Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation 2nd Part
by Kim Morrissy,
How would you rate episode 21 of
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (TV 2) ?
Community score: 4.8
Phew! This show certainly pulled the stops this time. Mushoku Tensei's second major turning point lives up to its foreshadowing while also subverting it at crucial points, making every second of this episode an "edge of your seat" moment.
The significant takeaway: Nobody actually dies here. After the cold opening with a fatally-injured Rudeus, followed by an extended scene of Ruijerd calling Eris a full-fledged warrior and planting a thousand death flags along the way, you'd think at least one of these two characters would bite the dust—most likely Ruijerd, in an act of self-sacrifice typical for mentor characters who have fulfilled their narrative purpose. But although this was an episode about how easily life can be whisked away, this inevitability is also subverted purely by Orsted's whim. It's a moment that powerfully affirms how, in the end, the world of Mushoku Tensei revolves around greater powers far beyond the protagonist's reach.
While the "unwinnable boss fight" is a tried-and-true method of upping narrative tension and establishing the relative power levels between characters, Mushoku Tensei adds extra layers of intrigue by linking Orsted to the Man God and strongly inferring that, save for a few wild cards, everything in the universe is preordained. Despite never having met any of these characters before, Orsted knows Ruijerd, Eris, and even how many children Paul Greyrat is supposed to have; he only directs his murderous intent towards Rudeus, a person who apparently should not exist. The Man God is deeply familiar with Orsted but can no longer perceive his moves, while Orsted's black-haired companion is implied to be from Japan. The fantasy lore in this setting suddenly gets a lot more compelling when it becomes evident that the reincarnated Rudeus is not the only aberration in the world.
On a visual level, this was clearly a significant episode for the animators as well, filled with fast-paced and stylized action sequences that affirm at each step how utterly powerful Orsted is in comparison. Notably, the mock fight between Ruijerd and Eris near the beginning is depicted in detail, with a great deal of emphasis on the speed and weight of their strikes. Eris's growth as a swordswoman has been a consistent theme of this series, and by displaying her progress plainly up-front, the contrast between her and Orsted feels incredibly stark. The visual direction was also top-notch; the use of medium and long shots to portray Orsted from a distance while depicting Ruijerd and Eris's uncharacteristically fearful expressions in the forefront sells him as a supernaturally fearsome foe before he even says a word. When the Man God explains later that their reaction is the result of a curse, it's immediately convincing.
The other bit of visual storytelling that stood out to me powerfully was the visibly humbled Eris after Orsted leaves. Eris has blazed through life with confidence thus far, not even letting her teleportation to the Demon Continent stand in the way of her resolve. But on an emotional level, her encounter with Orsted clearly changes something within her: She's not a "main character"—she's just a piece on a chessboard—and that realization shocks her on a deeper level than it does Rudeus, even though she's not the one who almost died. She might be a "full-fledged warrior" now, but it's not enough. It may never be enough. Eris's emotional turning point is what this episode ultimately ends on, as Rudeus numbly observes the aftermath.
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