Mushoku Tensei – A Grandfather of Isekai

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Mushoku Tensei is one of the 2021 anime that has a lot of people taking about it, and for good reason. It’s an interesting show, adapted from a wealth of written media. Now having not read all of the written material, I can only speak to some of it. Today though I’m going to focus on it’s anime adaptation, and the problems that are creeping to the surface because of its vast popularity.

The written media for Mushoku Tensei has been around since 2012, that’s why the series is so popular. It not exactly a huge stretch to say that this series would generally appeal to a far wider audience than most anime out there.

You see, this series contains actual full length novels, light novels, manga, an audio drama, and as of 2021 it now has an anime and a video game as well.

So, what’s the problem then? Well, you could call this series one of the grandfathers of the Isekai genre.

In these types of stories, characters will teleport into a different world in one way, shape, or form. Generally a character dies and is reincarnated, or they’re sucked into the world through some other event. Then that character lives in the newfound world after that.

The entire crux of these stories is the characters and the world they now reside in. Key plot points include living among the peoples that reside in these new lands, learning the laws and the way the world works.

Isekai anime all have a gimmick of some nature, and to be fair it’s not a genre I actively dive into regularly. This is mostly because the industry is flooded with them. Since the beginning of anime itself, we’ve all seen the series where a character goes to some mystical place, or our titular hero gets trapped in a video game. It’s standard, it’s common, and even before the term “Isekai” became part of the anime narrative, it has always been around.

Even anime that aren’t true Isekai can still feel like one. Think of anime such as Inuyasha, for prime example. I wouldn’t call it a true Isekai, but it does have many trappings of the genre.

If you want a good example of a great Isekai in the genre, look no further than “That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime“. The manga and anime are both solid, and it also has novels and light novels. That is the reason I use this example. The wealth of contented provided is very similar.

When it comes to written media, Mushoku Tensei is the modern-day juggernaut for the Isekai genre. Prior to this series, Isekai were more fluid in it’s nature. What we considered Isekai was also vastly different.

This series established most of the tropes we know today. Predominately, this includes the concept of reincarnation into a new world, our favorite murderous device often named by fans as “truck-kun”, and the asshole protagonist that requires a new lease on life.

Does any of that sound like something you’ve seen before? Well, that is the ultimate issue for us anime fans.

The series took too long to be animated. More creative Isekai anime out there are using these established tropes. Some of them are actually doing it better than Mushoku Tensei ever could. This is simply because they had the benefit of learning from their grandfathers of the genre.

Thanks to these improvements on the genre, we’re getting some decent content. “That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime” is the primary example I use. However, there are other solid choices out there if this is a genre you really enjoy. I just don’t, so it’s hard for me to really decipher what ones are best to list.

Sadly, Mushoku Tensei cannot live up to it’s competitors. If you’re a fan of the series already, it’s probably right up your ally and on your “to watch” list. For the rest of us it’s a “been there, done that, seen this before” type of show.

This doesn’t make Mushoku Tensei bad, not even in the slightest. It just means that despite the pretty visuals and decent voice acting, it feels dated. It’s hard for me to suggest this anime simply because of that, but there is a reason to watch it.

As I said before, Mushoku Tensei is one of the founding grandfathers of the genre. It would be ridiculous to overlook this series simply because any fan of this genre should watch it at least once. It is important to understand how this genre came to be what it is today, and this series allows you to do that.

The anime adaptation is still ongoing, so this isn’t a review on its quality. This is just a firmly placed suggestion. If you enjoy Isekai anime, you owe it to yourself to watch this series.

I know that I am enjoying it despite the dated feel, and I hope you will too.

This has been Kernook of The Demented Ferrets, where stupidity is at its finest and level grinds are par for the course. I’ll see you next time.

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