[Light Novel] Mushoku Tensei – Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu

Mushoku_Tensei_

Summary

After the death of his parents, a 34-year old NEET is chased out of the house by his siblings. Homeless and penniless, he is filled with regret at accomplishing nothing in his life despite being born into a good family and blessed with above average intelligence. At this low point, he saw a truck heading at full speed towards three high school students. Mustering all his strength, he pushes them out of the way of the truck at the cost of his own life, and ended up being reincarnated as Rudeus Greyrat (Rudi) in a world of swords and magic.

Read Mushoku Tensei (english translation) here.

Read Mushoku Tensei (manga adaptation) here.

The Good

The premise of this story is just plain awesome to me so when I first stumbled upon the newly released manga (only 2 chapters thus far), I just had to go read the much more developed light novel. Whenever I read Chinese online novels, I basically always focus on the “modern day character crosses over time and space to another world” storylines because I find that 70% of the time, this guarantees a smart and epic main character that I can empathize with. Now think about this. Normal young adults in today’s world (like me) live an average life as long as they possess no particular skills that they are experts in and people can look up to them for. Nevertheless, they still dream about being super awesome, winning at life and taking over the world.

How can they actually fulfill this dream? Simple. If they can’t change themselves, change their environment. Place them in a world where their “average” knowledge is enough to give them a huge edge in life. Ergo, you take them back in time. If I could go back ten years, for example, I would invest all my net worth in Apple and automatically become a millionaire in 2014. But financial power is not enough for these dreamers. They also want to take over the world, which is kind of hard in the 21st century where people are all enlightened and democratic. So you take them back to the age of empires. But that’s still not enough. Back then, if people aren’t born into the royal family, they might never become king despite their intelligence and contributions to society. Moreover, even kings are far from infallible. Dreamers don’t want to be kings; they want to be gods.

So you take them to a world where personal might can decide the ruin or prosperity of continents, some kind of supernaturally powered RPG-esque society where level-cap characters can just change the laws of nature at their whim. And you not only displace them, but you also reincarnate them so they arrive as a baby and can build their character from infancy. This…is the good life. This is the story of Mushoku Tensei.

{Complex Magical System – Checked}

{Intelligent/Tactical Main Character – Checked}

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The Bad

“Amateur handling of character control” (I can’t find the right word exactly so be patient with me here) is my one high-level criticism of this light novel. Granted, I do recognize that Mushoku Tensei is a light novel so I can’t expect some “serious fiction”-level of character control but the element is a true failing of the series by detracting from plot realism. By character “control”, I am referring to the way the author balances between the main, side, and background characters in the series. The author focuses on several main characters, writes occasionally from those characters’ POV, but fails to color in any side characters for anything else in this fictional world to seem real aside from Rudi’s story. When I read and imagine the story in my head, everything about Rudi’s in-the-moment life and interactions is colorful and 3D but the setting, background, and larger world is black and white and 2D.

The author does a good job at developing the main characters. However, as he is creating a whole new world, he also has the responsibility of fleshing out that world. Additionally, his wacky character control also means that character development is unrealistically linear. Rudi starts out by knowing only 3 people: his parents and the maid. Those three gets fleshed out in several initial chapters. Then Rudi gets a home tutor, who gets fleshed out in the following chapters. Then Rudi gets a best friend, who gets fleshed out in the chapters after the home tutor spotlight series, and so on and so on. I might be nitpicking here, but this pattern of introducing characters to the storyline is just … unreal. Nobody meets the important people in their life one at a time, like they’re in a line waiting to meet you. Nobody gets to know each one really well, adapts to the person’s presence, and then immediately meets another important person once the first relationship is settled. Nobody’s life is this systematic.

The Ugly

And… the reason why character introduction is systematic in Mushoku Tensei is highly likely because the genre is “harem.” Anyone who has any exposure to harem plot lines should know that the girls (or guys in reverse harem cases) are always introduced linearly and never together because authors want to take their time to flesh out the importance/storyline of each girl and thus magnify the impact of focusing all their adoration at one target of envy. But this light novel’s harem genre is not the “ugly” of my review. I am perfectly fine with harem plots as long as they are done in a classy manner (i.e. Shokugeki no Souma, The World God Only Knows).

What I am vehemently averse to in Mushoku Tensei is Rudi’s utter creepiness and perversion. I feel that the author has gone overboard in trying to portray the main character as a social failure/NEET that he overplayed the otaku/hentai stereotype. I understand that MC has spent 20+ years as a hikikomori developing unsavory habits/instincts but I did not feel comfortable at all reading the first chapter about a baby delighting in burying his face in his mother’s chest and smiling creepily. And let’s not talk about the reference to the baby’s reaction to breast feeding. Just one mention of that is too creepy for me. And when he’s five and stealing his home tutor’s underwear? No, that’s not ok.

