We are writing the year 2006. It is a time when the Shounen genre is dominated by the names Naruto, One Piece, Gintama, Bleach, Death Note and Eyeshield 21. A generation that is present even today and considered as the most popular and best manga series by many. Yet it also is a time where the genre school dominates a large part of the industry. Especially in combination with supernatural powers and mystery. Pushed by series like Suzumiya Haruhi, Mahou Sensei Negima and others.
This situation is the beginning of a new story that combines old cliches and new elements in a unique way. Mx0 is born and serialized by the Shounen Jump magazine in May 2006. Being a mix of comedy, magic and school it has the ideal qualities for a popular manga. At least that is what it should have become. But sometimes fate can be a cruel companion.
Mx0 revolves around Taiga Kuzumi who accidentally manages to enroll into the prestigious Seinagi Private High School. Believing he failed the entrance exam because of a girl laughing about him, he pays the school a second visit. Only to be mistaken as a student by a teacher. Causing a large ruckus at the school that secretly teaches magic, he is forced to join. A funny and restless school life begins where he has to conceal the fact that he is the only student without magical powers.
This hilarious premise was already enough to catch my attention. In addition to this Mx0 has quite enjoyable characters. For example there is Aika, the main heroine who seemed to have ruined Taiga’s entrance exam. She is generally clumsy, kind, laughs about literally anything and has an honest hardworking personality. With her magic she is able to manipulate the shape of objects and to use an ability called “Voice Warp”. Because she slowly gets closer to Taiga, I was always excited to see them develop their relationship.
Then again the story plays in a large school with many people. In this regard I always found the introduction of new characters fitting. Of course characters that serve as placeholder are there but mostly are exceptions. New characters serve a purpose and do not feel flat. Some might seem like cliches for example rivals, delinquents, a love rival, a weird headmaster and teachers. But it only needs a few chapters until you get a better understanding of their motives. Something that makes even delinquents likable in a way. Until the end of the manga all the small groups connect through the stories they lived through. The unfamiliar school ground becomes harmonic and lovely.
Aside from the characters I find that Mx0 also follows regular shounen principles well. The magic in this manga is quite unique as it is based on so called plates. Those plates enable the characters to use magic and also create a ranking system. The weakest plate is Red Iron which is given to first years most of the time and the strongest is Gold. Then again it is possible to improve the metal of the plate with magic points that one can earn. While the plates make it possible to use magic only in Magic Districts, this creates a hierarchy between students of different rank.
In my opinion Mx0 tries to destroy this unjust system from the beginning. After an accident Taiga loses his temporary plate and therefore gets the so called M0. A plate lower than the Red Iron but enabling him to use anti-magic with magic points. While he still needs to conceal his secret, I love how smart he uses this limited power. May it be magic exams or fights against rivals. Taiga shows that it is not just the amount of magic that defines the outcome of a challenge. The clueless seeming main character develops into a fascinating carrier of the series.
Throughout the story I see lots of shounen cliches reappear. For instance there is a magic exam arc with a teacher that almost tries to sabotage the students. A situation where Taiga needs to trust in a team and has to improve his usage of the limited M0. To further strengthen the students bonds there is also a class match arc. A feast for me and fellow shounen fans. Stocked with all kinds of different magic and smart fights. In between I love the little situations between Taiga and Aika. A comical romance development aided by an aspiring love rival in person of Naomi who dislikes Taiga at first.
The story aims to build a healthy class rivalry at first. Yet I find that around chapter 60 it starts to question the previous development. Taiga gets the choice to move on from the M0 or has to improve his abilities. The classical choice is of course to keep it and go for the stony, way more exciting path. To me the training feels nostalgic and fits the classical “odd training methods with enormous improvement” cliche. The first school part then reaches its final when all classes have to save the culture festival. An event that satisfies me with a tactical component and the collaboration of previous rivals.
But the cliche packed first part might also be the reason for the series discontinuation. From the get go I do not find a deeper premise. A larger and darker story around the first build up. Hints that pop out more and more as it progresses.
The latest chapters revolve around the so called black plates. An enhancement for the plate that enables it to save one spell outside of a magic district. In my opinion a feature Mx0 introduces too late since it has quite much potential.
I would have loved arcs that play outside of school grounds enabled by the black plates. Of course with the introduction of even more powerful enemies. Mx0 also leaves much open about plates and magic in general. Then again it could have introduced other magic schools, maybe even international organizations. Sadly it needed to use all this potential for an early and unsatisfying ending. Taiga gets a scholarship to transfer and starts learning magic from scratch at another school. While I find that it tries the best it can, it still feels sudden and forced.
After 99 chapters Mx0 leaves a bitter taste of the shounen genre’s harshness. Growing up in a golden generation of manga it was not enough to satisfy the Shounen Jump readers asNaruto did for example. Continuous mid tier ranks in the viewer ratings decided its fate. Maybe it would have been more popular at another time. While I write this post the series scores an 8 at MyAnimeList while being the 251th popular manga on the website. Scores many series can only dream about.
Nonetheless Mx0 will always have a top spot when I think about good manga. It is an unpolished shounen gem that serves as a unique example of the late 2000s. Decently drawn art and hilarious comedy create the base for this fascinating ride. A series that I can only recommend for anyone that loves a classical magic shounen story.
Also take a look at my review on Goblin Slayer: Goblin’s Crown.