First off, I’ll acknowledge that Roxy masturbating and Rudeus stealing Roxy’s pants happened. Errrrr, can’t think of a defence. Oh wait. Look over there! Kaifuku Jutsushi no Yarinaoshi is way worse! Your efforts in making the world a better place would be much better spent on a degenerate series like that.
Now that I’ve hopefully provided a distraction for people who would otherwise whine and hate on Mushoku Tensei, I will continue with this review.
Oh boy does Mushoku Tensei continue delivering on the goods, and Episode 2 left me in a rhapsody of euphoric elation. The visuals and soundtrack remain thoroughly captivating, while the tone and pacing continued being perfect. Studio Bind are on an absolute roll here. Sure, the Cumulonimbus scene was impressive. But most importantly, I wanted to highlight the narrative approach contained within this episode. The scene could only be so amazing because it was the culmination of the steps Rudeus took over the past two episodes. And this is the crux of why I love Mushoku Tensei. The characters. The way they’re developed. Their interactions with each other. How the motivations driving them are clearly expressed. They just feel so damn real to me. Like actual people talking to other actual people with actual problems, not just some fictional construct I’ve mentally signed an unspoken agreement with to suspend my disbelief. Without further ado, allow me to examine our main character: Rudeus Greyrat.
Rudeus Greyrat: A Glimpse of his Past Life
Rudeus might have disgusting, pervy feelings for Roxy despite being in the body of a five year old. And I’m not saying that being bullied justifies this aforementioned behaviour, nor does it justify Rudeus becoming a shut-in who doesn’t attend his parent’s funeral because he’s too busy wanking at home. That’s irredeemably trashy.
But I think it’s important to understand that Rifujin (the author) isn’t trying to make us feel sorry for Rudeus. We’re shown an awful person who should absolutely be disdained, unlike the more sympathetic characters we would usually see as isekai protagonists. But it gives us an insight as to why Rudeus turned out the way he did. Different people react differently to stress stimulus. While some can shrug it off completely unperturbed, in some cases, a person can completely capitulate to trauma. Rudeus completely shut down as a person and becomes scared of the outside world, due to the bullying he experienced in his previous life.
Sugita really sells it as the voice actor. You can feel every bit of pain in Rudeus’s voice and how his past continues to torment him. When he’s not busy being a cheeky perv, his introspections imply he’s consumed by this disgust and self-loathing, even in a new world where he’s had the chance to start from scratch. In this world, Rudeus is surrounded by people who love and care about him. Nevertheless, because he carries his previous memories, the scars remain deeply etched into his heart. And I hope people remember that before judging him too harshly.
From Master to Student. And Back Again.
Despite only featuring for two episodes so far, Roxy leaves a massive mark on the story. Rudeus views her as his saviour in a way, since she helped him overcome his trauma. And that’s why the master/teacher relationship between Rudeus and Roxy is so important. She’s amazed at the boy’s talent. Yet she similarly begins to feel inadequate, due to the ease by which he picks up on magical concepts. Like Rudeus, she also expresses her lack of self-esteem, questioning whether she’s even worthy of being his master. Her pride as an excellent magician was crushed – and it was heartbreaking to see her sadness that flickered across her face when her attempt to cast magic without chanting failed. Or when his first attempt to cast Sacred level magic at such a young age surpassed hers. But because she’s an amazing person, she doesn’t feel jealous or begrudge Rudeus. She truly cherishes the boy and seeks to earnestly guide and nurture his personality and magical talents in good faith.
Through the example Roxy sets, Rudeus realises people with oddly coloured hair are discriminated against, due to the actions of a demonic race in the past. Seeing Roxy overcome this prejudice to win over the good will of townsfolk made him realise, if she can do it, so can he. In return, he literally demonstrated to her that the impossible can be made into reality, smashing her preconceived notions of fundamental magic, compelling Roxy to further immerse herself in the studies of magical arts. I will definitely miss Roxy and can’t wait for her eventual return.
That right there is the beauty of master/student interactions. It’s a give and take relationship where even the students can give back to their teachers in ways they couldn’t have conceived. And the memories they share will be a beautiful treasure they can keep for the rest of their lives, driving them forwards to live life to the fullest and become the best versions of themselves. We can’t say Rudeus is redeemed. Or that he’s any better right now. But I think we can all admit he’s making a genuine attempt to live a meaningful life and puts up conscious effort to improve. To me, a character who can demonstrate growth past their flawed selves is certainly one that is worth following – one such example in recent times being Shouya Ishida from Koe no Katachi. I’m not saying you have to like them. But I certainly hope that you would be kind enough to give them a chance.
Anyway, that’s about everything I wanted to discuss for this week. As always, thanks for reading this post and see you all next week!
ED: 「オンリー」 (Only) by Yuiko Oohara