To be completely fair, this is just my personal reaction. Rudi’s mental maturation and transition is a focus of the author’s plot for the first volume. Rudi is reincarnated with a determination to turn over a new leaf and correct all of his past bad habits. As such, it is very realistic that Rudi was the creepiest as a baby (when he was just a NEET a day or two before) and his perversion decreases quite a lot over three to four years as he works at being a “better” person. Nevertheless, I have severe difficulty reconciling Rudi’s physical age (young child) with his X-rated thinking. I don’t like that he’s already mentally assigned his same-age best friend into his future harem and put the moves verbally on his much-older home tutor when he’s younger than ten.

My Ratings

Ok, I got a private comment that the harshness of my review for Big Money didn’t match well with the 5/10 rating that I gave the show. Reading this review again, I realize that I gave Mushoku Tensai a 6/10 rating but criticism took up 2/3 of the page, which seems contradictory. However, I stand by my rating because I am just a very critical person. I tend to overanalyze flaws in the material. Elements that irritate me stand out and I feel very strongly about them.

To me, Mushoku Tensei is appealing on multiple levels: the premise, the character development, the intelligent (“genius”) MC, the interesting magical system. However, the harem/hentai play docked points off in my book. The story would have been much better without that element so in conclusion, Mushoku Tensei is only slightly above average.

Rating: 6/10

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6 thoughts on “[Light Novel] Mushoku Tensei – Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu

  1. Pingback: News: Light Novel Articles (September 2014) | English Light Novels

  2. Rudi acting like a pervert is certainly one of the worse parts of the novel (I was about to drop the novel halfway through volume 1 and 4), but it gets less emphasis in later volumes (in fact some of the later volumes are strong on story). This said, after the first volume, volume 4 and 7 (I think) were pretty bad in terms of Rudi acting perverse.

    In the current volumes a new problem appears. The author keeps repeating certain setup: Rudi goes on a mission to accompany Y and takes X with him (obviously X and Y are characters who change in each arc).

    Faults aside, I think this web novel is actually good and appears to be better written than many actual light novels. The author also takes the romance (many steps) further than any harem that I know.

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    • Thanks for the comment! Yes, I kind of expected Rudi to get better as he “grows older” and becomes much further removed from the trauma of his past life. And I did in fact drop the light novels after volume 4 because of his perverseness, but I’m glad you stuck with it and continued. I did like every single other element of Mushoku Tensei but Rudi’s mental creepiness ruined it for me since the story is told from his POV.

      Additionally I also felt like there were plenty of other light novels that were well-written, without the negative factors of Mushoku Tensei, i.e. No Game No Life, Log Horizon, Tate No Yuusha No Nariagari, Legendary Moonlight Sculptor, so I’m curious about which other light novels you’ve found interesting as well.

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      • Of the webnovel bunch I read and liked Tate no Yuusha, Mushoku Tensei and Risou no Himo Seikatsu. I read a few more, but only those 3 were decent. I’ve only read the webnovel versions, so I don’t know how different the light novel versions of those are.

        Risou no Himo Seikatsu has an awfully sounding title, but the one volume that I read wasn’t bad. It’s another of transported to a fantasy world novels. The protagonist of this one is some average salaryman. He gets summoned to the parallel universe to become prince consort (pretty much husband) of a ruling queen. It’s a position where he holds no power, but the queen exactly needs someone who won’t get in her way of ruling. It’s mostly romance and politics. The book was slightly erotic, but had nothing of the creepiness from Mushoku Tensei.

        As for Tate no Yuusha, I would love to see the romance slightly more developed (it’s possible that it is in the LN version), but even with that part left undeveloped, the series is quite interesting. The male lead is shrewd, yet very likeable.

        Webnovels aside I read and liked Suzumiya Haruhi series, Durarara!! and Maou Maoyuu Yuusha novels.

        The thing about Suzumiya Haruhi series is that everything is narrated by the sarcastic male lead. In fact you don’t even know what he is saying to the other characters, but you do know what he is thinking. The other characters respond as if they knew his thoughts, but what he is saying out loud is probably less sarcastic. The drawback of the series is that sometimes there are annoying ecchi scenes. The problem with them is that the male lead narrates them from first hand experience (I actually dropped the novel at first, but those got sparse and less annoying later on). The story is not yet finished and there haven’t been a new volume in a while, though with 11 volumes there is still plenty to read. The author likes to include mathematics problems\formula in so of the arcs (seriously).

        Durarara!! is going to get more anime adaptations in next year, so it might be worth sticking to those. I read this after watching the anime and liking it, but then I liked Baccano! too which was written by the same person. Speaking of which, Baccano! was originally a LN and should be worth checking out.

        Last we have Maou Maoyuu Yuusha. What is interesting about this one (besides the plot) is the format. This LN is in the format of a play, so it’s dialogue only. Each volume has a lot going on. I heard this LN started on some message board, but was later heavily rewritten (rewritten in terms of writing style, but not story).

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  3. So you don’t like Rudeus as a character because he is a pervert (not a degenerate) and that disgust you?

    Okay well…I could say this:
    I don’t like people who are fat because they are gluttonous.

    That is what you are saying. I don’t like this person because he likes too much of something that is completely ordinary.

    Like

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