The Nun and the Scientist: Upside-Down Values in Black Clover

In Black Clover 33, “To Help Someone Someday”, Asta and two companions battle to rescue a group of children from the nefarious mages who seek to extract their magic. One of his allies is a fellow young Black Bull, Gauche; the other is the old nun who cares for many of the kids in that village, much as Sister Lily cared for the orphans of Asta’s hometown.

They square off against three enemies: two brothers who were tasked with the kidnapping, and a crazy scientist woman who is obsessed with dissecting Asta. As the fight unfolds, part of it evolves into a showdown between the scientist and the nun. Which raises the question…

Is this a “science vs. religion” stereotype?

While BC can be pretty stereotypical as a Shonen story—I did describe it once as “Naruto without ninjas”—that’s not the case here. If you were to make a list of values that our society tends to consider “good” (or “more desirable”) and “bad” (or “less desirable”), I’m betting it would include entries similar to these:

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Sally the Scientist

Good: Young, Sexy, Science

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Sister Hag

Bad: Old, Ugly, Celibate, Religion

Obviously, I’m oversimplifying here: If more than half of Americans are religious, then doubtless they don’t consider religion to be a bad thing. (I’m including Christianity in “religion” for simplicity’s sake: The “I’m not religious, I’m Christian” discussion can be had another day.) And yet, in the public forum, it is secularism (which is a-religious) that sets the default values and assumptions that people enter into conversation with. Similarly, the common assumption is that it’s better to be young than old: We can take a contrary position, but the fact that we will feel the need to justify it means we’ve already acknowledged that it is a contrary one.

Which makes it that much more delightful to watch Black Clover flip these values on their collective head. It’s the old, ugly, celibate nun who stands uncompromisingly on the side of good, and who (leading Asta and Gauche) delivers a curb-stomp beat-down to the young, bikini-flaunting scientist who wants to kidnap children, extract their magic, and dissect Asta.

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I’m pretty sure that’s not the official laboratory dress code.

 

The nun—I can’t remember her name, if it’s been given, as everyone just calls her “hag”—is obviously intended as a virtuous and religious character. (Whatever religion looks like in the Astaverse. It’s not really been explored, though clearly modeled on Roman Catholicism and/or Anglicanism.) In her youth, she was a magic knight herself, and good enough at her job to train up none other than Fuegoleon Vermillion. However, her experience in war opened her eyes to the fact that, as she puts it, in war it is always the weak who suffer, especially innocent children. So she retired from the knights and became a nun, serving in an orphanage. When the children of the town, including the orphans, are kidnapped, she sets out almost alone to save them. And later on, when Asta is staring down an enemy that, for once, even he is helpless against, she blocks the attack with her own body. It’s not clear yet whether she survives, but it is clear that death was a strong possibility when she acted. “No greater love” and you know the rest.

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Granny takes one for the team.

Based on what I’ve said so far, one might be pardoned for thinking that Black Clover is presenting a reactionary point of view: Old is good, new is bad; religion is good, science is bad; etc. In fact, through the nun emphasizes the goodness of a balanced “both/and” outlook on reality. She gave up fighting to become a nun, but when the situation calls for fighting she has no trouble switching back into her old role. When her comrades ask whether she can help fight, she says that younger people have more mana, but older people have more efficient mastery of their mana. As the oldest person present, she also upholds most the value of the very young: teaching young Vermillion, dedicating her life to helping orphans, and risking everything to save the kidnapped children. She also tells Asta that in war, it is the weak who suffer, especially innocent children—and that is the very reason that made her become a nun instead of a warrior.

And while she doesn’t make her opinions on science explicit, no where does she give any indication that she objects to it. Her sole reason for fighting Sally (the mad scientist woman) is to protect children—and that she feels very strongly about, and doesn’t bother to hide it!

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I would have gone to Catholic school if I could have been taught by fire-bending nuns.

There’s still one “good/bad” pair that needs to be addressed. Since the nun overpowers the scientist, what about strength vs. weakness? Is power good and weakness bad?

Black Clover flips this over, too, in a couple of ways. For one thing, the nun herself insists on the value of the weak, especially children as mentioned above. For another—and we’re moving dangerously close to significant spoiler territory here—when the nun defeats Sally, a new and vastly more powerful enemy appears: Licht. Licht is nothing if not strong and evil.

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Licht-sama, Life of the Party

Licht easily thwarts Asta’s clumsy assault and then attacks him with blades of light, which the nun intercepts with her own body. Long lacking those things that the world holds valuable, and now deprived of most of her strength and life, what does the nun have left to her? Only that she has been on the side of good: she has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. She has laid down her life for her friend. And if Black Clover is right, that’s what matters most.

