Manga Review: Mashle – Magic and Muscles by Hajime Kōmoto

Mashle – Magic and Muscles (Henceforth shortened to just Mashle) first hit my public radar with the launch of the collected chapters here in Italy. When I read the premise in Wiki, I wrote it off as a Harry Potter knockoff. That was a mistake because while Mashle is a parody of Harry Potter, Mash Burndead is more closely related to Goku than he is to JK Rowling’s now massively saturated franchise. (Bee tee dubs: I’ll be referencing Dragonball a lot for this review.) What’s more, Mash Burndead proves over and over that while he’s lacking in the brains department, he has so much heart power that even his enemies are eventually swayed by his convictions.

So, let’s set the stage with some minor spoilers from the first chapter. Mash Burndead is a person without magic in a world where everyone has an affinity for it to some degree. This is because people born without magic are killed at birth. But Mash was found abandoned by a magicless hermit in a forest and hidden away from the world. His Pops began training him to be at peak physical condition in case he needed to defend himself, and as the story opens, teenage Mash’s workout routine is…it’s a lot.

After finishing his staggeringly impressive morning workout, Mash decides to go into town to buy cream puffs, where he is identified as someone lacking magic. When a detective shows up at Pops’ cottage to deal with him, Mash simply swats away his spells. Impressed by his level of physical strength, the detective suggests that if Mash wants to keep himself and his Pops safe, he will enter magic school and become the Divine Visionary, an honor bestowed upon one student every year for being the most powerful magic user. The detective’s logic is that if Mash can reach this hallowed peak in the wizard world, everyone will have to accept him. And so hilarious hijinks ensue.

The comedy is what initially pulled me through binge reading the first chapters, waiting through the smaller chuckles to get to the one really hilarious punchline. (Sometimes even involving an actual punch as their punctuation…punchuation? I digress.) Mash passes his first entrance exam by literally intimidating a magic spell into compliance. He makes it into the school and soon makes friends with Finn Raymes and Dot Barrett. Finn is very much a Ronald Weasley  mixed with Krillin. He’s the only one who can see Mash move at superhuman speeds, so as the villains of each chapter ask “How is he beating me?” Finn is narrating internally how each trick was accomplished.

Meanwhile Dot has no Harry Potter equivalent, but he is a bit like Piccolo. At first a rival to Mash, Dot hates all “pretty boys” because they are hoarding all the ladies. (Compared to the school’s many truly pretty boys, Mash is kinda plain.) Dot wants to see himself as the main character of the story, but can’t escape his place as a sidekick and so eventually accepts it. Normally he’s not that powerful, but when motivated by the right emotion, his power level can spike to challenge enemies normally way above his pay grade. You know, like Piccolo.

There’s so many other characters I could gush about, but they’re all spoilers that should be enjoyed as they arrive. What’s important to note is how each new arrival is dismissive of Mash until he trounces them. Then he either helps pick them up off the ground, or when another magic user tries to exterminate them, Mash trashes that new arrival, AND THEN helps pick up the wizard they just saved. And that kind of heroism blows each character’s mind. Even if they were just bad mouthing him, he has such respect for them and their point of view that he ends up converting them to his team. You know, like Goku does with so many of his enemies.

I’m up to chapter 100 of 170, and by that point, Mash’s origins have already been revealed, and it’s a nifty twist indeed. Also, at these later chapters, every threat has reached the point that Mash is being genuinely tested rather than treating the fights as an endless cake walk. Because I’m binging this, I expect to reach the current chapter in a few days, at which point, I’ll be forced to read chapters as they come out, and man, that’s gonna be some low-level torture, for sure.

The art style is somewhat similar to One Punch Man, in that lots of scenes are very detailed and dynamic until some point when Mash has a simpleton moment, and the artist plays up his dumbness by simplifying all the details around him. It’s cute, and adds a lot of charm to the jokes in these moments.

I give Mashle – Magic and Muscles an enthusiastic 5 stars, and I would recommend it to fans of superhero comics who like a bit of levity blended in with their boss fights and drama. I really want to gush more about all the characters and the best fights, but again, that’s the kind of spoilers that would ruin both the action and the jokes. So get on Manga PLUS and add this to your favorites, or get them in the collected print versions. Either way, it’s a great story with plenty of surprises in store.