How Black Clover Became the Spiritual Successor to Each of the Big Three
Black Clover has managed to become the successor to the Big Three in an all-in-one package that can’t be beat.
Starting in February 2015, Black Clover has since managed to become one of the biggest anime/manga franchises out there, with millions of fans worldwide. A large part of this probably stems from how it reminds viewers of older series that they also loved, while still managing to stand on its own as an original concept. Of the older series’ it’s reminiscent of, the main ones are the “Big Three” — namely, Naruto, Bleach and One Piece.
While some similarities with these shows have made viewers see it as purely derivative of what came before, this take on it seemingly ignores all the ways in which Black Clover has separated itself from its iconic predecessors. The inspiration taken from older shows might be fairly obvious, but thankfully, it never crosses the line into rip-off territory by consistently taking the story and characters in different directions. It is this blend of familiar and new ideas and twists on old ones that have gotten viewers hooked and made Black Clover a worthy successor to the Big Three as a whole.
Starting with the most obvious inspiration, it isn’t hard to see the resemblance between Black Clover and Naruto. Both feature a loud, young protagonist with a dark-haired rival brimming with talent. There’s even a monster that dwells within the main character that starts out evil but befriends him by the end.
First and foremost, the rivalry between Asta and Yuno is infinitely healthier than the rather toxic one found between Naruto and Sasuke. Unlike in the latter series, there is no hatred or animosity between Asta and Yuno, only love and respect. Both characters actively build the other up and act as inspiration as opposed to the insecurity-laden rivalry between Naruto and Sasuke.
Another thing worth pointing out is the female cast of Black Clover. Not only are many of the characters featured in the series women, but they are usually depicted as strong and powerful characters. This is especially true with Noelle Silva, who acts as the primary female protagonist of the series, much like Sakura Haruno did in Naruto. However, unlike Sakura, Noelle develops into a truly powerful and interesting character. Even in the beginning when she is portrayed as relatively weak, it’s only because she doesn’t yet know how to control her massive and overwhelming magic. In fact, Black Clover arguably subverts the common trope by having the protagonist have absolutely zero magical power at all while his female counterpart has more than she can control.
Stepping away from Naruto, Bleach would probably be the next closest member of the Big Three to compare Black Clover to. While throwing crazy twists with its villains is straight out of Bleach’s handbook, Asta and his devil Liebe’s relationship is also quite reminiscent of Ichigo’s with his Zanpakuto. Not only do they each empower their respective protagonists through swords that can emit a black power, but even their early dynamics are alike.
Early versions of both Zangetsu and Liebe are somewhat antagonistic, threatening Ichigo and Asta respectively with attempts at taking over their bodies. While the threats are real in both cases, they still choose to support and empower the protagonists and eventually fully befriend them after both Ichigo and Asta undergo an overwhelming defeat and gain insight into their origins and powers. The process is practically the same for both, but because this is where most of the similarities lie, Black Clover successfully avoids being derivative and instead offers a different take on its predecessor.
If there is a single thing that Black Clover incorporates from One Piece, it’s the amazing supporting cast. Since the beginning, the Straw Hat Pirates have been considered by many to be the ultimate team in anime/manga. This isn’t necessarily due to strength, but rather the quality of each character and their dynamics with one another, making them feel like a real family. Each character has a story and develops as the story itself progresses, making them important to the overall story, which is exactly what Black Clover has managed to do with the Black Bulls.
The Black Bulls likewise feel like a family. This is a magic guild made up of outcasts who would give their lives for one another. Many of the story’s arcs are dedicated to or feature moments that push not just Asta but also the rest of the Black Bulls forward. It’s not like in Bleach, where only the main character gets stronger. In Black Clover, all the Black Bulls matter, just like in One Piece. While this is a pretty big similarity between the two, this is largely where the similarities end — which is definitely for the best, as by only incorporating the family dynamic, Black Clover’s characters and plot get to stay wholly original.
It’s true that Black Clover shares a lot of things from the Big Three, but it’s important to see just how much it stands apart from them as well. While there are a lot of ways that Black Clover can be seen as derivative, that’s only at a cursory glance. Audiences who look more closely are treated to a wonderful series with a great plot, awesome fights and lovable characters. Black Clover takes the best things about what came before it and manages to incorporate this into a largely original package that just keeps getting better as the story progresses.