Amidst major announcements at the Jump Festa 2022, one fandom went home disappointed: the Black Clover fandom.
Ever since the anime went on an indefinite hiatus, fans have received no news about the supposed movie except two key visuals.
This development, or lack thereof, was just another blow for the fans of Black Clover – a series that seems to be going through a rough patch.
And that too, when it is at the precipice of one of the most anticipated arcs: the Spade Kingdom arc.
However, does the issue lie in this arc itself? Before we look for an answer, let’s talk about some numbers.
Figuring out some figures
There is no question that the shounen space has always experienced incredible competition. However, this space is even more saturated right now, with series like Jujutsu Kaisen, Demon Slayer, and Tokyo Revengers racing at the top.
Even series like Haikyuu!! have done well on the manga sales charts in 2021. Unfortunately enough, with the growing media visibility of its competitors, Black Clover has failed to garner sales figures to even end up in the Top 10 Oricon Sales.
In fact, the steady decline Black Clover’s manga is facing might just be a concerning issue for the creator.
Despite trending when the anime began with it, the current arc seems to have missed the mark it aimed for.
One might argue that such is the experience of long-running series, but Black Clover is only 300 chapters in.
And it only began with its recent arc, introducing a range of new characters. As a fan myself, I was certainly excited for another fantastic arc – something that would beat the Elves vs. Humans arc.
But it seems that Tabata-sensei is on a different plane of thought than the fans. The decreasing manga sales might just be an indicator that the current arc poses quite a few problems that may well be beyond fixing now.
Of course, we can’t say for sure, but from a layman’s perspective, it does seem so.
Expectations vs. reality of the Spade Kingdom arc
Rewind time? Rewind time. As fans, we had our expectations from the Spade Kingdom arc. They might not have been very concrete, but most of them were rooted in how the arc was positioned.
The Elves vs. Humans arc had reflected themes like racism and set the bar quite high for enjoyment and action.
Hence, after a ton of filler episodes and a whole training arc in the anime, the Spade Kingdom had the positioning of a significant arc.
It would not just bring character development but also bring in a plethora of new characters to facilitate the story.
The introduction of devils and the waste they could bring to the world set up the next antagonists of the story.
Honestly, we thought that the existing characters could grow only so much in such a short time. This arc was only meant to set things into motion from an otherwise stagnant plot.
The anime had entered its hiatus, and even more people turned towards reading the manga. Naturally, manga sales followed; Black Clover appeared quite a few times in the Top 10 weekly sales.
The high point that the anime had left on had worked its magic.
Sadly, though, this trend did not follow. Black Clover’s audience waned with every week. Many people took to Twitter to speak about shorter chapters with multiple double spreads.
The Spade Kingdom arc WAS becoming a major arc, but in a way that nobody had predicted.
It almost felt at times like Tabata was setting up this to be the final, or well, penultimate arc due to various reasons.
One of them is the pacing. As readers, we expected gradual developments with hints at what was coming.
I mean, that was how the previous big arc had gone. However, the arc picked up an incredible pace, leaving little to imagination or speculation.
Despite having a fabulous opportunity to delve into the contrasting morals and ethics of the Dark and Light Triads*, the arc fell flat in terms of depth.
Earlier, it seemed that the blinding speed was due to the anime catching up to the story pretty quickly.
I think I speak for the fandom when I say we believed it was a good decision to get back on production when more chapters are in tow. It would be best for Tabata to take it easy for a while and hone his story to perfection.
But the same was not reflected even 15 chapters post the break. Eventually, it seemed like the Spade Kingdom was going along as another introductory arc as if the mangaka just wanted it to be done with.
Well, not until we got hit with those back-to-back power-ups.
*Light Triad is how a number of fans refer to Asta, Noelle, and Yuno.
Power-ups are great but…
Not when they come at the cost of plot points. Sure, I was looking forward to seeing my favorite characters go through experiences and training to become stronger.
Since the start, Tabata has linked power and character developments. In this arc, too, he followed through this like Noelle getting Undine – but only to some extent.
Everyone in the story suddenly got incredible power-ups, most of it behind the scenes. And they were incessant: with every fight, we came to know some hasty developments.