 

36 thoughts on “The Nun and the Scientist: Upside-Down Values in Black Clover

    1. I feel like it does have them, and it gets more hate than is merited. And once we get to the SPOILER! death of the Wizard King, I think the story really will pick up, as it did in the manga.

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        1. Heavens to bitsy, that guy is annoying! Fortunately, he did get a bit of background and character development FINALLY in the most recent episodes. We see why he’s so attached to her and get to watch him start caring about others, too.

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  1. This is also an especially rare setup to see in anime, actually! One of the downsides to anime versus other mediums is that Japanese culture seems obsessed with youth, to the point of portraying nuns as mostly young girls. (Granted there are of course actual young nuns in RL, but we see *only* just young girls as nuns or priests in some anime. And only middle-aged yet somehow still sexy women as their mentors.) Yet here we have a realistically portrayed old woman nun not only being awesome but also straightforwardly shown as morally good and just. And fighting, at that!

    It’s to the point where when I see an anime with mostly adult characters (ACCA, Kaiji), I’m not only shocked but somehow slightly more invested in what’s going on. Because I’m in the ‘adult’ ages now myself, and so the problems of the grown-ass adults ring more true to me these days. That said, I can still enjoy a rousing good anime or game mostly focused on the lives of kids (Persona 5), but it’s still good to see deviations from the standard.

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    1. I agree it seems that even America slips into admiring characters in their 20 or early thirties. Rarely do you see a show where the main character is middle aged and definitely not over fifty. That’s part of my problem with alot of movies.

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        1. Please tell me that wasn’t a reference to Twilight…. ;P. No one should ever speak of sparkly vampires. However I get what your saying. Wolverine’s Old Man Logan was cool but then again he’s like over 200 years old.

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          1. Haha, I was thinking more of characters like elves, fae/yokai, and the like which you are likely to see in anime. 😸

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            1. The only anime that I can remember watching like that was Noragami, he’s a god and a young looking guy but he’s hundreds of years old. Obviously there must be alot more Anime with examples but I don’t have a wide experience of Anime shows.

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              1. No worries! But if you want to watch more anime, I know a few people around here who might have some ideas about where to start!😸

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              2. I appreciate it, I feel like there are lots of suggestions and I’ve sampled a few but except for March comes in like a Lion and a bit of HunterXHunter I find that I’m rarely captured enough by most series that I look forward to them coming out. Hero Academia isn’t bad but I’m not like on my edge of my seat waiting for the next season. I find that lose momentum and interest

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              3. Well I’m into Fantasy, I’m mean that was the draw for Re:Zero and Outbreak Company but one is torturous reliving ( which I finished with no second season…yet), the other rife with comedy about otaku and Anime references that are lost on me. Record of Lodoss War and it’s sequel Grancrest hasn’t been that exciting. I’m a fan of space operas, less hard sci fi, more character driven scenarios. Burn Notice and Person of Interest were spies turned vigilantes. The first more a revenge/ investigation story the second slowly becoming a sci fi cautionary tale. However the whole point of me watching Anime is for a uniquely Japanese influenced story.

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              4. Sounds like your tastes run similarly to mine. 😺 I think my all time favorite anime is Gate, about a portal opening up between our world and a fantasy one in the middle of Tokyo. It’s not perfect and not for everyone, but it’s worth looking into if you haven’t yet. So is Log Horizon. Both have some otaku jokes, but they aren’t a main theme like Outbreak Company.

                On the space opera side of things, have you tried Star Blazers? The reboot, I mean, which is into its second season now.

                Back to fantasy: Restaurant to Another World is a neat show that relies more on its world building and characters than its plot, and I was fine with that.

                Do note that most of these have some prominent NSFW content, though Log Horizon and Star Blazers are pretty clean.

                Let me know if you’ve tried these or if you go ahead and do so. There’s more suggestions where those came from! 😺

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              5. Well I followed your advice and watched Restaurant to another World. I really enjoyed it! It was too short! There are some areas that could’ve been explored. Part of me wants to know what the chef does to stock food and how gold and silver coins get used in modern Japan, also what determines where the doors pop up? Also is it the Red Dragon causing the magic doors? Also what happens if a magical character gets caught behind the door or a Japanese customer somehow wanders into the restuarant and is surprised by it’s unusual customers. Also what happens if the Restaurant becomes too well known in Fantasy land?!! Or what happens if they run out of a specific food and improvise something? Sometimes I think the characters need to break up the monotony and try some variety of entrees The warmth of the series is great. I also want the Princess to get well…. I’m gonna try Gate, looks like my kind of series.

