“Mash Burnedead and the Survival of the Fittest” is Mashle: Magic and Muscles flexing every muscle it possibly can. Mashle is able to deploy classic tropes and a number of quintessential Mashle gags while delivering creative action and teeing up the finale. There are villain monologues and backstories, ridiculous feats of athleticism, hilarious color commentary, and charming moments of silliness. “Mash Burenead and the Survival of the Fittest” is the series operating at its peak and a fantastic episode to lead into the finale.
Mash’s fight with Abel is an opportunity for him to employ everything he’s learned across this first season and is the final confrontation of the ideological battle between the Magia Lupus and the Adler crew. Abel monologues about the theory of survival of the fittest and actually advocates for a radical version of that theory where the strong actually have a duty to eliminate and take from the weak. It’s a worldview that is diametrically opposed to everything Mash believes and what he’s inspired his friends to believe. As expected, Mash remains determined and resolute throughout his face-off with Abel, finding a myriad of ways to counter his puppet magic.
Every time Abel uses a new technique, Mash refuses to back down. Reflecting on the kindness and courage shown by his father, Mash cannot tolerate a perspective that is all about discarding the weak. The funny thing is that unlike Abel, Mash isn’t working to force his principles onto others. Abel claims that Mash will not be able to change his mind and Mash doesn’t really care. He’s only ever spurred into action when he’s forced into it. His motivation for taking on the Magia Lupus was saving his friends and collecting some coins in the process. After Abel shares his tragic backstory, Mash acknowledges his pain but is really only interested in honoring their deal that Abel releases Lemon, Finn, and the rest of the students that he had taken hostage.
“Mash Burnedead and the Survival of the Fittest” balances out the dramatic moments by presenting some of the best comedic beats of the season. This time Love is used to provide commentary for all of Mash’s absurd tricks. The crowning achievement of the episode is the moment when Mash is saved by his love of cream puffs. The cream puffs have been one of the best running gags of the series, along with Mash’s confusion about how to operate doors, and the sequence with the explanation of spinal reflexes is a perfect way to capitalize on the bit. The other moments of levity that work best in the episode are Mash’s celebrations with his friends. At the start of the series, Mash’s father was the only person in his life. Now he has a whole band of weirdos to celebrate with.
Heading into the season finale, “Mash Burnedead and the Survival of the Fittest” gave Mash a moment of triumph before setting up one final challenge. He’s been reunited with Finn, Lemon, and Dot but Lance is curiously still missing by the end of the episode. Up to this point, Mash and the Adler crew have been able to tackle their opponents head-on and on their own. The villain teased in the closing moments appears to be on an entirely new level. The finale could be the perfect time to have Mash and his friends use some teamwork to defeat a stronger foe and really drive home the message that the way to move forward and change their world is going to be by banding together.
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 Burenead and the Survival of the Fittest” - 8/10