academia, and Yu Yu Hakusho have made it one of the most popular and entertaining genres of anime. However, along with the good, there are also many issues with this anime genre.

Black Clover is a perfect example of both the highs and lows of shōnen anime. When Black Clover is good, it highlights some of the strongest and most attractive elements that the genre has to offer. When it’s bad, though, it represents the many problems that have plagued the genre for decades.

Stunning Animation

While Black Clover’s fight scenes have been a bit sparse so far, when battles do occur, they are beautifully animated. Fights in Black Clover push the anime’s stylistic boundaries without causing characters to become jarringly off model. In the heat of battle, the animators momentarily reduce characters to line art for dramatic effect and to increase the scene’s intensity.

Fans always recognize the shōnen genre for its stellar animation. Much of the animation in Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z holds up spectacularly well considering it’s decades old. Likewise, Mob Psycho 100s style is still one of the most creative and expressive in the entire medium. While it’s too soon to tell how Black Clover’s animation will stack up in the long run, so far it has done a great job utilizing its animation to its fullest.

Fun and Interesting World

black clover shonen anime characters running
At the very least, 'Black Clover' has the potential to tell a great story.

Black Clover wears its Naruto influences on its sleeve, and there are plenty of them. Much like Naruto, Black Clover has characters with unique and creative powers that tie into their personalities, a world full of warring factions and nations, and an interesting universe with a culture based almost entirely around supernatural abilities.

Similarly, Black Clover reveals a compelling world that begs exploration. Shōnen anime offers a space for creators to imagine adventures that are bound solely by the extent of their budget or the kind of story that they want to tell. Like many of its predecessors, Black Clover presents a world of boundless potential that entices fans with almost any kind of anecdotal adventure.

Major Pacing Problems

The first few episodes just crawl along.

Black Clover takes an absurdly long time to get to the meat of its story. Its pacing is perhaps the worst of any modern shōnen anime. It takes three, 20-minute episodes to get to what happens in the second chapter of Black Clover’s manga. Moreover, episodes two and three primarily consist of filler material that that does not add much to the story or the lead characters Asta and Yuno.

The “Big Three” shōnen anime – One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach – are also notorious for their pacing problems. One Piece’s story pacing is slowed dramatically whenever it starts to catch up to its source material. Naruto had a few stretches when it was releasing more filler content in a year than cannon material. And Bleach interrupted some of its most climactic moments for several episodes of filler.

While some shōnen anime has broken away from this practice – such as the fantastically paced My Hero AcademiaBlack Clover is keeping this frustrating tradition alive.

Poor Portrayal and Treatment of Women

Shōnen anime has a bad habit of under or poorly representing women. When female characters do play a central role in a story, they are usually underdeveloped, overly sexualized, and/or defined by their relationship with the lead male characters. While there are exceptions to this – such as the yet to be animated Joylene from JoJo’s part six – the genre still has a long way to go in being a place where readers from all walks of life can find a character that they can see themselves in.

In Black Clover, Asta hounds the nun in the church he grew up in to marry him. She, being a nun, obviously refuses him after each of his proposals. This comes off as really aggressive as the show goes on and makes it seem like Asta cares very little about what the supposed love of his life wants. This turns Asta from a character that viewers can root for into a kind of stalker. As a result, this is one of the worst male/female romantic relationship dynamics portrayed in the genre.

Black Clover and Shōnen Anime

A middling and interesting series.

Black Clover is a pretty middle-of-the-road anime that is only occasionally offensively bad. This means it struggles to compete with the other amazing titles in the genre. Perhaps if shows like Black Clover can overcome its weaker points, shōnen anime can move past its deep-seated problems.

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Lucas DeRuyter
University of Wisconsin Madison graduate with a deep interest in media, writing, and storytelling.