Warning: This review includes major plot spoilers.
The sixteenth volume of Black Clover is a real turning point for the series. It marks the beginning of the battle with the Eye of the Midnight Sun proper and a big change to the series as the focus moves away from the Black Bulls magic knight squad to the Royal Knights who were chosen in the last volume.
The last volume ended with Henry, the hidden member of the Black Bulls, literally bringing their base to life to join the fight against the Eye of the Midnight Sun, and in this volume we get to see it in action. It’s quite the visual on the page and a fight between a building and a giant slime lizard is one of the more unique things I’ve ever seen in an action manga; it almost feels like the third act of an episode of Super Sentai.
After that relatively short fight, though, things start to change very quickly. There was a little foreshadowing of this, but we learn that Golden Dawn Captain William Vangeance is the leader of the Eye of the Midnight Sun. Kind of. You see, Vangeance shares his body with the soul of Licht, a long-dead elf, and being unable to choose between Licht and his friend Julius, the Wizard King, he allows Licht to take him over and fight Julius to the death.
I liked the fight between Julius and Licht a lot. You’d have to be pretty impressive to be the Wizard King in a world with so many powerful wizards, and we find out the Julius has time magic and a grimoire with no beginning and no end. He proves to be very strong, much stronger than Licht. But Licht gains the upper hand by using his magic as a sort of weapon of mass destruction, forcing Julius to use his power to save untold thousands of people and leaving him open for Licht’s killing blow.
The problem is that even though this is a good scene and Tabata’s art is on point, it’s all a bit cliche. Everything is unfolding exactly the way you’d expect it to so far, right down to the parallels the book makes between Julius and Asta.
There’s another twist, though; while Yami is at Julius’s side as he dies, Licht has gathered the Eye of the Midnight Sun to execute his real plan now that he’s gathered all of the magic stones. His ritual returns the spirits of other dead elves to life in the bodies of the Eye of the Midnight Sun members and other people around the world seemingly at random, including members of the Royal Knights and other Magic Knight brigades.
Yeah, it’s that kind of arc. The good guys become bad guys and get a power-up. It’s an intriguing concept for future volumes because we get some more of the red vs. blue type battles we saw during the Royal Knight arc but this time it’s in a situation where it’s not a scrimmage. It also handcuffs the heroes because they won’t want to kill their enemies who are using the bodies of their friends in case they can be saved.
The weird thing about the arc starting here is that it feels like a final arc, but it can’t be. Black Clover is almost at the height of its popularity, the anime is doing really well and it’s only been about four years, which isn’t a long time for an action manga. But with the death of the Wizard King and the focus shifting to the Royal Knights… everything about this arc says “finale,” but I’m very sure it isn’t.