Image source: テレビアニメ「ブラッククローバー」公式 on Twitter
The first episode of new anime series Black Clover felt very familiar to me. And then it hit me: this episode is a lot like the beginning of Naruto.
In Black Clover, two orphan brothers named Asta and Yuna live in a world where everyone can use magic; everyone except Asta. Despite this, Asta dreams of becoming the most powerful magic user in the world. Luckily, it turns out Asta might be more powerful than even he realizes.
When we start any new anime series, if the first episode doesn’t hook you, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be interested in the series. Black Clover, though, uses many tried and true storytelling methods to grab the viewers. In fact, when you watch the episode, you can’t help but be reminded of the beginning of the hit anime series Naruto. While it’s partially from the large aspirations of the main character, more of it has to do with the story beats in the episode.
With Black Clover, the first thing we learn about the protagonist, Asta, is that he can’t use magic. This is detrimental to him because, in this world, magic is key to surviving. Yet, Asta believes he’ll be rewarded through his hard work. We see this in his immense physical training, spending hours perfecting his body. In spite of this, when he should receive a magical tome that’ll increase his latent magical potential, he doesn’t get one. Here’s the interesting thing about this moment in the episode; it’s actually setting us up for a final act “twist.” Remember, Asta is the hero of the series. But, there wouldn’t be much of a story if he doesn’t step up to a challenge. In the case of the first episode, it’s, “How will he become the strongest wizard if he has no magical power?” This creates anticipation for us because, in our core, we know there has to be more to Asta. And when the moment comes when Asta finally reveals his true power at the end of the episode, we’re satisfied because we’ve become invested in him.
This makes Asta’s story in the first episode similar to the protagonist of other anime series like Naruto from Naruto in that we have a general screw-up with big dreams. Think back to the first episode of Naruto. The hero, Naruto, is essentially a failure as a student and ninja. He can’t perform some of the basic ninja techniques and the one he’s really good at is nothing but an erotic joke. Over the course of the episode, though, we find that Naruto isn’t a failure because he’s lazy; he absolutely tries his best, but that’s not enough. So, when push comes to shove, we’re shown that Naruto has latent powers and we’ve grown to love him as a character.
It’s not a coincidence that both series’ first episodes are structured this way. The specific reason is that we want to see the heroes overcome adversity and see almost everything the hero has to offer. But, if that adversity or core character concepts are given to us further into the series, it doesn’t capture the audience’s attention. So, we’re given the initial hurdle of the protagonist being worthless in the eyes of his comrades—he’s horrendously underpowered and it’s how he deals with it that is important.
With Naruto, it’s being a failure of a ninja, clowning around, and secretly training hard. For Asta, it’s having no magical power in a world where having it’s the norm, having a bright personality, and secretly training hard. And seeing this reinforces why we want to see these characters succeed, or at the very least, have their hard work recognized. Thus, a story in the first episode where our hero shows they can conquer that first hurdle of not being worthless.
The first episodes of Black Clover and Naruto may be structured very similarly but, that’s really good at getting us invested in the characters. And so it’s no surprise that I, for one, want to watch more of Black Clover.
Black Clover is streaming on Crunchyroll.