Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 03 – Childhood Friend

Thanks to Roxy, Rudy is no longer a shut-in, which means he can now freely explore the boundless natural beauty beyond the Greyrat residence. Paul tells his son that a man’s strength isn’t for pushing people around, but protecting and befriending the weak—and if some girls are impressed in the process, it’s all gravy.

It’s the first of several moments Paul talks to his son as if he were much older, even though he tells him he worries about the ways he doesn’t act like the kid he is. This only makes sense: Rudy is Paul’s first kid, while Rudy’s emotional and social development was profoundly stunted by bullying and harassment. They both have plenty to teach each other.

As for making friends, the first three kids his age Rudy meets are bullying a weaker boy, and uses his water magic to disinterest them off. He learns they were picking on the boy for having green hair and thus resembling the hated Superd. In reality, he’s the son of a human and half-elf; the green hair is just a harmless genetic trait.

At first glance it’s clear to Rudy that Sylph (delicately voiced by Kayano Ai) is a drop-dead gorgeous bishounen. Having acted on his father’s advice to be a friend to the weak, his decision is also routed in his baser desire to meet hot babes, who will surely flock to this prettyboy. Sylph is delighted to have a friend, as Rudy is his first as well. They agree to meet up soon so he can teach him how to use the magic that got rid of the bullies.

But Rudy comes home late to find an angry Paul at the front door. He heard from the mother of one of the bullies that Rudy punched him. Rudy tries to explain the way an adult would to another, but Paul doesn’t want to hear excuses. When Rudy is insolent, he’s slapped, but instead of crying, Rudy becomes even more adult and logical.

He tells Paul how he’s worked hard to earn his father’s trust, and had hoped that would have in turn earned him the chance to explain his actions. He then assures Paul that next time he sees three boys picking on another, he’ll either ignore it or join in, as befits the “Greyrat Family Way.” Paul, knowing he’s been rhetorically beaten, apologizes and asks Rudy to tell him what happened.

Like I said, Paul is as new to being a dad as Rudy is to being a kid in this world. Both are going to make mistakes. What’s so wonderful about the exchange here is that virtually equal time is given to their respective analyses and growth as a father and a son. Paul thought he needed to be hard on a son who is already a saint-level mage, even though part of him was glad he finally did something childish.

Paul knows he wasn’t practicing what he preached and furthermore, Rudy was fully capable of exposing that hypocrisy. That said, their “fight” expand beyond the night, as Paul is contrite and reflects not only upon how he’ll parent going forward, but whether his own father felt the things he’s feeling. That he does this while nestling his head in Zenith’s shoulders also underscores that he’s not walking this path of parenthood alone.

Six months pass, and it’s summertime. Rudy and Sylph are still targeted by the bullies, but Rudy fights back every time. He gets the distinct impression that one of the bullies’ moms is using her son as an excuse to see Paul, whom she fancies. Rudy has also been training Sylph in magic, and he turns out to be an excellent student.

When Sylph asks Rudy to teach him how to cast a spell without incantation, Rudy wonders if, like the public myth about set mana levels, it’s easier to do than people let on. As someone in a new world, Rudy wants to be special in at least one or two things, but either it is indeed relatively easy to do incantation-less casting, or Sylph is pretty special himself.

The moment he pulls it off, Sylph practically blooms with joy, dancing and spinning with the water he conjured, then running as fast as his fair legs can carry him through golden fields. Rudy can only keep up and share in the pure, unadulterated joy. As they lie together in the reeds, catching their breath, Rudy reiterates how goddamn pretty Sylph is.

Then a pop-up storm starts to drench them, and they make haste for shelter at Rudy’s house. Rudy leads Sylph to the bath that Lilia already prepared, strips down to his birthday suit, and sets to work stripping an extremely reluctant Sylph down as well, urging him not to be bashful—they’re both boys!

Only…they’re not. As was fairly evident from the start, Sylph is a girl, and was never able to get out her full name: Sylphiette. For once, Rudy isn’t turned on by a naked girl. In fact, he feels awful, as well as stupid for not realizing sooner. As he bathes with his dad, Paul makes sure that even as his son starts getting more interested in girls that kind of thing, he needs to listen and heed them when they say “no”.

Again, Paul is glad his son is acting like the kid he appears to be—and emotionally, still is—in this situation. He knows his son will “make good use” of his failure, only to watch Rudy “apologize” by saying he honestly thought she was a boy the whole six months they’ve hung out, causing her to cry even more. At that, Paul wonders if his son is dumber than he thought!

