The first highly-anticipated film of “Black Clover” has finally arrived on Netflix! It brings an original script that unites the entire Magic Knights in Clover Kingdom against four former Wizard Kings who return to the present day to not protect, but demolish the Kingdom in order to build a utopia.
Black Clover is a manga authored by Tabata Yuki in Shueisha’s Weekly Shonen Jump magazine. Widely known as one of the faces of modern action-shonen series, the manga is pretty popular worldwide and finally received an anime series adaptation in 2016 by Studio Pierrot. The anime has 170 episodes in total, and currently, it is on hiatus.
Now while the series is on break, here comes “Black Clover: Mahou Tei no Ken” (Black Clover: Sword of The Wizard King) which is the first and so far only film adaptation of the Black Clover series. The movie lasts for 1 hour and 53 minutes, and it is also animated by Studio Pierrot. Originally set to release last March, it is finally released on June 16, 2023, not only in Japanese theaters but also on the global streaming platform Netflix.
While it is open to debate if the story is canon, this movie seems intended to take place during Black Bull’s training in the Heart Kingdom considering Asta’s outfit and more muscular appearance in the movie are just like after the series’ timeskip, and the fact that it is mentioned that Asta is dealing with the Devil Trial.
Overall, the movie can be said as 70% action and 30% story since the majority of it is filled with shining and explosive battle scenes. The story has the standard writing structure in many anime movies with the prologue coming first, followed by the first encounter with the villains and the protagonists suffering their first defeat, and concluded with shining and explosives final battles.
Due to the imbalanced proportion, it feels like there are tons of potential left hanging in the story and character development. It would have been nice if some durations of the movie are used to see things even more from the villains’ POV, or explain and show several shocking scenes that come out of nowhere because they happen off-screen.
The pacing itself feels a bit wacky since moments to dig deeper into information about new lore and characters exclusive to the movie are rushed for the sake of the super-long action sequences. It’s kind of surprising and weird to notice that the final sequence begins in the 60th minute which is the middle of the total movie duration, and ever since then, it gives total blockbuster actions back-to-back.
However, fans of this series will definitely enjoy the movie since the whole story also fits with the usual themes and scenarios given in the series. Moments like Asta never giving up, the characters charging their power-ups, and surprising help from comrades are integral parts of Black Clover’s plot (or even most shonen series), and it is inserted into the movie script pretty nicely.
Once again, fans of Black Clover will obviously rejoice to see this movie as nearly every single character in the series appears here, especially the key characters like Squad Captains and the whole Black Bull members. Well, they don’t just appear, but all of them at least have a line to speak and a moment to highlight their own power and uniqueness. We also get to see a few rival-friendship moments between Asta and Yuno during the whole movie.
And that’s including Nacht, which arguably is the most surprising appearance in this film considering he is a new character to the Black Bull that has not appeared yet in the original story at the moment. Added to the hiatus situation, it must be relieving to see the characters back on screen once again after two years.
Now aside from the hype and joy, the characters display the same usual characteristics from one to another. Their dialogues, traits, and powers show no new added layer to their characterization. While it is not an underwhelming factor, it would have been nice to see a little bit of a new side or tale for them, especially the Squad Captains and Julius who had a history with Conrad in the past.
Sadly, it is just another movie that falls in the category where the good and the bad guys are separated for the sake of the plot. There is nothing wrong with the protagonists since all they do must act noble and kind to save humanity, but the antagonists? Aside from Conrad Leto the main villain, the rest three villains are pretty bland with no real motives or reasons to act bad aside from “supporting the leader”.
Edward Avalache the 20th, Princia Funny Bunny the 11th, and Jester Galandros the 16th Wizard King may have different unique personalities and magic powers, but their existence in the story, especially Edward and Jester, is simply a plot device so every protagonist can have a decent amount of screentime and fight scenes.
Although it is a common practice that is also suffered by other anime movies and three of them are actually pretty cool, it still feels empty without a real purpose or heat for their presence in the overall story. Not to mention the power levels of the four villains are somewhat confusing, and the fact that they do not act like former leaders that should have had a connection to the Kingdom makes their existence even more irritating.
On the other hand, Conrad is the only “good” villain in the story not only because he has the most screen time compared to the others and his perfect ability to steal and store various magics, but also because his motive and backstory are elaborated along in the story.
Although we barely learn about the trigger of his evil change at the end of the movie, at least we can clearly tell his vision during his encounters with Asta, his pain and trauma that somehow relates to Asta, and his ambition to create his version of a world of equality and peace.
We all know that CGI is a common technology that can be found in nowadays anime. We also know that CGI most of the time equals eye-crushing visuals, but not in this movie, at least the majority of it. There are many shots and objects delivered using 3D models like the Kingdom walls, Princia’s pawns, Black Bull’s flying headquarters, or even Noelle’s giant Water Dragon, and while most of them can be seen obviously made in CGI, they blend pretty well with the 2Ds and other elements in the frames.
Aside from the CGI, it is also clear that Pierrot dedicated their energy and time to enhancing the sharpness of every character’s drawings which makes the movie’s visuals so bright, clean, and not-so-clanky unlike in the TV series. The choreography and fighting scenarios are also well-designed with an infinite amount of explosive magic battles that not only eye-pleasuring but sometimes even jaw-dropping.
VA & Soundtrack
All of the cast members from the series are called to reprise their roles in the movie, and it is obvious that there would be nothing wrong with their performances. Some people might even enjoy Asta’s voice because he does not shout a lot in this movie.
It goes to the same thing with the villains who first and probably only appear here. The four of them get the best voice actors to represent their roles, and they truly live up to the characters’ writings. Just in case you forgot who they are, here are the names of the antagonists’ voice actors:
- Toshihiko Seki as Conrad
- Hochu Otsuka as Edward
- Miyuki Sawashiro as Princia
- Fumiya Takahashi as Jester
For the soundtrack, frankly the movie’s theme song “Here I Stand” by K-pop boy group TREASURE does not live up to the expectation and mood of the film that is filled with raging battles and ambitious rebellious actions. However, most of the fans might be cheered up by the fact that the iconic first opening from the series “Haruka Mirai” by Kankaru Piero is played during the final battle, and it truly hypes up the ultimate clash between Asta against Conrad.
Black Clover: Sword of The Wizard King truly embodies the concept and identity of Black Clover that makes many people fall in love with the series. Although the antagonists are standard and the story left a lot of potential to be developed even more, this heavily action-oriented film brings joy and enjoyment to its viewers and fans with the villains’ grounded yet twisted goal and the explosive battles that please our eyes and involve many iconic characters in the series.
Overall Rating: 7/10