Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Vol. 4

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. Translated by Alyssa Orton-Niioka. Adapted by JY Yang.

Ugh. After three volumes where I was mostly pleased and interested in the story, despite the occasional bits of sleazery from Rudy, I now come to a 4th volume where it’s getting really hard to ignore the sleazery. Rudeus is a reincarnation of an otaku lech, and thus spends much of this book either perving on everyone, or else being mistaken for perving on everyone because his “I like petting a dog” face is the same as his “I like groping a boob” face. He’s still not actually trying anything with Eris, but it’s not for want of temptation. But frankly, they’re still both too young for this to be anything other than icky, reincarnation memories or no. Rudeus is an interesting character with him trying to think of elaborate schemes and failing, we really don’t need him to also be thinking of banging everyone and everything. Even bits that aren’t sexual feel wrong – he’s naked in a cell for about a week at one point, and seems to revel in it.

The girl on the cover we don’t recognize is Kishirika, self-proclaimed Emperor of the Demon World, who (stop me if you’re surprised) looks like a little kid but is really [x] hundred years old. Her main purpose here, besides what I just said, is to give Rudy another power-up, as he gains a demon eye that can see into the future for a second or two, provided that the user has lots of mana (which he does). Needless to say, he’s instantly put into situations where that’s highly useful, though it can’t always save him. He’s trying to get back home, but traveling with a Suijerd makes that hideously expensive, so they’re looking at alternatives. These alternatives involve ripping off some slavers, only to end up double-crossed themselves. It’s complicated.

Other issues: Eris continues to be used very sparingly, as if the author can’t figure out what to do with her. She’s getting better at the sword, but still has a ways to go in terms of growing up. (So does Rudy, but it’s more complicated with him because of the past life.) I wish she was more relevant. I also wish Roxy had managed to find Rudy (they just missed each other), as that means we’re left with her side-story, which mostly revolves around one of her companions killing time while they’re searching for people by having a five-way. Mushoku Tensei is one of those books that you would never recommend to anyone but adults, despite the seemingly cute child cast on the cover.

So will I keep going? I’ll probably give it till the end of this arc. We meet another adventurer/gambler by the name of Geese, who describes an adventuring party that sounds very familiar to me. I suspect, if Rudy ever reunites with his family, sparks are going to fly. I also want to see if Eris does anything, or what’s going on with the princess and her (also suspiciously familiar) new bodyguard. That said, based on what I’ve read, I worry once Rudy comes of age the books will just involve him banging half the cast. He’s much more interesting when he’s trying to think about dangerous situations and sometimes failing.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Vol. 3

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. Translated by Paul Cuneo. Adapted by JY Yang.

A lot of people had talked about the influence of Mushoku Tensei on other reincarnation isekais, and I must admit after the first two volumes I wasn’t seeing it. If anything, this series is more interesting for what it doesn’t do, as we see Rudy training up as a child, and at the end of this book he’s still only eleven years old or so. The subplot with Eris in the second volume also seemed fairly unique. But then there was that cliffhanger, with everyone and everything being scattered to the four winds. Unfortunately, we don’t find out anyone else’s fate (though there is a bit at the end that hints about why it happened), but the good news is Rudeus and Eris are fine. The bad news is that they’ve ended up in the middle of the Demon Empire, and their only companion is a Superd, whose mere presence is enough to reduce people to shaking terror. And the better (or worse) news is that this volume has them become… adventurers.

Yes, THIS is what everyone was talking about when they mentioned influence. The guild, the levels, its rules. Unfortunately, Rudeus is in a bit of a bind, as he’s got a plan to a) get back home, and b) restore Ruijerd’s reputation so that everyone does not scream and try to kill him on sight. (He has a tragic backstory.) This requires being a cool adventurer, but that takes lots of time and grinding. Fortunately (?), he has some advice from a god who speaks to him through his dreams (more things we’ve seen in other reincarnation books), and so is able to cheat the system a bit and Make.Levels.Fast. Unfortunately, Rudeus is still the combination of a precocious child and a shiny shut-in, so sometimes he has grand plans and they end up going very badly. It’s not till the end of the book that he works out how to handle their group of three, and by then they’re off to another city.

Rudeus is the highlight of the book, and the book is at its best when he’s seeing the consequence of a bad decision he’s made, usually involving someone dying. He’s having to grow up fast, and relying on his past life really isn’t helping here. After a couple volumes showing him as a child prodigy, he struggles with exhaustion, his magic isn’t always useful or effective, and he resembles what he is: promising but that’s about it. Eris does not fare quite as well here, for the most part remaining the hothead tsundere girl, though her swordsmanship is miles ahead of Rudy by now and she’s on her way towards being a legend. The debut here is Ruijerd, who is a good strong, silent type, and again at his best when he’s upset, such as when Rudy makes bad decisions and people die. I like him.

It’s clear that this book is the start of an ‘arc’, and I’m not sure when Rudy and Eris will be returning to what’s left of their home. Till then, though, enjoy a volume that’s a bit more like what you’ve read before but still worth reading.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, Vol. 2

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. Translated by Alyssa Orton-Niioka. Adapted by JY Yang.

The second book in this series covers about three years time, going from when Rudeus is 7 to just after his 10th birthday. It’s striking that we still haven’t really hit the teenage/adult years that most “in another world” titles skip to, although the ending to this volume may indicate a change is on the horizon. It does allow us to see Rudeus both mature as a child growing up, and also attempt to fix his mindset from his previous life that got him into trouble there as well. We also get a new female lead, since Rudeus was forcibly separated from his childhood elf friend (who gets one mention briefly here in an “oh, right, her” sort of way… which is typical for children who move, to be honest). Instead we have Eris, who is a giant ball of violence disguised as a child, and has driven away countless tutors both by being unteachable and also by beating the crap out of them. Naturally, Rudy is made of sterner stuff.

First of all, Rudy’s plan to pretend to get kidnapped so that he can show Eris the value of reading, magic and ‘rithmatic is astonishingly dumb, and it will come as no surprise that it immediately turns into a real kidnapping. The fact that it achieves its aims (Eris is willing to settle down a bit and learn) does not make it less dumb. Most of the rest of the book is devoted to The Taming of the Shrew, essentially, as Rudy slowly but surely gets Eris to learn how to read, write, do sums, practice magic and also dance in his spare time. Naturally, she falls for him hard. I’d say nothing happens as they’re 10 and 12 respectively, but something almost happens. It’s portrayed as overtly wrong and that’s fine, but I’m still thinking “wtf?” a bit. That said, Eris clearly states the fact that they’re too young is the only thing stopping her. Despite being a bit of a cliched angry tsundere, I like Eris. Well, I like Eris when she’s not adding “mew” to her sentences, another reminder that the author’s idea of fanservice is “just add it wherever and don’t worry if it makes sense character-wise”.

Then there’s that ending, which comes as a surprise. I’m not entirely sure yet what it means for Rudy and Eris (who I’m guessing are still together), but its devastation to the country that we’ve been in since the start of the series is pointed. The style had been very much relaxed and fun before this, but the final scene is done seriously and tragically, and works very well. It also shows us that Roxy will be getting back into the series soon, which pleases me, especially since it turns out that her tutoring royalty was a disaster as he was a royal brat. Given the sheer nature of what happened, I’m not sure this is easily fixed at all. That said, it’s certainly a great way to tell readers to get the next book, as I very much want to find out what happens and verify who is dead and who isn’t. As for the book itself, aside from the author sometimes being weirdly otaku, it’s still a very good reincarnation isekai. I can see why it has its reputation.