A day or a few pass, Rudy can’t concentrate on sparring with Paul, and Paul knows exactly why. What he doesn’t know is that the 30-year-old in Rudy is similarly depressed about having seemingly pushed away the lovely childhood friend was hoping to meet someday. Rudy showed his whole ass (literally!), Paul is certain they’ll make up. He assures Rudy that women love men’s strengths and weaknesses, and showing your vulnerable side can help mend fences.

His dad later admits he’s getting into some pretty advanced romantic advice for his still-very-young son, but it’s all good advice, from someone who is clearly a good man who, while hella strong, understands his own weaknesses and flaws, be it as a father, a husband, or a man.

Sylphiette shows up right after Rudy and Paul talk, and Rudy approaches her weary and contrite. He tries a dating sim line about “missing her beauty”, all while on the verge of tears, fearing permanent rejection. Instead, Sylphiette tenderly takes his hands in hers, tells him she “doesn’t hate him or anything”, and asks him to just “act normal,” giving him a pat on the head for good measure.

That she’s forgiven him so easily baffles Rudy, but he’s also obviously relieved beyond belief. He admits to not knowing how to get along with her, even though that’s what he’s been doing the last six months. His adult brain looks outward into the future when he’s a man in need of a good woman, but for now, the gender of the first friend his age shouldn’t matter. They’re still young, and have all the time in the world.

Rudy and Sylphiette will learn together how to continue get along with each other. There will be times they’ll make each other angry, get into fights, and maybe not talk or want to look in each other’ faces. But they’ll also run through golden fields together, laughing, playing, doing magic, and simply reveling in each other’s proximity. They’ll falter and forgive together—that’s what friendship is all about.

P.S. Read Crow’s write-up here!

Author: magicalchurlsukui

Preston Yamazuka is a staff writer for RABUJOI.

3 thoughts on “Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 03 – Childhood Friend”

  1. This is 2 episodes in a row in which Mushoku Tensei put 2 girls in vulnerable positions so that Rudeus could see them in that vulnerable position. I grant that Rudeus didn’t think of perverted thoughts this time, but I really don’t consider this to be good writing. That Roxy incident in the hallway was a common hentai fantasy, and the situation with Sylphiette must have pleased many of the lolicons who are into the show, and I don’t find pandering to that sort of audience to be necessary to tell a good story. I still find it contrived that Rudeus could not tell that Sylphiette was a girl when other characters such as Lillia could tell from one look that Sylphiette was a girl. I myself never mistook short-haired girls for guys and long-haired boys for girls when I was 6 since I gauged whether they were boys or girls by their faces and their voices.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts!

      I can’t speak to those who wrote the anime adaptation, but there’s no need to speculate on the intent of the original author, as he recently addressed anime Rudy’s perviness on Twitter, as reported by ANN.

      The translated message (emphasis mine):

      There are a lot of people who can’t accept how in Mushoku Tensei, the protagonist remains a pervert even after he reincarnates. It’s the same in the original work. But it’s not as if he has loads of regrets about being a pervert in his previous life. That’s why in the isekai he doesn’t necessarily think, “I’m going to live life seriously! That also means stop being a perv!”

      Tentatively speaking, in the original work, he’s 100% a perv and 0% serious at the point when he is born. When he decides to “live life seriously,” it settles down to 20% perv and 80% serious, but since the anime doesn’t include that moment of change, the perv ratio feels bigger compared to the original work.

      I also think that when he did that to Roxy’s panties, he still wasn’t acculturated in the other world, and he half-perceived people other than himself as something like video game characters. I kind of think that he still wasn’t aware of them as other people living their own lives. His understanding of other people goes up at the end of episode 2 and in episode 3, so look forward to it!

      I think that as his level of understanding goes up, he will do less criminal actions and other things that ignores other people’s feelings. However, his fundamental nature as a perv won’t change, so if you’re one of those people who think that being a pervert in and of itself is bad, I hope you don’t sweat it too much!

      As you said, “Rudeus didn’t think of perverted thoughts this time” with Sylphiette, so as the author says, he is slowly making progress. No reason to think that won’t continue.

      Regarding Rudy mistaking Sylphiette for a boy, history is packed with women posing as men during wartime. The ones listed in that link are only the ones known; countless other women may have served in the military and other men-only professions without anyone ever knowing they were women. Then you have legendary examples like Hua Mulan. Bottom line, I’m fine with Rudy, a shut-in, mistaking her for a boy.

      As for whether this is bad writing, I would disagree with that point. Supernatural trappings aside, Mushoku Tensei is a pretty classic redemption story. In order to portray that redemption to best effect, one must first portray his original state—the bad parts he needs to correct to become a better person—which is happening.

      I’d say it would be bad writing if this process were rushed or illogical, but it is happening gradually, explicitly fueled by interactions with the good people in his life: his family, Roxy, and now Sylphiette.

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