Shonen Jump regulars are no strangers to Mashle or Undead Unluck. However, I am pretty sure that there are many among you, who were once fans of the series, but ended up dropping them eventually as the excitement dwindled down.
But, both these manga were looked upon very favorably when they started serialization in the magazine.
It was a time when Shonen Jump was teetering. Samurai 8, seen as Kishimoto’s next big hit, had ended abruptly in 43 odd chapters as it failed to capture the audience’s imagination. Other popular series in the magazine too were past their halfway mark or hurtling towards a climax (Haikyu, Kimetsu no Yaiba, The Promised Neverland etc).
If you feared that the legendary magazine, as we knew it, could go under, I wouldn’t blame you.
With One Piece outselling and outlasting its fellow series, and Jujutsu Kaisen being the only manga among the recent ones that managed to actually leave an impact on readers, Shonen Jump was in desperate need of the ‘next big one.’
That’s when Jump and readers, both turned their attention to Undead Unluck and Mashle.
Both Undead Unluck and Mashle were a part of the fresh crop of manga that were introduced in the magazine in early 2020. While most of its compatriots, barring Me and Roboco and Ayakashi Triangle have ended or been canceled (remember Guardian of the Witch? Zipman?), both Undead Unluck and Mashle continued to push forward.
While I was never a huge fan of Mashle, Undead Unluck was one of those series that caught my attention.
It managed to create a very unique world and a well defined and structured power system, earning rave reviews and comparison to likes of Hunter x Hunter and Yu Yu Hakusho. The fast pacing, even in the initial chapters, too was breath of fresh air compared to other Shonen series.
Mashle on the other hand had taken every trope out there, convoluted it, and fit it into the battle shonen scenario sprinkled with its brand of humor. I never liked the plot much (some call it a Harry Potter spin-off), but humor was certainly a highlight in Mashle. There were times when I found myself snorting after reading certain chapters.
But other readers did not share my dislike for Mashle, and both these series gained popularity. Come July 2020, Oricon sales figures noted that the first volume of Mashle and the second volume of Undead Unluck both sold quite well. In fact, the second volume of Undead Unluck sold more copies than the first which served as a testament to its rising popularity.
Shonen Jump would then go on to welcome these positive signs, and launch an Undead Unluck x Mashle boost campaign in October 2020, where the series would be advertised in Akihabara and Ikebukuro stations in a bid to add more to the series’ increasing traction.
During this period, both manga rose up in Jump’s TOC, especially Mashle, as they were featured in the top 10 more than once.
However, almost two years later the hype surrounding the series seemed to have died down. Though Undead Unluck won the Tsugimanga award in Aug 2021, it couldn’t help the series from going stale or as many would say, insane with all the contrived plot twists and a host of characters that had as much depth as a wooden log.
While Undead Unluck did not ‘plummet to depths’, this phrase was true in case of Mashle. Ratings decreased and arcs were termed lackluster as it did not match the humor or craziness of One Punch Man, which fans often compared it to.
And the latest Oricon sales numbers too seem to be pointing to this decline. It is safe to say that the numbers are in no way phenomenal of a series that were expected to carry forward Jump into its new phase. This is reflected in the low TOC rankings that both the series have been getting recently.
Consider this, despite Magu Chan making the cut, neither Undead Unluck nor Mashle were in the list of top 10 manga that fans wanted to see animated at the AnimeJapan 2022. Nor were they a part of the list in AnimeJapan 2021.
Mission Yozakura Family, on the other hand, has continued its silent rise, surpassing expectations and winning a dedicated fanbase, as the manga continues to build on its intriguing plot.
As two hopefuls fizzle out due to a multitude of reasons, it is time for Jump to look at more successors to carry forward the baton. I can already see people turning their attention to Ayashimon, Blue Box and Sakamoto Days as their candidates for the next big series of Shonen Jump.