Studio Pierrot’s recent endeavor Black Clover was hyped up as the new Shonen show that everyone should be watching, even being advertised as the next Naruto. Unfortunately, what we got was a lot less impressive. The opening episodes have been uninspiring, and the main characters are a lot of the focus of this lack of enthusiasm.
Asta and Yuno have mostly been cookie-cutter shonen archetypes, with Asta filling the role of the young protagonist and Yuno being cast as his distant but driven rival. It certainly feels like Naruto in that sense, but not as well done.
For any shonen action series, it is important to carve out a unique identity that makes them stand out in the crowd. Hunter X Hunter did this by doing intricate world building and an interesting power system that didn’t rely on deus ex machina story turns whenever the writer put himself in a narrative corner.
So far, Black Clover is nothing but a borrowing of other shonen troupes and has done nothing new with its premise. This doesn’t mean that they can’t do something new and interesting. In fact, Black Clover has already hinted at something that would make them distinct in shonen stories: focusing on the character’s economic situation.
Black Clover’s setting is a rural village far from the kingdom’s capital or any urban area, with the people in the village just barely getting by. So far, it has been shown Yuno and Asta’s adopted father has to frequently ask for extra food or people will go hungry. There isn’t much infrastructure other than the church, and magic is the only way people are able to support themselves.
These parts of the setting and plot are emphasized heavily, and yet it seems as though the only time the show talks about it is when Asta brings up he’s an orphan. Beyond that, the show remains a typical shonen anime where the main character tries to take on the world and become the strongest. If Black Clover decided to use it’s set up to the full effect, the show could tell a compelling, underdog tale about Asta, the poor, underprivileged kid who rises out of poverty to achieve his goals.
Unfortunately, I have little reason to believe that the show will ever tap into that uniqueness. Black Clover is more than happy with bathing in cliche’s and coasting off the hype of the manga, and that’s a real shame, because this much potential shouldn’t be thrown out so easily.