I made it clear in my episode 15 review of Jobless Reincarnation and in my first season review that I am not a fan of Rudeus’ character. He’s really not a character I will talk of fondly or collect anything with him on it. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy what Jobless Reincarnation is doing as a story because I actually do like a lot about this series, but Rudeus isn’t really one of them.
He’s more a character I don’t mind seeing things go badly for because so often they go badly because of his own poor choices or things go badly after he’s done something really obnoxious and it kind of feels more like instant karma.
Jobless Reincarnation swiftly reminded me of both Rudeus’ and Paul’s character faults.
Episode 16 of Jobless Reincarnation delivers Eris, Rudy and Ruijerd to a human city where Rudeus intends to take on some jobs and earn some more money so they can get another ship back home. However, things don’t exactly go to plan when Rudeus spies what he believes to be a kidnapping and decides to try to rescue the victim.
Basically, his actions take him face to face with a much more haggard looking Paul than the womanising man we met in season one. And if I thought Paul in season one was pretty terrible as a parent his efforts in this episode more or less nail the impression.
Jobless Reincarnation wastes no time this episode in reminding us of both of these character’s failings. Rudeus reverts to his more perverted self when he taunts a swordswoman by licking the inside of her underwear that for reasons that make no sense (given he announces the name of his party) he is wearing on his head as some kind of disguise and then rather than fighting her seriously spends most the time dodging and staring at her jiggling breasts.
Then we have Paul. On finding out his son has survived and crossed continents, keeping Eris alive and taking on adventures to earn money, rather than any relief or happiness, Paul decides anger and blame are the way to go. Why didn’t Rudeus do more? Why didn’t he go about trying to save others who had been transported around the world (others he didn’t even know about)? How dare he not be a miserable wreck?
Wow, every single moment that Paul spoke to Rudeus made me want to walk up and slap him (which in fairness is possibly what they were going for).
Instead of the reunion between father and son being a joyous occasion, Jobless Reincarnation manages to make it decidedly uncomfortable viewing as both characters cross lines, make assumptions, and fail horrifically at communicating and neither one really gets anything but pain from the encounter.
The thing is, Jobless Reincarnation is doing a great job. It isn’t a grim-dark story relying on shock deaths and buckets of blood and grotesque imagery to make an impact. It also isn’t this light and airy power-fantasy that we’ve seen so many times before in isekai stories. Jobless Reincarnation is gritty with characters that aren’t always right or nice but also aren’t just human scum. They’ve balanced out the moments they succeed with the times they fail, their positive moments with their faults, and the story isn’t always comfortable watching but that’s what makes it interesting in a somewhat saturated genre and it makes those lighter moments all the more special and enjoyable.
One of the things I did love about this episode was after the scene with Paul, when Rudeus returns to the hotel room and Eris finds him sitting in the dark quite miserable. She doesn’t know exactly what has happened or why but she makes a genuine effort to offer comfort to Rudeus. While episode 15 did an excellent job of showing us how far Eris has come, this moment really solidified that the Eris we’re seeing now values her companions and when they are hurting she wants to comfort them even if she’s not sure how.
It was a touching moment and while it wasn’t exactly a high note to end on (given my heart was still a little bit in tatters by just how wrong everything went with Rudeus and Paul’s reunion) Jobless Reincarnation managed to give us this little bit of sweetness after the bitter taste left by so much of the episode.
You can read the full review of Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation part 2 here.
Images from: Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Part 2. Dir. M Okamoto. Studio Bind. 2021
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