Produced by A-1 Pictures
Directed by Tomoya Tanaka
Streaming on Crunchyroll
Parody anime is in a weird state in 2023. One Punch Man is on another long break after its second season failed to live up to its first, with a third season announced with no concrete release or staff announcements. Konosuba came back with the spin-off An Explosion on this Wonderful World this season, which you can see my review for here. The Misfit of Demon King Academy came back to lukewarm reception and a dwindling audience.
Amidst all this, Mashle feels like an anachronism. There was a time where a parody of Harry Potter and magic school anime in the vein of One Punch Man would have lit the world on fire. Think 2015, when JK Rowling hadn’t begun to chip away at her fans’ goodwill with Harry Potter & The Cursed Child and just too many disastrous tweets to count. That could have put Mashle hot on the heels of One Punch Man, and in that series’ four year absence, we’d be talking about dominating the anime community.
Unfortunately, Mashle first hit the pages of Shonen Jump in 2020. Nostalgia for Harry Potter has diminished, and Saitama is now one of dozens of anime protagonists who can solve his problems in a single swing.
So, the question I’d like to answer today is, despite having just about the worst timing in the world, is there still a place for Mashle?
This magical world is a world full of magic. Nope, that’s how the show actually starts. Every person is born with a scar and a talent for sorcery, creating a fantastic landscape where brooms are the vehicle of choice, people get to wear comfy robes all day, and Hogwarts is down the street.
The dark underside of that society is that magic is inherited, and this city was built on the murder of those born without magic until they eugenically produced a completely magic populace, with some exceptions.
That exception would be Mash, abandoned at birth with no scar or magic. He’d have died on the streets if not for the intervention of his adopted father, a failed wizard on the end of his own rope, taking pity on a boy not unlike himself. Retreating to the woods, Regro takes Mash into the forests outside the city, where he trains his body every day. This jacked young man with an unbreakable deadpan just wants to live his life in peace, working out and eating cream puffs, until one pastry run puts him in the secret police’s crosshairs.
As it turns out, what Mash lacks in magic, he makes up for in brute force, making a fool of the man sent to execute him. The officer sees Mash’s talent for violence, and believes the only place for him is at the city’s prestigious school for wizards, where he’ll protect his secret by performing magic like flying a broom and fighting monsters with just the power of his fists.
I find myself with little to say about Mashle’s presentation. A-1 Pictures is a good studio, and director Tomoya Tanaka, who you may recall from last year’s Engage Kiss, is competent. The show adapts the manga’s art style well, the art is consistent, and the action scenes don’t disappoint.
That being said, that’s kind of it. It looks good but never great, the environments never rise above “we’ve got Hogwarts at home”. The character designs are colorful and distinct, though the only comment I have is that I find it strange that two of Mash’s friends are a dead ringer for Reki and Langa from SK8 The Infinity.
The score, composed by Masaru Yokoyama, is one of the production’s strong points. Yokoyama never disappoints, and has scored some great shows like Horimiya, Fate Apocrypha, and Yamada and the Seven Witches.
However, the show just falls flat in this area. It doesn’t outright fail, but it doesn’t impress. You have a lot of room to elaborate on gag manga with character animation, and Mashle just falls back on the same tired “did he just do that” reaction still frames, which leads me into the biggest problem with the show, its writing.
I don’t want to lead you to believe that Mashle isn’t funny, because it really is. But, especially as I become more experienced as a reviewer, I can tell when a story only has the one trick up its sleeve. I loved shows like Komi Can’t Communicate and Spy x Family in their first seasons, but when they came back for a second cour, it became obvious that they had strong concepts, and weak execution.
Manga artists, especially those working with Shonen Jump, spend the majority of their time before publication polishing the first chapter. It’s the most competitive magazine in the industry, and first impressions are vital, so that’s understandable, but it leads to an epidemic of stories that come out strong and fizzle out.
I’m not going to hold that against Mashle, per se, because at this point, I don’t know if this is all it has to say. However, I’m a much more conservative reviewer than I was starting out, and that I can see the writing on the wall already is worrying. Mashle is a one-note character with consistent traits: he’s got a sweet tooth, he’s naive, he’s a himbo. This may change, but you’re writing yourself into a corner with a character like this, if he has no more depth than what we’ve seen.
Compare it to Mob Psycho 100. Both feature overpowered protagonists with deadpans, bowl cuts, and a lack of street smarts, but Mob’s blank slate personality is the result of repressing trauma, and even without digging into his suppressed self, he’s still a rich character in his own right with strong pacifistic beliefs. Mash is a character from a gag manga that never gives the impression that it’s interested in being much more than that.
I still get a chuckle when a challenge is set before Mash and he upends it with brute force, but that can’t stretch for an entire season. It’s good for now, but if you haven’t demonstrated you can do more than that by the three episode mark, you fall short of the potential of your premise.
Mashle is not a bad anime. I’d even say it’s a good one, and feel comfortable giving it Entertaining Pleasing. However, the pleasing category represents the furthest an anime can go without something that really sets it apart, and Mashle just doesn’t have that.
So maybe I’m being too hard on it, or maybe I’m not being hard enough. I’ll give myself a little time to amend this review in the event that the next episode or two really changes my mind, but if you’re reading this, my first impression has stuck.
Now, we are drawing close to the end of the spring anime lineup, and I’ve got a few treats for my rom com appreciators. If you want to get notified when those go live, follow the Otaku Exhibition on WordPress or on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, where I talk about all the anime I’m watching before it makes its way here. Until next time, thanks for reading.
|Pleasing||An Explosion on This Wonderful World||Mashle|
|Fantastic||Oshi no Ko|
2 responses to “Mashle Review: One Punch Potter”
I thought Mashle was really funny, but you’re right, it does seem like this series was released about 10 years too late. Even after watching the first episode, I had this impression that this was actually a re-release of an anime from the 2010’s.
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I’m tougher on this one than you are. (My rating would be “neutral fine”. ) It puts a lot of importance on its humor, which I find lazy & repetitive. Okay, Mash is ridiculously strong, loves cream puffs & doesn’t know how doors work. I get it, no need to bang on about it every second. If there’s a critical component to comedy, I’d say it’s surprise. And nothing ever surprises me about a Mashle joke — neither the punchline, nor the road it takes to reach it.
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