I’m not up to date on many Weekly Shonen Jump comics, but I enjoy what I’ve read in collected volumes. The Promised Neverland is one of my favorite manga, and My Hero Academia is also consistently good. I’ve never read Yuki Tabata’s Black Clover before, but given Jump‘s solid track record I decided to give the series a chance. Its latest installment to come out in America, Vol. 11, contains chapters 91-100. Is it good?
My favorite aspect of this volume is probably its artwork. Most of Tabata’s line-work is quite clean, and there’s a clear sense of flow and movement to the action scenes. There is also a pleasing level of detail to some of the volume’s backgrounds, particularly when Tabata is depicting the natural world. I’m always a sucker for lovingly rendered trees, grass, and the like. Some of the battles don’t have this same level of detail in their backgrounds, but the characters are well-drawn enough to mostly make up for this. Tabata’s characters are very emotive, and their facial expressions stand out both in moments of joy and in moments of scenery-chewing. The villain Ladros makes some particularly amusing over-the-top faces when he’s insulting the protagonists.
Tabata’s character designs are also noteworthy; they help significantly with making the characters endearing. My favorite design belongs to the Queen of Witches; she’s so over-the-top and obviously evil that I get a kick out of just seeing her on the page. I also love Mars’s design due to the rock-like texture of his hair. Thankfully, the designs aren’t all there is to appreciate about Black Clover’s characters. Tabata keeps all of their personalities consistent, and most of them are likable. Asta in particular is easy to root for, as he’s a protagonist who seems to legitimately care about everyone around him. Ladros is also fun to read about, even if (or perhaps because) he chews the scenery a lot.
With all that said, this volume still has some significant flaws that prevent me from loving it. While the characters are likable, none of them have much depth. I haven’t read any of the series’s previous installments, so it’s possible that Tabata fleshed the cast out more prior to this, but there’s not much character growth to see here. There are also some characters who are very flat, and who don’t have the redeeming personalities or quirks that help Asta and Mars stay likable despite their lack of development. I also had a hard time conceptualizing what was at stake in this volume. It was clear who was fighting who, but I never felt invested enough in any of the characters to have strong feelings about who came out triumphant.
Overall, Black Clover Vol. 11 isn’t bad. It features solid artwork, impressive designs, and characters who are likable though relatively undeveloped. Unfortunately, that lack of development makes it difficult to become invested in the plot, which doesn’t stand out much from other shonen manga. I’m intrigued enough that I might check out future volumes, but I’m not impressed enough to rush out and buy all the series’ previous installments immediately.