Abandoned on the steps of a church as an infant, along with another child named Yuno, spiky-haired Asta vows that he will take up the helm of the Wizard King—a title originally given to a gifted magician who led an army of magical knights to defend their land. Since then, generations of Wizard Kings have risen from the ranks of the most naturally talented in their mystical arts. Unfortunately, Asta has zero magic.
On one day each year, children who have reached age 15 gather to accept their grimoires, books that will help them shape their abilities. Asta is sure that his stunted talent will finally surface on this day. While Asta is the only child to receive no grimoire, his talented brother and rival Yuno receives an extra powerful one which holds a four leaf clover—the mark of the Magician King—within its pages. Down but not out, Asta refuses to accept defeat. When a jealous magic user attacks Yuno, Asta finally receives his grimoire, complete with a magical weapon which cuts and repels magic. But there is another bonus: hidden within the pages of Asta’s book is a five leaf clover—the mark of the devil.
When Yuno and Asta join the Magic Knights, they are separated and respectively sorted into the best and most ragtag squads. Asta’s squad, the Black Bulls, are a group of rejects and a lively bunch, if a bit stereotypical for shounen manga. There’s a woman who lounges around in her bra and panties; a tough dude who is little sister-obsessed; and then there is Magna Swin: a cool-looking wizard with a wild bi-colored mohawk and sunglasses. Asta’s fellow Black Bulls recruit is Noelle Silva, a disgraced princess who is unable to control her potent magic. Silver-pigtailed Noelle is initially cold towards Asta, about whom we constantly hear snickers based on his and Yuno’s origin in “the boonies” or “the sticks.” Nevertheless, a very abbreviated episode seems to clear up all of Noelle’s animosity.
Asta’s character design, along with his frequent vows to become the Wizard King, will call to mind a manga hero whose legend has recently ended. Indeed, the parallels between Black Clover and Naruto are endless. From the stone monument of the first Wizard King to Asta’s motor-mouthed remarks on his bodily functions and inability to get a date, there is no doubt that this series was picked up by Shounen Jump to fill the void left by our yellow-haired avatar of the nine-tailed fox. However, unlike Naruto’s rival Uchiha Sasuke, Yuno seems to have genuine and immediate affection for Asta. The two grew up together and agreed that one of them would become the Wizard King someday.
Obvious comparisons to other shounen titles aside, Black Clover doesn’t disappoint with its fight scenes; frantic line work and speech bubbles filled with gritty fonts adorn each one. To be sure, this debut volume packs lots of action into its pages, and while it’s not the most original, Black Clover will have a built-in audience. Who knows? Maybe as Asta’s journey continues, the world in which he lives will develop beyond the well-traveled roads of this genre.
Black Clover, vol. 1
by Yuki Tabata
Publisher Age Rating: Teen