Manga Review: Mashle: Magic and Muscles Volume One

Mashle: Magic and Muscles Volume One tells the story of a boy named Mash Burnedead who lives in a world where magic is a normal part of everyday life… but Mash doesn’t have any magical power.

Mashle: Magic and Muscles Volume One
Written by: Hajime Komoto
Publisher: Shueisha, Inc.
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: July 6, 2021

Mash Burnedead lives in the forest with his 75-year-old adoptive father. Mash doesn’t have any magical power, which is not a good thing in this world, because one’s social status is determined by their skill level. While his adoptive father was born with magical power, he was never any good at it. In this world, it’s easy to tell if someone doesn’t have magical powers, because they don’t have a particular mark on their face. Over the years, Mash’s adoptive father has encouraged him to train to become strong. It becomes blatantly clear throughout the volume that Mash may have brute strength, but he lacks any common sense.

One day, Mash is told by his father not to go into the city. However, Mash wants cream puffs, so he sneaks out to get some. Unfortunately, Mash is caught by the magic police. His father comes by at the right moment and takes him away, but they’re followed to their home. The magic police intend to kill Mash, but he uses his superhuman strength to deflect the attacks launched by the authorities. Mash manages to grab one of the wands and throw it… which surprises the authorities, because they’ve never seen a wand used that way as a weapon before.

The leader of the authorities makes a deal with Mash. If he enrolls in a magic school and becomes the Divine Visionary, he’ll let the charges against Mash and his adoptive father slide. Of course, this idea seems rather absurd, since Mash doesn’t possess any magical power. How could he possibly pass an entrance exam for a magic school?

Mash applies to the prestigious Easton Magic Academy, and we see him, along with the other applicants, go through the exam. Mash ends up making it past the first round due to sheer luck. The second round is a maze, which has magical traps set up in it. The proctor has made up his mind that he’s going to flunk Mash, ao he also sends a lower-class girl into the maze to try to distract Mash. Well, Mash uses his brute strength to defeat the traps, and also crashes his way through the maze to reach the finish line in time. The proctor tries to flunk him, but the headmaster says Mash can move on to the interview portion. In fact, the headmaster takes charge of the exam at this point. The headmaster treats Mash kindly at first, but also puts Mash to a couple of tests during the interview. In the end, Mash is accepted.

The rest of the volume focuses on Mash during his time at Easton Magic Academy. As expected, Mash is having to do assignments in ways that don’t involve magic. With the flying lesson with the broomstick, he ends up throwing the broom and jumping onto it in a way that makes it look like he’s flying, although he isn’t. Unfortunately, this little stunt catches the attention of Tom Knowles, who is the captain for the dorm’s Duelo team. Duelo is a sport played at the school, and you can basically think of it as a simplified version of Quidditch from the Harry Potter franchise. He tries to get out of it by saying he doesn’t know how to fly, but Tom forces him into it. In the end, their team wins by a dumb stroke of luck provided by Mash.

And Mash also has to deal with some bullying from the students who come from a higher social status, and they bully Mash’s roommate into helping them out. But Mash uses his brute strength to not only beat up the leader of bullies, he also buries the vice-principal. Oops! The headmaster summons Mash to let him know that the Bureau of Magic caught wind of his actions and have asked for his expulsion. However, the headmaster defies this request, because he feels that it’s unforgivable for the caring to be at a disadvantage in the world. The headmaster of this school seems to have a similar disposition to Albus Dumbeldore from the Harry Potter franchise.

After reading this first volume, I can’t help but feel as if this series is a little on the derivative side. It comes across that Komoto decided to use a similar concept to My Hero Academia (someone without a required trait trying to enter a school that is designed for people who have that trait) and combine this with ideas and concepts from the Harry Potter franchise. I don’t want this perspective to color my view of the series, though, because I hope that Komoto finds a way in future volumes to make Mashle: Magic and Muscles feel like it’s own thing and not feel like it’s simply throwing together concepts from other franchises in an attempt to make a new story.

When it comes to the character design, there’s something about Mash’s design that’s making me think of another character I’ve seen before, but I can’t place my finger on who it is. In that respect, it makes Mash’s design feel like it’s not original, either. Most of the other characters who appear in this volume don’t have this problem, though.

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but I have a hard time believing how Mash is making it in this magic academy without any magical ability. So far, his only “successes” come from pure, dumb luck. It’s weird, though, because I can easily buy into something like One-Punch Man, which has kind of a similar comedic tone to it, but I’m having a hard time buying into Mashle: Magic and Muscles. I intend to continue reading future volumes to try to give this series a chance, though. Maybe it’ll surprise me and start coming together more as the story progresses.

Even though I wasn’t immediately impressed by Mashle: Magic and Muscles, I think readers who enjoy absurdist comedy mixed with a fantasy setting and elements might find something to enjoy with this title.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media

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