I know I’m probably going to get some heat for including Mushoku Tensei in my 12 Days, or even just watching it to completion at all–of all the isekai that aired this past year (and there have been a lot), it seemed like Jobless Reincarnation alienated people with its protagonist, a self-aware scumbag with a penchant for young girls.
…yeah that sounded just as bad written as it did in my head. It is bad.
But, HEAR ME OUT, this scumbag actually showed physical and mental growth throughout his journey. His environment and the people in it shaped him into the young man that he becomes over these past two seasons, reaffirming my belief that we are shaped by our experiences rather than born to a set path.
When I say there have been a lot of isekai this past year, that doesn’t even begin to cover the sheer magnitude we’ve received since before the pandemic started more than two years ago. Most of them I dropped after single episodes, and some even less than that (looking at you, The Dungeon of Black Company). When I started up Mushoku Tensei, I nearly dropped it as well since I was so repulsed by Rudy’s lecherous personality even when reborn as an infant.
But here’s the thing. He was a hopeless shut-in in his previous life, the circumstances of which we learn over the course of several arcs and flashbacks. He retained all those memories, including the time of his death, going into his new life. These memories affect his every reaction and decision, no matter his age or location. Unlike the protagonists of so many other isekai, he doesn’t immediately become some lauded hero we’re supposed to adore like everyone else in their world. He struggles to move past his trauma and previously formed instincts. Does he slip up and act on his disgusting sexual impulses? Obviously, yes. The amount of tweets I read after his scene with Eris are completely understandable, because there’s just no excusing the wrongness of that moment. Yet I stuck with him, because I could tell there was till hope for his character; he wanted to be the better person, if only others would have the patience to help him along that path. And I’ll stay with him over the course of this journey–he still has far to go.