Black Clover Volume 1 by Yuki Tabata
Black Clover is an engaging action fantasy Shonen Jump manga, with plenty of comedy thrown in to liven things up. Like most shonen manga, it features a scrappy underdog hero. Orphan boy Asta dreams of becoming the Wizard King, the ultimate protector of his country. His enthusiasm isn’t hampered by reality, as he passionately proposes marriage to a nun in his home village, only to be refused for entirely sensible reasons. Asta’s boyhood companion is fellow orphan Yuno. Yuno is tall while Asta is short, and skilled in magic while Asta seems to have no abilities whatsoever. When children turn 15 they attend a ceremony where they are granted a magical grimoire that enhances their magical abilities. Yuno gets a lucky grimoire with a four leaf clover. Asta gets a beat up grimoire with a hidden five leaf clover.
I enjoyed the art in Black Clover, especially the level of detail in the supporting characters and in the backgrounds. The scene of grimoire distribution looked appropriately fantastic, with an almost infinite library of magical books stretching up to the ceiling, with books floating out to their new person. An early scene in the book provides some backstory to the manga, showing people laboring near a giant animal skull with three eye sockets.
It turns out that Asta has the power of anti-magic, and when this combines with his formidable physical training, he actually has a fighting chance when he has to face more skilled magical foes. Asta and Yuno return to see if they are going to be chosen to join a company of magical knights. Asta distinguishes himself with ease, and ends up getting chosen by the most desirable company, the Golden Dawn. Asta ends up in the company of misfits, the Black Bulls. This is where most of the character based comedy in the series gets set up, as Asta’s new companions include a perpetually drunken witch in a bikini, a odd man with a sister complex, a wizard who seems like a wanna-be biker, and a few more misfits. A probable new love interest is also included in the group, a noble girl named Noelle Silva who has fallen in with ignoble company because she can’t control her extremely powerful magic.
This was a extremely effective first volume, setting up the cast of characters and future conflict well, without ever weighing the reader down with too much exposition. There was a good mix of action scenes and comedy. Some of the characters and situations seem like pretty typical Shonen Jump people and plots, but I was entertained even though I tend to be unreasonably picky about shonen manga.