First Impression: Mashle: Magic and Muscles

There do be dragons in these hills! And plenteous magic among the folk too. The setting is Ye Olde Fantasye Land, and ’tis a world so steeped in wands and wizardry that everyone bears a Harry Potter-esque mark upon the face, bespeaking their magical lineage. Everyone except, that is, for Mash Burnedead, which is why his Pops has kept him hidden away in a wooden hut in the forest, safe from the prying eyes of the Magic Police who cull the unmagicked like Mash, and where the only witnesses to the youth’s existence are the shocked woodland critters who watch in horror as the boy completes his daily exercise routine. This kid is built! Not only can he benchpress a few hundred kilos, but he can twirl the barbell on one knuckle the way most teenagers will twirl a pen. He’s a tad slow too, unfortunately, and despite being on the cusp of adulthood, has yet to figure out how to open a door. Good thing Pops is long-suffering and doesn’t mind repeating himself. Which he does once again as he heads off to run some errands: “Whatever you do, Mash, don’t go to the city,” he warns. Mash promptly goes to the city. The promise of goblin-made cream puffs proves too great a temptation. He is a growing boy, after all. A disastrous encounter with a drunken Magic Police officer involving custard cream and a ripped uniform ensues, and soon the authorities have tracked the boy home and busted down the door (it just can’t catch a break), and are intimidating the life out of poor Pops, who cries out for Mash to run. Will the boy flee, or does he have a well-chiseled trick up his sleeve and a little more than just cream puffs on his mind?

I usually leave the highly anticipated shonen series to the guys on the BtT team, but seeing as how I kinda took one for all and sundry at the day’s start (cough), I feel like I earned this one. What is this one, do you ask? Why, it’s a solid, engaging, well-made, very fun first episode to what promises to be a dynamic and entertaining series! In short, it’s a winner. I’ll admit, part way through I was a bit nervous that Mash was just going to be this super strong super dense one-note monotone shonen mc (the door gag stressed me out), but things took a surprising turn for the sentimental, delving into how Pops ended up adopting the abandoned unmarked boy and the bonds of family love that tie the unlikely due together by the heartstrings. I even teared up a smidge, against my better judgment. Don’t get me wrong, this episode was 95% full-on action and gags, but that little dash of human emotion really brought it all together for me, serving as the cherry on top, to use a metaphor that I’m sure Mash would appreciate. The animation is slick (as expected of A-1), in a classic shonen style that has just a hint of distinctiveness, prolific use of forced perspective that lends real dynamism to the action, and visual gags that land well. The score is on point and adds a lot to the episode, giving it a really polished, energetic feel that makes you want to grab a wand and jump in the fray with Mash and Pops against those cops. But most of all, the final sequence (which I have not spoiled above) plays out in a really interesting, and dare I say quite unique way, promising that far from being a rip off of established franchises (ahem, Harry), this series has some original twists in store for us. I for one am looking forward to the fun!

Mashle: Magic and Muscles is streaming on Crunchyroll.

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