“Mashle: Magic and Muscles” has been released by Shonen Jump as the second of three new series for the first quarter of the year.
Written by manga artist Hajime Komoto, “Mashle” is a comedic fantasy that follows a teenager named Mash Vandead, with well-defined muscles but no magical ability whatsoever. This, of course, is an issue. In this world, magical skill determines your societal rank. So, he’s been living in hiding in the woods under the protection of his father since he was born, warned to never enter the city.
There a few notable things about this debut chapter that define it, and realistically whether or not it will find success.
“Mashle” is highly derivative, specifically from three series: “One Punch Man” and “Mob Psycho 100” created by an artist using the pseudonym One and “Black Clover” by Yuki Tabata.
This is where concept and character design come into play. Mash has the overwhelming power and uncaring demeanor of Saitama from “One Punch Man,” an identical character design to Mob from “Mob Psycho 100” and the premise and backstory of Asta from “Black Clover.”
There are a number of panels throughout the chapter that could actually pass as having come right out of the original “One Punch Man” webcomic itself, or even the more refined style One developed by the time he got “Mob Psycho 100” published in Weekly Shonen Sunday Magazine.
And I am very serious about the character similarity here. It isn’t just that he is inspired by those characters in the way Naruto or Luffy are inspired by Goku. Rather, it appears as if Hajime Komoto is attempting to satirize the common elements between these popular series, perhaps filling the void that was left when the legendary satire manga “Gintama” ended last year.
However, that is where my issue with this manga stems from. “One Punch Man” and “Mob Psycho 100” are already comedy series, the former being a satire in its own right. By skimming the niche concepts of those series and trying to satirize what are already comedies, the achieved effect is the appearance of simply being a derivation.
When the first chapter of “Black Clover” was published back in Feb. 2015, it received the criticism of being a blatant “Naruto” clone because of the obvious concept similarities between the two, and also because of the fact that “Naruto” had just ended about four months earlier. “Mashle’s” story concept does the same thing with “Black Clover” despite the latter still being in on-going publication by the same magazine.
Even though the entirety of the chapter feels like its just ripping-off other manga, “Mashle” was still pretty funny. There were plenty of panels that made me laugh out loud despite the lack of originality.
Yet where “Gintama” shined, “Mashle” is mediocre at best.
In a magazine filled with series that aim to be funny no matter what genre they fit in, a manga that seeks to survive solely on comedy really needs to stand out in its own right to find stable ground before it gets cancelled. Whether or not “Mashle” can grow into itself before that happens, I don’t know.
I’m happy to keep up with it for a few chapters to see how Hajime Komoto develops it, but I’m not going to hold my breath for too long on this one. Last week’s debut of “Undead Unluck” was too good in its own right in almost every aspect, including its comedic elements, for “Mashle” to hold up in the market.