I think the best way to describe Hajime Komoto’s Mashle: Magic and Muscles is that it’s basically the main character from One Punch Man as a teenager attending Hogwarts.
In a world where magic is everywhere and you’re status is determined by your magical aptitude, any person born without any magic is ostracized and considered a liability to the community. Magical police will even forcibly expel any people discovered to have no magical talent from society in order to protect the gene pool.
Mash is one such magic-less individual and, in order to protect him, his father has raised him in isolation in the forest for his entire life. There, Mash has devoted all of his time to physically training his body, consequently developing a crazy level of strength and agility that essentially makes him super human. Even when he’s discovered by the magical police, he’s easily able to defend himself. That’s when the officer who’d been attempting to arrest him proposes an unorthodox plan. He tells Mash to enroll at Magic School and achieve the title of Divine Visionary, a student who is held up as the best that society has to offer. If he can do that, than people would have to accept him, and maybe he’ll even be able to bring about reform that will change the world for the better!
Mashle is a series with essentially one joke that feels like it should get old very fast, but I found myself laughing pretty much the whole way through this volume anyway.
The humor is pretty straightforward. Mash will be presented with a challenger or task that should be impossible for a regular person to overcome, and then he’ll just punch his way through it no problem while everyone around him freaks out or is stunned into stupefied silence. It’s, admittedly, a bit formulaic, but Komoto’s comedically simple and silly art-style manages to make this same punchline funny just about every time. The art actually reminds me a lot of Mob Psycho 100 and, while I think some people might not find it appealing, I think it adds a lot to humor.
One of the other things that helps keep the manga from getting dull, despite essentially telling the same joke over and over, is that Mash is kind of an idiot and his blasé attitude and complete lack of tact are pretty consistently hilarious.
I enjoyed watching Mash fumble his way through trying to play Duelo (which is basically Quidditch) despite not being able to fly on a broom and deal with uppity bullies with indiscriminate violence.
The irresponsible principal of the magic school (who’s basically Dumbledore) was also very funny to me, as he ends up recruiting Mash into his quest to try and reform society to be more equitable, and he seems willing to let Mash get away with just about anything if it suits his goals.
One downside to the story, however, is that the plot is a bit weak. Mash is only at Magic School trying to become a Divine Visionary because someone told him to do it and he’s very suggestable.
He doesn’t seem very motivated to get anything done, and it’s not clear that achieving his goal is even really necessary for him to live a normal life, as all he needs to do to disguise the fact that he doesn’t have magic is draw a line on his face. The lack of any real drive on Mash’s part or clear stakes to his quest leaves the story without a lot of forward momentum. Since this is a comedy manga that’s mostly focused on getting laughs, this isn’t a huge flaw at this point, but I could see it becoming an issue down the road if the jokes start to become stale and there’s nothing else going on to hold the readers attention. The principal seems to have a clearer vision of how Mash can use his abilities to better society, so perhaps that will lead somewhere interesting in future volumes. I certainly hope so, as I would hate for the story to stagnate.
Mashle: Magic and Muscles is a fun read and something I’d say Harry Potter fans should definitely check out. I could see the humor potentially starting to get old, if the story doesn’t start moving in more interesting directions, but I enjoyed this first volume enough that I plan to keep reading and see where things go.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Viz Media’s website.
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