Well, I made it through five episodes. I really think that’s pretty good – not a personal isekai record, but not bad given the infamy people warned me off with this one. The irony here is that none of those cautionary tales cut to the point of why I’m (probably) dropping Mushoku Tensei. The problem isn’t the the fact that the protagonist is an awful person or even that he’s a mixed bag – anti-hero protagonists helm some of the more interesting anime around. The problem is that in the end, this series is slave to the same tired cliches that almost all of its generally inferior classmates are. And that’s a real shame.
I was already growing pretty tired of the rotating archetype females here, and the way they’s sort of low-key objectified. Ghislaine and her ridiculous (and pointless apart from the obvious point) outfit were a step in the wrong direction, but it’s really Eris that breaks the camel’s back. She may not be any more of a trope than Roxy or Sylphiette, but she’s a much more annoying one. Any time you can look at a character and say “Kugimiya Rie should have voiced her”, the battle is pretty much lost. She’s nails on a blackboard to be and there’s no way around it.
I do ultimately see elements of a story that wants to be more than a generic amalgam of isekai cliches here, and the authoritative way Mushoku Tensei goes about its narrative gives it an appeal above most of the genre. But I don’t think the commitment is there – as I said last week, almost invariably (well – invariably in my experience) the tail wags the dog with these series. The tropes and cliches are the point, in the end – the series exists to pimp them out, they don’t exist to help it tell a story. I’ll say, too, that this week’s plot felt more misogynistic and demeaning to me than anything with Roxy and Sylph.
“Nasty” is a word I’ve used to describe this show, and not in a particularly negative way. That nastiness – Rudy’s unapologetic cynicism and self-serving cunning and the general sense of not giving a fuck – gives it a kind of dangerous appeal. But this was just traditional nasty – Eris is nasty, and the way she’s used in the story is nasty and rather ugly. I will give Mushoku Tensei another episode to dissuade me from jumping ship, but it seems a real long shot to me at this point. I’m more disappointed than I have been with the vast majority of LNs I’ve tried and dropped – the swagger and verve of this show is notable, and Sugita Tomokazu’s performance is quixotically heroic. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.