Mushoku Tensei is the new benchmark for isekai anime
Isekai is currently one of the most popular genres in anime which blew up after the massive success of Sword Art Online in 2012. Despite not being the first of its kind, the popularity of SAO has spawned numerous isekai anime over the years, some with a similar setting having unique quirks while others being blatant clones of the previous.
With 21 isekai anime being released in 2021 alone, the genre definitely feels monotonous and overdone. Mushoku Tensei, being one of them, may seem to be conceptually identical, but it could not be more different in terms of quality and execution.
Adapted from Rifujin na Magonote's light novel, Mushoku Tensei builds on the concept of reincarnation in an alternate fantasy world, where the jobless and hopeless protagonist is reborn with his past memories and is determined to start fresh with no regrets as Rudeus Greyrat, the child of two renowned adventurers.
This setting may sound awfully familiar because it is. Mushoku Tensei starts off as a typical isekai anime and follows a similar storyline. However, its storytelling is surprisingly profound. The progression is unrushed without feeling ponderous, and linear advancement is maintained without deviation toward dragged-out side quests.
Mushoku Tensei's world is expansive with various races and factions. Unlike other isekai anime, it does not skip out on the inner workings of the world, as it slowly trickles down the details while keeping other particulars – which are out of the scope of the characters – a mystery to be revealed.
The show's protagonist has a formulaic background, but Rudeus's unconventional development makes him an ideal protagonist. Dissimilar to other isekai self-inserts, his character is flawed in many ways and his moral compass works similar to that of a regular person manifesting peace, kindness and gratitude while also harbouring fear, hatred and selfishness. However, the gradual maturing evolution and blooming of this imperfect and controversial character make Rudeus feel more realistic than other generic protagonists.
Likewise, most of the supporting characters are written in-depth with a clear focus on their personal traits, motivations and relationship with the protagonist. Side characters are not treated as one-trick ponies, as they retain their relevance well past their respective story arcs instead of being used as disposable plot progression devices.
Due to the gargantuan volume of isekai anime being pumped out on the regular, only a handful can be found with serviceable production quality and animation. Mushoku Tensei is among those few, which blends a pleasant art style with nicely flowing transitions and keeps a keen focus on attention to detail. The animation is mesmerising at times, which comes as a surprise considering that it was produced by Studio Bind, a production house with no prior experience in leading any project.
Mushoku Tensei does not reinvent the wheel or revolutionise the concept of isekai, nor does it transform the genre into a new dimension. Working on the same formula, the anime's strengths in detailed storytelling, continually developing characters, quality animation and lack of corner cutting make it stand out amongst the sea of isekai anime and give it the edge over most.