OP: 「Knock Out」 by Okazaki Taiiku
「マッシュ・バーンデッドと鍛えぬかれた筋肉」 (Mash Burnedead to Kitaenukareta Kinniku)
“Mash Burnedead and the Body of the Gods”
MASHLE captures the journey of Mash Burnedead, a quirkless human who’s been training for so long that his physical capabilities have the potential to overcome oppression in a society of magicians. It might have the makings of your standard academic battle shonen on paper, but by the time you finish the first episode, you’ll come to find that it was a comedy all along.
A LUDICROUS DISPLAY
MASHLE is a bit of a throwback anime, but not in the way you’d expect. People compare this to One Punch Man with its overpowered MC which is constantly demeaned by far weaker allies, but its sense of humor and appeal are more like the kind of Shonen Jump comedy that used to thrive between 2005 and 2012.
Back when action comedies were proudly displayed as manga to cool down to before catching up with the Big Three. In my eyes, MASHLE would fit right in with a series like Beelzebub or Sket Dance where the gag comedy fun would keep you at ease before moving into the latest hard-hitting chapter of a serious shonen.
It’s not entirely disparaging to say MASHLE is the kind of crowd-pleasing comedy that Shonen Jump loves to throw into the mix. If you’re a younger viewer or you’re in a high school anime club and they put it on, you’d probably find MASHLE to be a fun comedy that you’d have fond memories of years later. But that is to say that if most of the jokes don’t bring out more than a sensible chuckle, then you’d likely be out of this show’s target audience.
There were moments that caught me off-guard though, so that’s not to say you won’t get some good laughs in there. I cackled when the one high-ranking cop who showed up to lecture Mash was a massive drunk, trying to dole out authority while holding around a bottle of vodka like it was a liter of soda. Mash’s big cool moment in the tail end also had the same comedic chops as One Punch Man as the magician who attacked his father was left befuddled by how Mash was kicking around and juggling his dragon-destroying magic beams. It’s not a comedy to write off, per se. Just know what you’re in for if the door gag or the existence of creampuffs doesn’t make you bust a gut.
YOU’RE [NOT] A WIZARD, MASH
Where it comes off as more interesting is its commentary on discrimination. You’re not going to get anything more sophisticated than what you find in any standard shonen about overcoming discrimination and alienation (ex: Naruto, Ao no Exorcist, Black Bullet). But MASHLE makes an earnest effort to give Mash a stronger connection toward fighting against adversity.
It tells a story of a society where one’s worth is based on their magical aptitude. Eugenics is immediately invoked the moment a non-magical person appears. Heck, it’s invoked even if you have magic, but it’s not at the level it should be. Only the presence of magical wizards is allowed in this universe, while non-magical people are shunned, ostracized, and eliminated from existence. Even a magical person can be pushed to suicide if they are seen as having magic levels too low to be respectable.
It makes Regro Burnedead’s backstory all the more impactful when you take the show’s wizard society into consideration. Being told he was weak and undesirable from everyone he’s ever known would lend itself to how Mash’s upbringing was. Where not only did he feel like Mash was the only one who needed him, but he also felt that he could undo the generational trauma he faced by raising Mash to be able to survive in such a cruel society. And with Mash’s goal of turning the tides of society over to accept him, it brings even more relevance to Regro’s journey as his decision to adopt Mash would ultimately make it so that no one would have to feel trapped in such an oppressive hierarchy of powers.
It’s safe, cheeky, and inoffensive, but if that’s something that you’re seeking out, MASHLE isn’t a bad place to start. It also helps that it’s a magical story about a wizard academy that doesn’t leave the bitter taste of cringey, half-baked retcons soiling the experience. With viewers and readers being hungrier and hungrier for newer, fresher stories of wizards, MASHLE should help to satiate that appetite.
ED: 「シュークリーム・ファンク」 (Choux Creme Funk) by Philosophy no Dance