I decided to write a review for Mushoku Tensei on a whim. Here it is:
Mushoku Tensei (Jobless Reincarnation) is a series written by Rifujin na Maganote. It’s about a 34 year old jobless bum who was such a piece of trash he didn’t even go to his parents funeral. His family kicks him out of the house and now suddenly he’s gone from a self-indulgent carefree lifestyle to being homeless. As he wanders aimlessly he notices a truck speeding towards a group of high school kids who are unaware of the danger. In his last (and perhaps only) heroic act, he pushes them out of the way only to get hit himself. As he loses consciousness in our world, he wakes up as a baby in another world to two loving parents. Retaining all of his memories from his previous life, Rudeus (as he is named in this world) uses his previous knowledge and skills (especially those he used in winning arguments over the internet) to impress (and frankly unsettle) his new family with how intelligent he is. One day he gets hurt and his mother soothes his injury with what sounds like a simple prayer. But suddenly, there’s light surrounding them and the pain is gone! His mother used magic! This is a world of swords and sorcery! Now that he’s gotten a second chance at life, Rudeus will really give it his all!
Mushoku Tensei was among the first of the recent era of Isekais, as it came out around the same time as Sword Art Online. Isekais are anime about being transported to another world, whether through reincarnation, being stuck in a video game, being summoned, etc. Mushoku Tensei follows Rudeus Greyrat, a recently reincarnated jobless bum in a world of magic and monsters. It is primarily an adventure anime, but there is a good helping of comedy, drama, action and lots of fantasy. Much of the comedy is lewd in nature, as Rudeus was jobless pervert in his old life and this new life is no different. However, the story (which was originally a web novel, then a light novel, then a manga and finally an anime animated by Studio BIND) deals with complex interpersonal relationships, enduring traumas and whether or not people are truly capable of change. Rudeus is reincarnated as himself in a baby’s body, but can he truly change who he was in this new world?
Mushoku Tensei is a particularly captivating story for me because the feelings that Rudeus has about relationships, giving it his all, personal responsibility and more are feelings I’ve struggled with my whole life. I empathize with him because I’ve had times where I thought “Why give it your all? What’s the point? Just do what you want at all times, consequences be damned!” many times. Rudeus isn’t the only reason I love the story, each character (even ones we barely see at all) have rich backstories, deep personalities and compelling desires and those interplay with our hero Rudeus to create situations that are deep and thought provoking. It’s like Lord of the Rings – every character is accounted for throughout the world’s history, which stretches back over 20,000 years.
I’ve seen the anime 6 times (once dubbed) and read the light novels through LN6 (where the anime leaves off) twice. Each time I see more of how the characters and events are woven together. Sometimes satisfying tropes are used and this feels like its easy to read; other times you come to learn information that completely changes what you thought a character was feeling. In this way, the audience is like Rudeus where we treat characters as one dimensional, with goals that are obvious and clear but in reality, we’re just seeing glimpses of a whole living world full of independent people who all have their own unique desires.
Speaking specifically about the anime, it is my favorite and in my opinion the best anime I’ve seen. Anime often is made with the sole intent of simply selling more merchandise, whether it’s manga comics, figures, posters or other merchandise. Because of this, often anime feels cheap and surface-level–those who have seen a large number of anime can tell when a studio takes shortcuts or chooses not to put a lot of effort into the anime. In the case of Mushoku Tensei, the studio has really outdone themselves. Each scene meets a threshold of quality and continuity that sets it apart from other anime visually. It doesn’t have as much action as other anime but its action is frame-perfect (which is coincidental because the author, Rifujin na Maganote is a fighting game enthusiast where having precise timing is paramount in winning). The colors are perfectly blended and consistent across the entire season, they even had a character’s hair get barely lighter over the season because they were spending more time outside and thus their hair got slightly sunbleached). The voice actors, too, are perfect. Rudeus is voiced by the same voice actor who voiced Gin from Gintama which is a very popular and successful comedy anime and the casting choice was inspired. Rudeus’ quips and commentary never fail to elicit a giggle or smile.
Most importantly, you can tell the animators took care in building the Mushoku Tensei world and made it feel immersive and alive. Continuity was obviously an incredibly important factor and the first episode is as authentic as the last (even though they were separated by about a year in terms of production). They skillfully took the source material and adapted it with care and consternation. Some scenes are virtually identical to the source material, while some plotlines were actually revised and streamlined in consideration of time and complexity for the viewer. Simply put, the anime is a masterpiece and every episode is engaging, hilarious, interesting, engrossing and enjoyable to watch. I’ve rated many anime 10 out of 10, but this anime is a cut above even those. Watching it is like watching a story that the best version of me who knows how to write, animate, direct would have come up with given unlimited time. It’s flawless and every frame, every line, every groan-inducing panty joke is perfect and irreplaceable. Simply put, this anime is the perfect anime, a meal that was custom tailored to my tastes so much that it resonates in me to my core. Mushoku Tensei is perfect.