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              6. So glad you liked it! And wow, you watched the whole series today?? Yeah, I’d like more too! I think the light novel series is still continuing, as is the manga.

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              7. I try not to binge too often but I watched most of it last night and some this afternoon. I had trouble sleeping last night and I wasn’t feeling good today so I watched the series in it’s entirety . I doubt I’ll attack Gate with the same greediness. LOL

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              8. Gate : The death count of knights and medieval soldiers is so high , it’s World War I numbers all over again. Is there any males old enough to hold a sword left in the entire Empire? Talk about a massacre. It would’ve been more interesting if there was more resistance from the Empire, magical armor that were resistant( not impervious) to bullets and magic swords that cut through steel. Obviously it would still be lopsided. Still I feel like Gate wants us to cheer on Japan’s defense force. Even after they decimate a whole Calvary unit with explosives, was that necessary? Personally Japan’s willingness to exploit the Region for resources seems pretty low ethically, especially since there are already people living there. I kinda wish it was more like Star Gate, where the Gate was surrounded by a base operating(Japan side) without the public’s notice and with limited resources, trying to establish peaceful relations instead of claiming land on the non Japanese side of the gate…. Also it sure seemed like the government s response to the initial attack was a knee jerk reaction. Whoever is writing this sure wanted Itami on the other side of the gate toot sweet. Things escalated fast. Deciding to build an out post on the other side seemed pretty ambitious and not the usual caution one would have with an anomaly like the gate?

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              9. To each their own. 😺 When Gate is weak, it’s pretty weak; but when it’s great, it’s amazing.

                I liked the way the show jumped into the action quickly. They did take three months to prepare, including running reconnaissance missions on the far side of the gate, before sending in the main force (though you could’ve missed all that simply be blinking!).

                The author of Gate is a former JSDF member. On the plus side, that means he brings all kinds of accurate military details into the story, which I find fascinating. The downside is that he’s pretty extreme in his pro-JSDF and pro-Japanese bias. That didn’t really bother me, but to each their own.

                I liked Stargate. It’s a different story and personally I’m glad Gate doesn’t rehash the same stuff. Remember that Japan here is invaded, so of course their first priority is establishing a foothold to deny the enemy access to the gate. After that, they do try to establish peaceful relations with various groups on the other side.

                Not sure how far you got in the series yet, but one of the other BTT writers told me he thinks the second season is stronger than the first. I don’t know if I would quite put it that way, but I do like how the military action quickly takes second-place to the political action.

                I also like how there’s no cover-up around the gate. Nothing wrong with hiding something from the public as a story device, but that’s been done sooooo many times already.

                As far as the initial slaughter goes, we don’t really know what the population in that world is. And since some of the casualties are not human, it might not have as great an impact on the human population as you’d think. The humans are generally the top power in that world, being newcomers who enslaved the previous inhabitants; and the empire has been dominating its own human neighbors for 600 years. So now they’re getting a taste of their own medicine. One way to think of it is that the empire represents colonialism and imperialism as they’ve existed in history, while the JSDF represents an alternative model based on what Japan has learned following its defeat in WW2.

                I could go on, but I need to go to work. 😺 If Gate isn’t for you, that’s obviously fine. I’d just encourage you to give it a bit before you decide whether to give up on it.

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              10. I’m not saying I hate it. I just think the authors bias creates some definite blind spots and some areas of structural weaknesses in the narrative. I think it glosses over the negative impact of Japan’s forces and only focuses on the po

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              11. Oh, I see what you mean. Yeah, I totally agree. 😺 Thanks for giving my suggestions a try in any case!

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    2. Same here, Luminas. That was one of the reasons I really enjoyed Interviews with Monster Girls, too: The main character was an adult, surprisingly, which made for some unusual dynamics. I definitely can relate to these characters more. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. I read past this in the manga in the magazine. It’s an epic fight and the creepy girl I believe her name is Sally is quite creepy. I really like the old nun who wants to protect the kids.

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      1. Yeah I need to continue reading more in my magazine. I gotten past this fight and I am probably one of the few people is likes Black Clover. Even if it feels like Naruto, I like action series like this. The anime is also good too.

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        1. Right on. Don’t worry whether others like it if you see something enjoyable there. 😺 I think there are other points of inspiration in BC, but those will be the subject of a later post…

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