Fighting an Uphill Battle – Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Anime Review

“Despite being bullied, scorned, and oppressed all of his life, a thirty-four-year-old shut-in still found the resolve to attempt something heroic—only for it to end in a tragic accident. But in a twist of fate, he awakens in another world as Rudeus Greyrat, starting life again as a baby born to two loving parents.

Preserving his memories and knowledge from his previous life, Rudeus quickly adapts to his new environment. With the mind of a grown adult, he starts to display magical talent that exceeds all expectations, honing his skill with the help of a mage named Roxy Migurdia. Rudeus learns swordplay from his father, Paul, and meets Sylphiette, a girl his age who quickly becomes his closest friend.

As Rudeus’ second chance at life begins, he tries to make the most of his new opportunity while conquering his traumatic past. And perhaps, one day, he may find the one thing he could not find in his old world—love.” – MAL Synopsis

Episodes: 11 – Studio: Studio Bind – Dub/Sub – Aired: Winter 2021 – Finished – MAL Rating: 8.35 – Genres: DramaFantasyEcchi

Mushuko Tensei was the talk of the town all year long for various reasons. There’s a fair bit to be said about this anime, good and bad. Still, there’s no denying that it excels at various aspects.

I know on some level everyone is a little bit tired of Isekai anime. I don’t have stats to back this up, but my heart is telling me that this genre has easily been the most produced from the past decade. There are hits and misses. With this genre being so prevalent it’s hard to do something new or refreshing. I’ll admit my favorite trope within this genre is “bum in the real world turns into a strong person in some way in the fantasy world.” A la Re: Zero. So on paper, this anime fits that bill perfectly. I’ll talk about the main character later, but this world is interesting. This anime really dug deep into the fantasy elements. Magic systems, lore, species of people, languages, all of it is very deep and fleshed out more than any other Isekai I’ve watched. That’s a welcome sight and very appreciated. On a structural level, I loved the pacing for the most part. Seeing the mc grow up again and progress was interesting and built a nice connection with the world and its characters. It did get a little slow and somewhat boring at times, but there are some good characters and development here that kept me in it. While only one major event happens in this half of the season, there’s something rumbling. So I’m actually pretty hyped about that.

If you’ve heard or read anything about this series then what I’m about to say will be of zero shock to you. Rudeus is scum, and it’s constantly hammered home that he is scum. But I have a problem with how it’s handled in some ways. I believe the hardest thing in media is to write a horrible main character and try to redeem him throughout the story. Depending on the degree of horrible, it can be downright impossible. This anime is fighting the steepest uphill battle in that regard. It’s hard to follow such a sexually predatory character in a child’s body and care for him at all. It’s almost like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde situation. This is helped by his inner monologue being his adult self, and his actual voice being a child. Rudy will go multiple scenes acting normal and then out of nowhere, he’ll do some downright vile things. This show lulled me into liking his character, the genius child mage, but then out of nowhere he literally sexually assaults his cousin, who’s a child herself, while she sleeps. Which is my far the worst thing he does in this season but definitely not the only thing. So many moments of him being internally creepy, it can be very uncomfortable to watch. There is an argument to be made that yeah, he never gets away with it in a technical sense. Yeah, she did wake up and beat him up. Then the episode just moves on as nothing happened. It feels like it’s being played for a random gag more than it should. I can only recall one real moment of reprimanding that didn’t feel that way. As of this half of the season, there’s no reflection on his actions in the slightest. There are barely any repercussions for them either and it comes out of nowhere. I say that understanding fully that this just the beginning of a long journey. Reflection may not be fitting now but at-least some type of serious repercussions.

So many times I’ve just thought you could possibly remove the whole entire isekai element and have just been a super smart kid and his other mistakes and character growth probably wouldn’t suffer at all. Or simply he didn’t have to be as much of a sexual predator. That part of him taints everything around his character. Moments that are supposed to be sweet or wholesome just become rotten. But look, it’s fiction. I see what’s potentially trying to be done here. Despite his redemption and growth being a giant uphill battle. Other character flaws that he has and moments with other characters give me faith that it can be pulled off to some extent. Yet it’s completely understandable if somebody didn’t want to watch this because of him. Outside of all that I actually enjoy him as a character a lot. It’s just that’s such a huge part of his character it can’t be ignored or brushed away. The moments like him first leaving the house are truly amazing. The best isekai trope is the mc being able to face the fears they couldn’t face in the real world. So all those moments with Rudeus were great.

Other Characters are fun here and I love their interactions. There’s a lot of familiar politics that we learn about as the world opens up a bit more as well as some badass-looking characters that I can’t wait to see in the future. One aspect I really enjoyed is Rudy’s interactions with adults. One conversation he had with his father, in particular, was really well done. Just that adult retrospective angle coming from the mouth of a child speaking to his father. It was mature and enlightening to him. Those moments are great. Speaking of his father I loved him. I pretty much love every character in this show except Rudy & one other random character that’s a weirdo.

Jesus Christ the animation here is beautiful. At a baseline, it’s already great. Then it’ll often just ramp up for certain scenes and those moments are genuinely jaw-dropping. Even within those moments, they do some really cool things like some amazing panning/rotating shots that are still hand-drawn, some moments where the animation gets really liney and rough but it looks great and gets across the message of the scene, and just some downright beautiful scenes.

I watched the dub for this part of the season and it was all great. One character, in particular, I was kind of iffy about but her voice grew on me heavily.

Finally, the music is great as well. I love how instead of having a traditional op and ed sequence. Instead, they both play over a short montage or moment from that part of the episode. Both songs were great and the soundtrack as a whole enhanced the whole fantasy vibe.

So Yeah Mushoku Tensei is a good, almost really great show, with a giant asterisk on it. For the most part, I was able to stomach the disgusting acts of the main character but there were moments where I felt completely uncomfortable watching him. I can’t lie though when he’s not being evil and he’s just living life navigating through this beautifully animated deep fantasy world. It’s great. I just can’t ignore all those disgusting moments. I can see what’s probably trying to be done with this story. I have a solid amount of faith that it can be pulled off, but solely speaking on these 11 episodes, there’s a lot of work still needed for that reality to come true. Yet still it feels like there’s something really great here just waiting to be seen. This could easily turn into one of those things were future seasons retroactively make this part better for me. As it stands on its own though (even tho its only half of the full season) its just good not great yet.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 7/10

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