This pattern got repetitive at some point, and some characters quite quickly became overloaded with powers. You probably would have guessed it, but the first one who comes to mind is Yuno with his two grimoires.
Not only that, these boosts completely toppled the barely established power scaling. We get wild cards, but too many wild cards are just too much a good thing.
More or less, the necessity to beat overly strong antagonists – something that the cast was not ready for just yet – took the foreground.
The significant plot points and character development lurked at the periphery, getting to shine only a few panels.
Last I remember, Tabata used powers to substantiate the plot, rather the other way round.
Moreover, other than a couple of characters, the rest could only hope to get the limelight – something I had spoken about earlier as well. That brings me to my next point:
Too many questions, too little answers
There are just too many questions awaiting their answers from this arc itself, let alone earlier.
As a general reader, we expect the developments in the story to answer previously existing questions or even take a step in that direction.
I was pretty excited to see Dorothy in action, for example, and finally see how powerful Dream Magic is right now. However, the story unnecessarily skipped to the end of her fight against Morris.
Dream Magic is practically only one of the many magic types still under question, by the way. Let’s talk about other things, then, if one cannot possibly detail all magic types. Not the ideal scenario, though.
How did Lotus reach the Spade Kingdom? We got part of his back story but not his reason for being there. And who is Mapusa, tagging along with Sally and others?
These might just be questioning some logical things. But what about the Dark Triad literally sneaking in a colossal demon in the Clover Kingdom? Or even waking it up? How did that happen?
And how did Vanica even surpass the nightmarishly high security of the Heart Kingdom? There’s much to ponder but nothing to speculate upon, which is perhaps the biggest problem.
While moving forward with the robust pace, the story has missed addressing some of these nagging questions. Now, I’m a fan myself but if a story ignores such fundamental questions for too long, it’s refusing to establish some vital foundation.
I could go on and on, but you get the gist. Lastly:
Does Black Clover have a future?
As a loyal fan of Black Clover writing this, I want to believe it does. I refuse to think that we are witnessing the precipitous downfall of one of my favorite series.
However, as the writer of this article, I had to sit back and wonder what the plot looked like after the current arc. And sadly, it doesn’t look that promising.
I had thought that this arc would end with a few low-ranking devils from the Tree of Qliphoth coming out. Hell (pun intended, I suppose), I had even anticipated Megicula’s appearance.
The characters would defeat these devils, and Lucifero would forewarn a future appearance. With a new determination to defeat the biggest threat, the reunited brothers would perhaps train and explore the world.
A win-win, right?
Well, things didn’t go down that way and Lucifero has almost manifested. For a split second, I thought this is game over for everyone, but who was I kidding – this is Black Clover.
Instead of turning into a really grim situation, we’re probably going to see the power of the combined forces. Happy ending.
See, I am a sucker for the serotonin Black Clover gives me. I love happy endings with my favorite characters. But not like this. It just does not make any sense.
Most of the characters – especially the main three – have already achieved the highest skill they could. They only need to hone these until perfection.
However, this would be extremely monotonous to experience. Even if the characters face new challenges they already have defeated a whole bunch of devils. What could possibly stop them?
I’d rather a darker situation to this then, where these characters actually find something to do.
There are certainly many things Tabata is yet to explore and I’m aware of that: Yami’s homeland and other countries, angels, and Gods(?) among other things.
But even if the plot does move forward, the characters have already become static to a great extent. Hence, it scares me to think that this might be the final arc, or we will go into some weird time skip next-generation stuff.
That would seriously suck. In the end, Black Clover has had its ups and downs. As long as the mangaka is happy and we get a good story, it doesn’t matter a lot.
However, at this point, anything in the future is looking bleak. None of us can figure out which bullet train Tabata-sensei has to catch. In fact, this rush is highly reminiscent of the unofficial reasons why Kubo Tite had to end Bleach earlier.
It’s said that the studio, uhm Pierrot at that heh, forced him to end Bleach quickly because the manga sales were dropping in comparison to Naruto and One Piece.
Right now, we can just hope this whirlwind speed does not take away Black Clover’s essence with it.
What are your thoughts on this? Do let us know in the comments!