Archives for July 2016

Black Clover, Vol. 1

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.

Shojo Beat Quick Takes – My Love Story!! 9 and Honey So Sweet 3

My Love Story!! and Honey So Sweet both feature heroines in love with unconventional boyfriends who are viewed by society based on harsh exteriors when they are incredibly nice on the inside. While both series have a similar vibe, My Love Story!! is a bit more broadly comedic, and as fitting with the title, Honey So Sweet is a bit more sweet and simple. Both of these series are dealing with a similar plot point in these volumes, the random dude with a crush on the girl in an established relationship, so I thought it would be fun to look at both series.

Honey So Sweet Volume 3 by Amu Meguro

There were hints of things getting derailed a bit in the last volume when mysterious new boy Futami shows up and rapidly befriends Onise, but he turns into a full-blown frenemy in this volume. Futami starts inserting himself in Taiga and Nao’s relationship, flirting with Nao, and just generally being just on the edge of skeevy, always with an excuse or a habit of brushing off his comments as jokes. The school is also distracted with an upcoming sports festival.

One of the productive ways that Onise deals with the situation is sitting down and talking with Sou about his feelings. Sou tells Onise that he needs to work on his self confidence, and he can’t ignore Nao’s feelings in the situation either. Nao seems to like Futami but is also uncomfortable around him. She’s also wanting to get along with Onise’s new friend.

Onise ends up sending Futami a formal invitation to duel, but the duel ends up with Onise just talking with Futami very frankly. Futami ends up revealing some of the insecurity he’s been dealing with too, and he actually ends up being somewhat sympathetic. While there are some continued live triangle complications ahead, I would be very surprised if Onise and Nao get separated. The core of this manga is exploring how a relationship can turn a couple with some emotional issues into better human beings. Even though there are some typical plot elements like a school festival and love triangle, Honey So Sweet portrays all these events with some emotional depth and delicacy, making it a refreshing read.


My Love Story!! Volume 9 by Kazune Kawahara and Aruko

In contrast, My Love Story!! is equally sweet, but it explores love triangle plot points with broad comedy. Yamato gets a job working at a pastry shop, and chef Ichinose decides that she’s his muse. Yamato keeps enjoying sweet treats, but she likes bringing them to Takeo even more. Takeo is in the grips of an insecurity attack, spending time staring out at the beach with his feelings in turmoil. While Suna encourages Takeo to not worry, his observational powers see Ichinose staring when Takeo visits Yamato at work. When Yamato cheerfully tells Ichinose that Takeo is her boyfriend, he runs out of the bakery to tell Takeo to break up with her, yelling that she’d be way better off with him. Ichinose suggests that Takeo date a bear instead, because they’d have more in common, but Takeo calmly says that he’s not going to break up with his girlfriend. Ichinose vows to not let Takeo win and stalks off.


One of the things I like about this series is that everyone wears their emotions on their sleeves. There’s never any doubt about what someone might be feeling at any particular time, even if this results in some ridiculous confrontations between nebbishy pastry chefs and giant high school boys. Ichinose clearly has placed Yamato on an unrealistic pedestal, assuming that she’ll be able to help him win a competitive baking contest, even though her skills aren’t up to a professional standard yet. Yamato is a bit oblivious, enjoying her new job and still clearly only in love with Takeo. The contrast between Ichinose’s thoughts and Yamato’s straightforward comments about her boyfriend and her love of sweets is hilarious. As Takeo works through his episode of insecurity, he becomes more resolute than ever about the future of his relationship.

It was fun to contrast the way both of these volumes tackled similar plot points. Honey So Sweet was more subtle and emotional, while the comedy of My Love Story!! allowed it to explore similar issues of insecurity and relationship testing with more over the top emotional reactions. Both of these series are thoroughly enjoyable, in part because even though the main couples in them might be tested from time to time, the strength of the relationships make the reader secure about a good outcome even if an ending isn’t yet in sight.