You really should read this first:Mushoku Tensei, Jobless Reincarnation (First Cour): Not the First, but possibly The Best — Shallow Dives in Anime
Great review of an anime that some people find controversial. Rudy is not the traditional hero. He starts out as an ordinary guy – probably a bit insecure about his weight – until he stands up to some bullies who are picking on a girl. They beat him up and string him up on a fence – naked for everyone to see. He’s then ridiculed for his penis size and his weight by the gathering crowd of boys and girls. At this point, we really ought to feel grief for him and rage at his attackers as well as the spectators.
But he is male. I think that mutes the feelings many people have. There’s quite the double standard. If he were a woman, this is the part that would be drawing outrage. It would be mighty and it would be explosive. But he’s not female, so this isn’t what people are tweaked about.
Rudy is traumatized to the point of becoming a hikikomori. An emotional cripple. He locks himself in his room in shame and humiliation. No sexual assault counseling, no PTSD therapy for him. No prison for his assailants. No empathy from his parents. “Go back to school and we’ll see those boys get kicked out.” Letting him hide in his room is the extent of their support.
When he was in his hour of need, his parents abandoned him. I do not blame him for not going to their funeral. But then he is evicted and forced to move into a real dump. He continues to live in his lonely world, watching anime and playing games.
With no family support, he is forced to venture outside on occasion. On one of these trips, he saves a life at the loss of his own. It is such a common trope in isekai that we pass over it without thinking. He’s just fulfilled a requirement for reincarnation. He has just checked a box. Now it’s on to the real show. But from my POV, it shows he is still fundamentally a good person, entirely independent of his flaws. One who would protect others at the highest cost to himself.
So he gets reincarnated. He’s born to a minor noble in a land where magic and monsters really exist. And he is rather… flawed. Here’s where all the hate begins. Rudy is written as a horny, sexually obsessed child retaining his 34-year-old memories. (Though I suggest that mind was not exactly adult. Certainly traumatized, immature, and extremely inexperienced.)
The story is how that flawed person develops empathy and a conscience over the years. He never intentionally sets out to hurt anyone but along the way he occasionally does. His new father is a real horn-dog too and it is a world where the privileged pretty much do what they want. If Rudy weren’t a fundamentally good person he could have become an even pervier copy of his father. He doesn’t.
I thought about dropping it after the scene where he pantsed Sylphie. But afterward he realized how much he embarrassed her (he’d thought Sylphie was a “him”) and felt remorse for his actions. And grew a little bit. It became apparent to me that he’d learned a bit of empathy and the importance of a bit of self control. Thus begins a slow arc of his maturing into the person he ought to be.
That arc – and the people he meets and the adventures he has – are what makes this anime excellent. It is obvious that as far as he has come psychologically, he also has a long way to go to mature. Just as he’s come a long way in his magic use but has a long way to go to challenge what he’s going to face.
He’s so far had one sexual relationship with Eris. (Eris was clearly in charge.) People thought it was horrid because of that 34 year old mind in a 13 y.o. head. There is going to be a Roxy relationship too. Talk about age differentials! Let’s see if the same people go ballistic over that.
He is still a kid. He has a kid’s brain and a kid’s biology in a kid’s body. He certainly received no psychological advantage from his previous life. Pretty obvious that in his previous life he stopped maturing psychologically after the hazing incident and probably regressed a lot. He’s far beyond that now.
I think he’s doing pretty damned good for someone in his position.