Shonen Jump’s Mashle: Magic and Muscles, Vol. 1 demolishes the world of Harry Potter in a story that lacks depth but packs in gags.
Being the cultural touchstone that it is, the world of Harry Potter parodies is almost as vast as J.K Rowling’s actual wizarding world. While its title isn’t as obvious as the likes of Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins, Viz Media’s first collected, English-language volume of Mashle: Magic and Muscles is so direct in its references, it seems tailor-made by Shonen Jump to either tickle or infuriate Potter-heads.
Once you get used to its odd specificity, creator Hajime Komoto’s manga is a laugh-out-loud page-turner. As the title suggests, the world of Mashle is one dominated by those who are magically inclined, and in the traditional, western sense of wands and Latin-sounding incantations. Young protagonist Mash Burnedead, however, is one of the few exceptions to the norm, which has led him to instead cultivate a powerhouse of a body that is so well-defined, each of his muscles has a name. Dissatisfied with his lot in life, Mash decides that despite his lack of any magical proficiency, he’ll apply to become a student at the prestigious Easton Magic Academy and work his way up to becoming a Divine Visionary using his fists alone, hoping that the position will afford himself and his non-magic grandfather a more peaceful life.
Much of the first volume of Mashle, which comprises the series’ initial eight chapters, plays out as a series of very specific Harry Potter nods, from Komoto’s version of Quidditch to an almost visual carbon copy of Richard Harris’s Dumbledore to learning an unlocking spell. Each of these instances Komoto uses to raucously tear down the bigoted magical community using Mash’s feats of superhuman strength. He’s essentially hacking his way, in both senses of the word, through an environment that prioritizes non-physical means of getting through even the most basic tasks. You’d think the gag would become pretty one-note pretty quickly, and it’s a credit to both Komoto’s deadpan dialogue, comedic timing and derpy facial expressions that the humor consistently lands. It’s the sort of silliness that fans of the lewd, unraveling chaos of YouTube parodying royalty like OneyNG Cartoons (also infamous for its own Harry Potter spoofs) will no doubt appreciate.
To both its advantage and disadvantage, Mashle also exists in the shadow of another, well-established shonen parody, One-Punch Man. Komoto’s art style is not only very comparable to the amateurish drawing of ONE’s original web comic — in particular, the aforementioned derpy faces — but Mash’s non-plussed reactions to the fantastical world around him and one-hit K.O ability are also very reminiscent of Saitama. Working against Mashle in this comparison, which is hard to get past, is the incredible detail of Yusuke Murata’s illustrations for the One-Punch Man manga, which Komoto’s unflattering simplicity sadly cannot compete with. Where the art shows signs of promise, however, are in its action spreads; not to mention some of its more dynamic character poses, such as Komoto’s apparent preference for exaggerated, elongated legs.
While Mashle Vol. 1 is an easy and fun read, it’s also slight in its world-building and characterization. Much of it presumes an existing familiarity with its very specific references points to do the heavy lifting in that regard; in fact, there’s almost a presumption on the creator’s part that the reader will care too much about its lack of depth — getting to the next joke, instead, seems like the more pressing concern. There is certainly room for a more expansive plot, though, teased in the story’s not-so-subtle critique of elitism. Again, this is something Harry Potter heavily featured, but Mash’s true outsider identity (an anti-Chosen One) has much more of a ring of relatability to it than a rich and famous orphan who fails upwards by virtue of his birthright.
Then again, there are still simple pleasures to be gleaned from the book: Considering Rowling isn’t exactly flavor of the month anymore, watching someone demolish a clear copy of the empire she erected with their bare fists might be just the catharsis some fans need.
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