Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation
Episodes 1-2

by Theron Martin,

How would you rate episode 1 of
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation ?

How would you rate episode 2 of
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation ?

I often volunteer to do the more divisive titles, partly because I find it a challenge to try to give reasonable reviews for content that can come across as unreasonable, and partly because such titles also tend to be more interesting to write about than higher-quality but more staid titles. That's what I was fully expecting for this title when I made it my #3 pick for reviewing this season. (So I'm a Spider, So What? and Black Clover come first, of course.) I was even prepared to make a “How Obnoxious is Rudy” ranking for each episode, as some readers requested in the Preview Guide thread.

Then episode 2 hit, and now I'm not sure what to think anymore.

This isn't just a qualified good episode, like a “good for isekai titles” or a “good for series with obnoxious protagonists” kind of thing. No, this is a great episode by any reasonable metric, to the point that it could win over even some who were dubious about the series after the first episode. People had been saying in the Preview Guide response thread that the long game for the series plays out much better than what we see in the first episode, but I still did not at all expect this kind of progression this quickly.

That does not necessarily mean that Rudy has wholly reformed his ways, and there are absolutely still aspects to the episode that will make some viewers uncomfortable. The first episode implied that he was a hikikomori in his previous life, and the second episode shows exactly how low he fell: masturbating to porn in his room (with the further implication that it might have even been illegal porn) instead of attending his parents' funeral, and getting literally thrown out of the house by brothers (?) who had had enough of him. He is still quite the scoundrel in his new life, too, including taking peeks at Roxy's panties during magic lessons and getting giddy over spying on Roxy masturbating while she eavesdropped on his parents' lovemaking.

Over the course of the episode, though, his relationship with Roxy changes. Whereas he initially used platitudes borrowed from dating games to flatter her in a manner that could easily be passed off as a child's innocent praise, his appreciation for her as a teacher increasingly feels more genuine as she tutors him over the course of a year and a half. She also eventually proves instrumental in helping him to confront his great fear of leaving his homestead. That fear is a continuation of his hikikomori inclinations, which were themselves triggered by awful experiences he suffered as a student; to say that he was bullied in those brief flashbacks would be an understatement. The writing is careful not to use that to excuse his later behavior, but it does show how deeply scarred an individual he was before his death and how the loving regard of his parents and kind attention of Roxy are slowly helping him overcome those scars. Meanwhile, it also shows Roxy having her own misgivings about Rudy referring to her as Master, since she can sense that his ability is beyond hers.

That all culminates in a wonderful sequence where Roxy and Rudy ride out of the homestead on a horse, heading for a wide-open field where she can administer his graduation test. It gives Rudy his first chance to appreciate that not everyone outside his home is out to get him, but it also shows just how much Rudy has come to trust and appreciate Roxy, to the point that he leans back into her for reassurance without making snide thoughts about her anymore. In the open field, the graduation exam involves a fantastic scene where Roxy summons a potent storm and then expects Rudy to do the same – and in his case, without electrocuting the horse in the process, as she did. The combination of the two storm-summonings is an awe-inspiring display at least on the level of Myne's restoration of the land in the last episode of Ascendance of a Bookworm, and the emotions tied to how Rudy's success means that Roxy will move on are both genuine and surprisingly affecting.

Of course, the series also has another big factor in its favor: amazingly high technical merits. When I called them “not bad” in the Preview Guide, I was woefully understating; this is easily some of the season's best animation work and prettiest visuals. This is the kind of effort that could put Studio Bind (an offshoot of WHITE FOX which is making their lead animation production debut with this title) on the anime map and give director Manabu Okamoto his second major success in only two lead director efforts. (He also helmed the very funny Gamers!) Lighting effects which lend extra symbolism to key scenes and flawless choices on musical selections also contribute.

Easily lost amongst all of this are some little world-building details that I am sure will be important later. There is an elite magic school that Rudy will doubtless go to eventually, and Roxy also mentioned the Superd, a race of demons so vile and wantonly destructive that even other demons could not tolerate them. That does not seem like a casual reference. Roxy also mentions being a demon herself, a point which, frustratingly, is not elaborated on further.

So yeah, Rudy's crass behavior can still be a distraction, but if you let that dissuade you from checking out this title then you could be missing one of the bigger qualitative surprises of the season.

Rating:

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation is currently streaming on FUNimation Entertainment.


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