Every time I’m forced to watch Mushoku Tensei for research purposes, I am compelled to miss the days of yonder. One where the worst Isekai to exist was Sword Art Online, with the main character so painfully boring and cliché, that you just laughed it off as a one-off. And yet every anime season since then, you’d see it. Where anime was rising in popularity, it was also filling up with mediocre titles that didn’t offer much beyond objectification. Some Isekai were so terrible, filled with sexual innuendos and perverted jokes that weren’t even clever and offered no genuine snark. And sadly, Mushoku Tensei isn’t any different.
Mushoku Tensei is an Isekai with Harem and Ecchi elements, so of course, it’d be filled with perverted tropes. I expected as much, considering how these types of shows work. I’ve been following anime for a while now. I know what Isekai’s basic premise is and how it lends itself to that sort of wish fulfillment. But with Mushoku Tensei, the joke of it all falls flat. They try passing the perversion off as either a joke or sincere, and neither portrayal ends up working, leading it to be extremely generic.
And, hey, I enjoy some NSFW (Not Safe For Work) jokes here and there, especially when they are written in a way that they seem organic and not distasteful. A great example of a good ecchi is My Dress-Up Darling, which takes teenage awkwardness and hormones, mixes them all together, and delivers a genuinely charming anime. But that’s the thing, it balances the sexual jokes by weaving them into the plot naturally instead of them being jarring or excessive. And excessive is certainly the word I’d use for Mushoku Tensei.
Surely, this trend wouldn’t catch on, you’d think. We can’t have an entire industry based on the fantasies of people that apparently don’t know how women are supposed to be treated, you’d say. Excessive dirty humor at the expense of the plot won’t be something that continues, you’d hope. Sadly, with Mushoku Tensei, it doesn’t even end up being fun. So, why bother at all?
Mushoku Tensei: The Problem Is In The Premise!
Mushoku Tensei is one of those anime that really doesn’t have much going on for it beyond its scandalous setting. It builds off of a very generic opening, with our protagonist being unnamed NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). One day he realizes that his existence has been pointless, but that changes when he saves some teenagers from the path of a speeding truck by sacrificing himself.
And then he opens his eyes, as an infant named Rudeus Greyrat. He learns that he has been reincarnated into this new world, full of magic and battlegrounds and that this might be his second chance at life. He vows to live differently this time, an existence with purpose and meaning. That’s tame enough, right?
Through early training and foresight, Rudeus grows his magical powers and intellect. And for the most part, it remains your basic Isekai where he falls in love with a girl in his childhood and loses contact. Then he goes on to have a mentor he grows close to. And then he meets another girl and realizes she is the one for him.
Except, no, he doesn’t. No, instead, he marries his student, his teacher and his rival and goes on to have the strangest interactions with all three of them, later turning them into a religion. Oh, and his dad was a notorious playboy who only married his mom because he knocked her up. And the Greyrat clan is known for being intensely weird about women.
After a while, you start to see the problem.
Isekai And Projection: Harem Is Overrated.
We already know Isekai is an escapist fantasy. And that’s what it here’s to sell. A lot of Isekai is more popular with the male audience specifically because of how it portrays this ideal world where you are the coolest person alive, with a fresh start where everyone is bound to idolize you and forgive your every sin.
And that’s kind of the appeal with Mushoku Tensei as well. A world where you can be as depraved as you want, and it’ll be considered some grand gesture of love. It’s a reality where you have your pick of women to choose as you wish, or you can choose all of them. No one will stop you because, essentially, you are above everyone else.
And that’s just not something that’s enjoyable to a huge demographic now. The themes in Mushoku Tensei are explicit but tone-deaf, and the romance is extremely uncomfortable to boot. I think the main reason it even got the popularity it did was simply the shock factor of the ecchi aspect.
Because on its own? There isn’t much to write home about.