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.

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.

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.


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.