Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Vol. 1

By Rifuin Na Magonote and Shirotaka. Released in Japan as “Mushoku Tensei – Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu” by Media Factory. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Tranlated by Kevin Frane and Paul Cuneo. Adapted by JY Yang.

As the URL of this review may indicate, I had reviewed the first volume of the Mushoku Tensei manga when it came out back in the day. I wasn’t all that impressed with it. That said, having finished the light novel that the manga is based on, I am changing my tune slightly. This reads much better in prose. In particular, it works its isekai tropes into the plot better than the manga, which tended to gloss over Rudy’s every action being influenced by his previous life. This was one of the first really popular isekai novels, and to a certain degree many other series either rip off or parody what’s going on here, meaning that sometimes you can be reading things and waiting for a punchline that isn’t coming because it’s taking things seriously. On the bright side, that’s rather refreshing, and I also enjoy that the series has time to flesh out the rest of its non-Rudy cast.

The book starts with a portrait of our hero’s previous life, and I would not blame the reader for giving up here, as he’s rather loathsome. Luckily, Truck-kun is there to take care of things, and in no time he finds himself reborn in a different world, with his previous memories intact. He resolves that he’s going to do a better job with his life this time around, and sets about trying to learn magic, learn swordplay, and be a good son. All this before he turns seven years old! Rudy tends to be a bit too perfect, much to the consternation of the family maid, and contrasts with his flaky father. But he’s also allowed to have some standard light novel character flaws, most notably being a perv (which can be unsettling given his age) and also mistaking a young elf girl for a guy just because she has short hair and is wearing pants.

I figure most people reading this are very familiar with reincarnation/isekai titles, and you’re not going to be surprised at what happens within when it comes to the setting. Lots of discussion of magic to a somewhat tedious degree, etc. Rudy’s teacher Roxy is quite interesting, and I was annoyed that she vanished halfway through the book – she deserves a spinoff manga of some sort. Possibly one coming out next week. Most impressive to me was Rudy’s family, and the depth they all had – his father Paul has trouble keeping it in his pants, and this could have led to disaster were it not for peacemaker Rudy. That said, Rudy may grow up to be like dear old Dad. There are a few moments in this book where the author suddenly remembers he has to be perverse, and they stick out oddly (Rudy coming across Roxy masturbating while watching his parents having sex) and sometimes creepily (infant Rudy likes breasts based on his past life, and NO THANK YOU). At least the maid notices that it’s creepy.

I may not see much of Rudy’s family for a bit – in order to make sure that he and his somewhat codependent childhood friend don’t damage each otehr’s growth, his father sends him off to tutor some ways away, and that is presumably where the second book will start off. Moments of awkward sleaziness aside, I was pleasantly surprised with Mushoku Tensei, which takes its reincarnation premise seriously and doesn’t subvert, satirize or parody it.

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