This essay will reference sexual assault, child predation, and miscellaneous unsavory content. If that makes you uncomfortable or is unsuitable for your age group, this is your chance to step away from this disaster of the show. You will be better off, trust me.
Anime is chock full of unpleasant, unsettling, and disturbing content at the best of times. Most anime fans have come to accept that the medium comes with baggage, like the sexualization of minors, the not-so subtle winking at lolicons and the like, and all sorts of things that keep us from being able to enjoy all the great parts of anime. I’ve had to drop a number of series for crossing similar lines.
In the first episode of No Game No Life, we immediately meet siblings Sora and Shiro. Shiro is an 11-year-old girl, and the first time we meet her, she is posed suggestively in a shot that exposes her underwear. Before she says a word, the viewer is forced to see this child in a sexual light. I turned it off and didn’t look back.
In the second arc of Bakemonogatari, the protagonist, Araragi, gets in a scuffle with a schoolgirl. After the fact, she laments the loss of her virtue and he admits to having felt her chest. He does this with a straight face, completely unashamed, and almost sort of proud about it. I turned it off and didn’t look back.
There are more examples of this than I care to admit, but those are the most severe, and believe me when I tell you Mushoku Tensei is worse. For all its production values, voice talent, and compelling story, it unapologetically presents its protagonist as a serial sexual predator and proceeds to support his actions. With no hesitation, I can say that Mushoku Tensei is the worst anime I’ve ever seen.
Mushoku Tensei began life as a web novel at the very beginning of the isekai boom in 2012. I can’t speak for the content of the web or light novels, as I’m unwilling to go further with this story, but this may as well serve as a condemnation of the entire franchise. I will only be addressing the anime from here on out, though.
Our protagonist is an unemployed shut-in who gets hit by a truck and dies, and is reincarnated as a baby in a fantasy world. Befitting one of the first proper isekai, it plays those familiar notes in the song we’ve already heard. In its first six episodes, Mushoku Tensei has a handful of uncomfortable moments, but any experienced anime watcher can look at it through the corner of their eye and move on.
In the first episode, the newborn Rudy watches his parents have sex, and appears to be gratified by the experience. In the following episodes, as he grows up, he harasses the women in his life, including his mother, babysitter, and tutor. He ogles them, spies on them, and steals their underwear. He does all of this while taking advantage of the fact that he appears to be a child, even though he has the mind of a man in his mid-thirties.
However, there are two examples in the first six episodes that were far more abhorrent than Rudy’s usual tendency to be a sex pest, and while one was serious, two broke the camel’s back. If you haven’t given up by now, I’m sorry, but I guess you’re determined to see this through.
Early on, Rudy befriends an elf boy named Sylphie, after defending him from a couple of bullies. The two strike up a genuinely wholesome friendship, or at least it is until they get caught in the rain and return home to take a bath. At this point, Rudy is under the impression that Sylphie is a boy. Sylphie is short for Sylphiette, and is actually a girl, but that’s completely irrelevant to the point. The writer seems unaware that it’s irrelevant to the point, but let’s continue for a moment under that erroneous assumption.
Sylphie is reluctant to take off his clothes and get in the bath with Rudy. Rudy, despite being a grown man in a child’s body, ignores the possibility that Sylphie could have some underlying trauma or physical condition that would make him reluctant to undress around others. Heck, Rudy ignores the possibility that his androgynous friend could be a girl.
That’s not important, because for some reason, Rudy really wants Sylphie to take his clothes off, and what Sylphie wants is unimportant. He forces himself on Sylphie, stripping her, and when she fights him off, he decides to sneak attack his sobbing friend who is pleading with him to stop, all so that he can take her clothes off. Rudy only realizes he did something wrong when he discovers that the child he stripped and humiliated was a girl.
But here’s the thing; in what world is it acceptable for Rudy to sexually assault his friend because Sylphie was a boy? Is Mushoku Tensei saying it’s okay to molest children as long as the predator is the same gender? It’s not. It is just as egregious, and yet he proceeds to fake an apology to the girl he victimized and manipulates her into accepting it. Do you think that this is disturbing and the absolute lowest that Rudy and the show can sink to? Oh, you’re in for a treat.
Rudy later accepts a job tutoring his cousin Eris, a haughty rich girl who delights in inflicting physical violence on anyone who mildly inconveniences her. Gosh, they’re a match made in hell. Despite their differences, a scuffle with some bandits allows them to arrive at something resembling a healthy relationship between family members.
At least until they’re playing together, and Eris is suddenly so exhausted from the game that she drops in the stable and takes a nap in the hay. It might be a funny and humanizing moment for a character who up to this point has been vicious and aloof, but it’s not meant to be. While Rudy sees his sleeping cousin and starts getting ideas, it’s time for a quick reminder.
Rudy possesses the body of a child, and the mind of a 40-year-old man at this point in the story. Eris is eleven, and his cousin, and even if you want to invoke the casual approach to incest that this medieval world most likely has, Rudy should not be attracted to an 11-year-old girl in any way. For every normal human, that is wrong, egregious, and unacceptable.
So you might understand my dismay when Rudy begins to grope his sleeping, 11-year-old cousin and attempts to rape her. If not for the fact that he was afraid of being caught while assaulting his cousin, he would not have stopped. We already know his grasp on consent is nonexistent.
This is where I dropped the show and never looked back. It’s unapologetic garbage where the “hero” is an easily identified pedophile and sexual predator and shows no interest in portraying any of that behavior as obviously evil as it is.
I’m telling you all this now because, despite how clearly heinous it is, Mushoku Tensei was wildly popular when it aired last winter. It was the fifth most popular show in a season that had Attack on Titan, Re: Zero, Horimiya, The Promised Neverland, SK8 The Infinity, Beastars, and a dozen more good-to-great shows that deserve your attention far more than this filth.
It was so popular that its second season was announced right after it finished airing, and is slated to begin airing this fall season. So if you’ve heard great things about its character writing, animation, and story, those are all true. You might not have heard that it’s like Lolita if the main character was treated like a good person whose actions are not questionable.
So I might apologize for this break in my usual content; I try to avoid adult material that might alienate part of my audience, but my hatred for Mushoki Tensei is overwhelming to the point that I was willing to take a step from the typical Otaku Exhibition. Keep in mind that this was based on half of the first season, and I have no idea how much worse it got after I dropped it.
This is the part where I say leave a comment or talk to me about it on Twitter @ExhibitionOtaku, but I’ve already debated a lot of people who insisted that Rudy is somehow sympathetic or relatable, and the idea that this monster is relatable makes me want to puke. So if you want to comment, tell me how your day is going, or what totally wholesome anime you’re watching. Until next time, thanks for reading.