Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Vol. 1

By Fujikawa Yuka and Rifuin Na Maganote. Released in Japan as “Mushoku Tensei – Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu” by Media factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Flapper. Released in North America by Seven Seas.

Never let it be said that companies don’t know their core audience. Someone like Viz might have simply called this ‘Jobless Reincarnation’ and be done with it, but Seven Seas knows that the folks most interested in it also wouldn’t recognize it unless it had its original Japanese title. Hence the hyphenated name. And Media factory knows their audience as well, which is why the front cover stars the cute teenage girl who’s a mere mentor for our hero, with our hero himself in the back. That said, some of the editorial decisions, while I can sort of guess why they happened, baffle me a little bit, the first one being why we have this story’s framing device at all.

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Our story starts off with a chubby goateed guy at his computer eating instant ramen. He’s quickly kicked out on the streets by his family, as it turns out he’s a NEET with no job or desire to get one. As he bemoans his useless life, he sees a truck barreling towards an arguing young couple and decides to rescue them, even as it means the truck kills him. He dies with a desire to do his life over properly. We next cut to a standard ‘fantasy’ world, where Rudy, our hero, is a 3-year-old precocious brat learning swordfighting, but he can also do magic. He’s that guy reincarnated, but he still has all his prior memories. Now he buckles down and learns as fast as possible, so that he can live a life he’s proud of.

This is all very well and good, but aside from creepy moments when we see a little kid perving on a young teenage girl, or the odd traumatic reference to his death from the start of the book, there’s no real reason why this had to happen at all. Why not just have it be a story of a bright and precocious young kid in a fantasy universe? I fear the answer may be that ‘ordinary guy gets trapped in a fantasy universe’ is the in thing right now, and the author knew it. It’s based on a series of light novels, so that wouldn’t surprise me. It could also be a way to ward off criticism of his hero, who’s doing things at 3 years old that most folks can’t pull off till their teens.

That niggle aside, this was better than I expected, and shows off Rudy’s boyish young charms (when he’s not being a 34-year-old otaku) very well. His conflict resolution is also based off his prior memories, and while this does give him a vocabulary no little kid should have yet, it does actually resolve the conflicts to some degree. There’s also a suggestion that this might get into some darker areas, not least of which is the cliffhanger. I’ll check out the second volume, but I wish the series had simply dumped the wraparound and been a straight up fantasy.

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