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“Mashle: Magic and Muscles” kicks off a good old-fashioned shonen arc

By June 7, 2023No Comments7 min read
Mashle Magic and Muscles

“Mash Burnedead and the Puppet Master” and “Mash Burnedead and the Wolves of Magic” kick off a good old-fashioned Shonen anime arc. At the end of Episode 6, Mash accidentally busted into a Lang Dorm gathering of the Magia Lupus, Lang’s elite squad of students led by Abel Walker. These two episodes make it clear that Mashle is past the opening stretch of the series, ready to move the narrative forward. The core group of lovable weirdos are established and the obstacles in Mash’s quest to become a Divine Visionary have been laid out. After the slight stumble of “Mash Burnedead and the Magic of Iron,” the latest episodes reinvigorate the series and bring a much-needed dose of energy.

The Magia Lupus Reveal Themselves

Fantasy stories love an early face-off. In “Mash Burnedead and the Puppet Master,” Mash’s early encounter with Abel Walker sets up a future confrontation and also provides an opportunity for a ridiculous Mash moment. After yet another struggle with a door, Mash barges into the creepy puppet lair of the Magia Lupus and is greeted with a Slytherin-esque monologue about superiority. Abel’s pontificating is completely lost on Mash, as he’s more concerned with keeping his gold coin and rescuing his former enemy Silva. We also get what’s becoming a classic Mashle moment, when an observer of one of Mash’s encounters recaps his craftiness. The Kirby maneuver that he uses to save his coin is the type of silly and over-the-top move that lands the best. It’s as beautifully unexpected as furiously kicking your legs in order to “fly”. There are countless anime series and other media about a guy who can punch really hard but I’ve never seen a guy use his incredible lung power to perform a sleight-of-hand trick.

After a brief exposition dump, and yet another broken door, the stage is set. The Magia Lupus like any self-respecting villainous organization is ranked in order of strength and power. The Sixth and Seventh Fangs ambush Mash and Lance and we have our first battles. In a series like Mashle, there are so many opportunities to create distinct characters and action moments. Olore Andrews and Anser Shinri aren’t the most memorable villains but they provide some fun moments in the way they interact with Mash and Lance. Olore’s water-based magic is a great way to have a hilarious background gag as Mash slowly but loudly drowns as they introduce themselves and confront Lance. Anser has a truly dumb magic power that is just “shuriken but very big” but I enjoyed the way his self-aggrandizing attitude manifested as basic facts presented as deep philosophical observations. Casting for the English dub is underway and I really hope they give Jaden Smith a call.

A fun One reason Mashle’s action is so engaging is the way it uses these fights to reveal character. The challenges that Mash and Lance encounter stem from their personalities. Lance can’t bring himself to endanger the owls and ends up allowing himself to be hurt until he can find a way to keep them out of it. It reinforces that he’s a big softy despite his reserved and somewhat icy demeanor. We’ve seen this before when he was willing to tutor Finn and Mash. In Mash’s case, his airheadedness causes him problems again when he forgets that he knows how to swim. Eventually, his muscle memory kicks in and he turns out to be an amazing swimmer and even seems to think that he can speak underwater.

In the end, neither Olore nor Shinri turn out to be much of a challenge but Mashle does give us a taste of future complications with the introduction of a mysterious character who claims to be “like Mash”. “Mash Burnedead and the Puppet Master” is a return to form that includes the types of gags and bits that were missing in “Mash Burnedead and the Magic of Iron”. 

One of the main strengths of Mashle has turned out to be sound editing and mixing. Mashle uses sound cues and even silence masterfully to punctuate comedic beats or to enhance a visual joke. The running bit of Mash aggressively exercising in random moments is helped tremendously by the repeated “smash-smash-smash” sound of him working out. These are the moments that make Mashle stand out from the crowd.

Mashle has yet to have an episode dedicated entirely to a fight and this approach has worked well for the most part. “Mashe Burnedead and the Wolves of Magic” spends the first half of the episode having the Adler crew bond before giving Dot his turn against the Magia Lupus. Mash began the series with his world centered solely on himself and his father and it’s nice to see him building up his friendships and even expanding his social circle to include Tom and the other students. It’s important to be invested in these characters for the series to have stakes that we care about. The group investigation at the top of the episode sets up a fun group dynamic so that we care when our heroes are split up at the end.

The Adler Crew Kicks Off their First Adventure

Mashle leans into the Harry Potter vibes for the first portion of the episode as Lemon brings Mash, Lance, and Dot to the infirmary and we discover that many students are being attacked and stripped of their magic. Poor Tom is a shell of his former energetic self and can barely manage to get his bamboo puns out. There are some fun moments seeing the Adler crew bounce off each other now that they’re all together and on the same team. Lance has settled into the role of team dad nicely. He gives Mash his Adler robes, leads the group as they skulk around the school after hours, and is concerned that Finn’s and Dot’s will ruin their investigation. Finn and Dot tag along having found a group of people that will accept them. Their interactions are great because they’re two sides of the same coin. Finn lacks confidence and is perpetually scared and unsure of himself while Dot dresses up his insecurities with bravado and bluster. They’re perfect foils for Mash and Lance’s quiet confidence. 

Lemon rounds out the group by both playing into and putting a twist on some well-known tropes. As the only girl in the group, she has romantic subplots centered around her but not in a typical way. Instead of a standard love triangle, Mashle has something more like a triangle with a side missing since Mash seems to be completely oblivious. It’s funny that Lemon’s crush always leads her thoughts to run away in a risqué direction, suggesting her conceptions of love and relationships are based solely on steamy romance novels.

After finding the Lang dueling field thanks to another brilliant moment of meathead genius from Mash, Dot gets a chance to redeem himself after this defeat in “Mash Burnedead and the Magic of Iron”. He displays some growth when he finally uses some strategy instead of relying solely on charging forward. On the other hand, his primary motivation for fighting the Lang student is his jealousy. The cutaways to Lance, Finn, and Mash reacting to him are adorable and show the way their friendships are evolving. Dot sneaks in another rant against attractive guys and uses his incel energy for good this time. 

After Dot’s fight, the team is split up and we get another clever bit of animation showcasing each character’s personality with their reactions to being sucked through the floor. In a turn of events that is sure to lead to some great moments, Finn and Dot end up together against the Fourth and Fifth Fang with Finn immediately preparing himself for death. Lance is on his own against the Third Fang and Mash is also alone and facing off against the mysterious stranger from “Mash Burnedead and the Puppet Master.” The stranger turns out to be the Second Fang who has quickly sussed out that Mash cannot use magic. 

After two episodes of easily dispatched enemies, the series appears to be setting up real challenges for our heroes and I’m excited to see the way that they overcome these battles. Mash’s fight looks to be setting him up to fight someone with similar skills which will be very interesting to see. The most exciting prospect might be seeing Finn finally have to fight. As Dot points out in a bit of meta-commentary, if and when he and Finn defeat the two double-liners it will be a “super underdog victory.” A great fantasy and anime trope is the evolution of the cowardly character and Mashle is priming itself for an excellent twist on that story.

Jose Cordova

Jose Cordova is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. A lifelong appreciator of film, television, and video games, he can usually be found sitting on his couch desperately trying to make a dent in his watchlist.

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