This week’s episode of Mashle: Magic and Muscles slows the pace down for some character bonding as it fleshes out the landscape of Easton Magic Academy. “Mash Burnedead and the Unpopular Classmate” rounds out our core group characters with the introduction of the final member of the crew, Dot Barret. Dot enters the series to fulfill another character trope as the love-obsessed character and just like Lance before him, is immediately ridiculed to balance out the more extreme aspects of his personality.
Mash spends some quality time with Finn and Lance
Giving Mash a breather after last week’s action-focused episode allows Mashle to flesh out his personality. His tutoring session with Finn and Lance further emphasizes his meathead charm. This session also calls into question whether Mash is really devoid of any magical powers. Being able to turn potion ingredients into cream puffs sure seems like magic to me! The sequence also brings Lance into the group and balances out his dramatic side. Finn mentions that Lance is the top student in Adler dorm and it’s clear that he’s reached that point not just due to his raw magical power but also by putting in the work. The low-stakes vibes are deployed at a perfect time. With a series that is dialing so many aspects of the story up to eleven, the simple goofiness of the scene is a welcome addition. Lastly, bonding with Lance continues the enemies-to-friends story from “Mash Burnedead and The Challenging Magic User” and preps us for Dot’s introduction.
The newest member of the team is revealed
Dot’s first appearance comes alongside the reveal of Easton’s Slytherin equivalent Lang dorm and for a brief moment it seems like he could be another antagonist. Any potential menace Dot might possess evaporates the moment he loses it after seeing Lemon greet Mash. He launches into a vaguely incel-like rant denouncing “hot guys” and even blaming them for declining birth rates. The girl or love-obsessed character is another well-known anime trope that also has the potential to head in an unsavory direction. One of the worst versions is the overtly perverted character like Jiraiya from Naruto who was literally nick-named “Pervy Sage” in-universe. Before we reach an uncomfortable point, Mashle once again makes clear how outrageous this character’s behavior is by using the reaction, or in this case non-reaction, of the other characters. Mash’s crew is content to completely ignore Dot’s tirade, signaling that the series acknowledges that he is a complete idiot.
The back third of the episode gets to work redeeming Dot so that we can accept him as one of Mash’s allies. He is quick to come to the aid of a student in trouble and his bluster is revealed to be a cover for a considerable amount of insecurity. Dot is so nervous about interacting with the girl he saves that he can barely stand to look at her and ends up acting like a buffoon. “The Unpopular Student” also puts him in sharp contrast with the cartoonishly evil characters from Lang dorm. Mashle really leans into the villain iconography. Lang dorm holds their meeting in an honest-to-goodness candle-lit dungeon and Silva looks like he was pulled straight out of a book called “How to Draw Anime Villains”. By the end of “The Unpopular Student”, Mashle has taken us on another rollercoaster ride of character introductions and although we don’t get the full resolution it’s clear that Dot will be the latest member of Mash’s merry band of weirdos.
“Mash Burnedead and the Unpopular Classmate” is the lowest energy episode since the first. Like that episode, we have some exposition to get through but the series does a good job using the downtime to have characters bonding. Without that piece of the episode, there was a risk of this episode feeling almost like a carbon copy of last week with another character introduction. Six episodes in Mashle: Magic and Muscles has strongly established its identity as a sharp parody. Now is the time to settle in and start building up the core group of characters and their relationships so that we have meatier to sink our teeth into. With Dot’s addition to the series we’ve now checked off all the main characters shown in the intro and outro so I’m hopeful that we will start getting some narrative momentum soon.
Mashle: Magic and Muscles can be watched on Crunchyroll, with new episodes every Friday during the Spring 2023 season.
Featured image via Hajime Komodo/SHUEISHA, MASHLE Committee
‘Mashle: Magic and Muscles’ - “Mash Burnedead and the Unpopular Classmate” - 8/10