Mashle: Magic and Muscles, a popular shonen manga by author Hajime Komoto, will be broadcast in January 2023 as part of the Winter anime season, and new viewers might be unsure of what to expect. Mashle appears to be a parody and deconstruction show similar to One-Punch Man and Chainsaw Man, but it is more than that.
Mashle appears to be a harmless parody of the Harry Potter world on the surface, right down to the robed students from different houses and Wahlberg's Dumbledore-like headmaster at the castle school. Mashle is, in spite of its silly plot and uninteresting hero, a genuine shonen series. Instead of using shock factor or subverting expectations, it primarily relies on the core values of the genre.
How Mashle Is Grounded in the Strength of Friendship in Shonen
For all its satire comedy antics and its apathetic, semi-aimless hero Mash Burnedead, the Mashle manga captures the soul of shonen and makes the most of it. The series is fairly grounded despite its monster and magic systems, though Mashle does have some loose thematic ties with My Hero Academia and of course, Harry Potter.
Above all else, Mashle is about tolerance, acceptance and the power of friendship, meaning this goofily optimistic shonen manga is about people coming together and being stronger and happier for it. Mash is too grounded as a dandere to actually say so, but he relies heavily on the power of friendship, much more so than his plain facial expressions and easygoing demeanor would suggest. Many Eton Academy students and other parties see Mash as an aimless, foolish boy who takes nothing seriously, but he takes three things quite seriously: physical training, cream puffs, and his dear friends.
This indicates that Mashle is not a shonen deconstruction and is not a scathing examination of Harry Potter, the value of friendship, or other shonen mainstays. Its comedy is merely decorative, a charming vehicle for authentic shonen storytelling elements, and not much more. Mashle's silly "One-Punch Harry Potter" vibe is just the story's selling point and packaging; the story's true essence, unaffected by the setup's obvious absurdity, is pure shonen.
Mashle's traditional shonen values are simply dressed up as something ridiculous, rather than being a deconstruction or critique of anything, so the upcoming anime will primarily appeal to fans of "real" shonen. Mashle is available for viewing, reading, and/or downloading at anyone's leisure, but those seeking a sadistic deconstruction or a cynical series in disguise should look elsewhere.
Why Mashle Differs From Genuine Deconstructions
True deconstructions are fairly rare in shonen anime. The genre's target audience, middle school-aged Japanese boys, wants more of the same in a new package, not constant subversions and daring formula deconstructions; such things are deeper and more appropriate for seinen, such as One-Punch Man. Shonen has only a few true deconstructions, with Chainsaw Man being a notable example and Jujutsu Kaisen being a partial one. Even then, those anime follow the shonen formula as much as they break it, proving that any author, no matter how rebellious, respects the core of what shonen is. The upcoming Mashle will be tightly tethered to shonen's core rules and values as well, making it more like MHA and Demon Slayer than One-Punch Man.
The main goal of deconstruction isn't just to mock or satirize a show or genre visually; it's also to expose its flaws and raise doubts about its conventions in the actual story while purposefully upsetting viewer expectations. Chainsaw Man achieves this by featuring a likable lead character in teenage Denji, who has amusingly small aspirations. He disproves the notion that shonen heroes must strive for Hokage status or Super Saiyan status in order to be likable, which is a great way to criticize the genre's overt use of heroes with lofty ambitions to enthrall viewers. One-Punch Man, meanwhile, criticizes the superhero genre by suggesting that even with all the power in the world, a caped hero still has an empty heart and empty life; thus, being like Superman or Captain America is hollow and not worth striving for.
None of that is done by Mashle. Its fundamental principles are wholly consistent with shonen, which will likely please most people but displease fans hoping for a rebellious deconstruction. Mashle is a game about the power of friendship, self-confidence, tolerance, and the virtues of hard work and discipline, despite its silly exterior. When Mashle: Magic and Muscles premieres in January 2023, any world-weary viewer looking for an uplifting tale that reaffirms anime's most optimistic side is sure to find it truly enthralling.