So I was ranting to some people I knew about the Mushoku Tensei Anime, and what happened was that nobody got my point, so i decided to wrote a more lengthy essay about it.
Taking a single scene apart and explaining whats going on.
POSSIBLE SUBJECT OF FURTHER CHANGES
Things to note beforehand:
-I am in no way an expert on the topic of literature, but I've been doing my own research on it for some time now and this is just my conclusion and the way I've come to analyze this, I, in absolutely every possible way, expect you to feel offended about this if possible and would be glad to hear your opinions on this as well.
-I have read and finished all currently available Light and Webnovels of the Mushoku Tensei series including the redundancy chapters. No not the manga, fuck that one.
-I just randomly typed all this down on a whim but I've sought things through to a certain extent, it's still not perfect and I might have missed certain details.
First off... what is Mushoku Tensei? Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu Jobless Reincarnation: I Will Seriously Try If I Go to Another World is a light novel series written by Rifujin na Magonote and illustrated by Sirotaka originally posted on Shōsetsuka ni Narō.
It follows the story of a boy and failure of a human being in our world as they are reincarnated into another world, experience completely new things, meet all kinds of people and shape the world around them.
First of all things I'd like to make sure everyone understands a few things, especially why 'scenes' exist, a scene is well... a scene, it's just a sequence of continuous actions, what "happens" categorized.
A scene exists to establish or introduce something, a fact, a standard or personality trait of a character, and usually it is there to drive and continue the plot as well.
If you have a scene that does more than one thing such as setting a standard, introduce a personality trait of a character and drive the plot, you've done everything correct.
Another thing I'd like to mention is that, a story uses scenes to tell us things, it's normal for an anime adaption or generally adaption of anything to be cutting out content from the original, problematic it becomes is when it doesn't work.
First example I want to give for this is Attack on Titan, Attack on titan works greatly, both anime and manga, mostly because the anime adapts nearly everything the manga includes, this leads to us completely understanding whats going on and why things are going on, because the story tells us of everything we require to continue the story.
Counter example: Re:Zero, Re:Zero has an incredible amount of content cut out, I haven't personally read the novels but through the help of modern youtube content creators it's easy to catch up on cut contents, but the story works, because it is reduced to the bare and necessary minimum of information we require to understand whats going and increases the impact of emotional scenes instead of building up a scene in written form and releasing the pent up tension/frustration in the next, by using it's incredible visuals and voice acting to make us feel with the characters.
Last but not least I would like to make sure everyone understands the most important rule of the Visual Medium; "Show, don't Tell".
Visual comedy such as that of Charlie Chaplin and more recent representatives of the art include Edgar Wright belong to that, show us something funny, dont tell us a joke and then explain why it's funny.
That's how Visual Storytelling works, you show us things and not tell us how it works.
Anime industry isnt entirely well known to be doing that mostly because it requires some brain cells to think up such a scene but at times it can be so simple and increase the emotional weight of a scene tenfold and makes understanding a simple scene so much easier.
Next I'd like to talk about a two short scenes from the recent AOT anime. Just to have taken a part an incredibly good example of how to write a few really good scenes and have them all work together.
Mikasa and Armin walking up to the president guys office to ask him for permission of something and they are talking about Aren and for no apparent reason seeing young scouts leaving the estate, it is shortly mentioned as they leave and our attention is drawn to them. Why were they mentioned? We don't know, and it probably doesnt matter, so we forget the fact, but it stays in our short term memory.
Next scene is Armin and Mikasa talking to the president guy in his office, after just a bit of them talking the weird chair is mentioned, and he says the chair was just carried in by some young scouts.
Now wait a second, those young scouts were mentioned earlier weren't they? So this must be kind of important, no? But a chair? a weird chair? Whats gonna happen next, what is the chair doing Our curiosity is caught for something that seems so utterly small, tension starts to built and we start to get our hopes up for whats gonna happen next, expectations are set and we want to know whats gonna happen next, and we are rewarded for it. As soon as they leave the room the chair goes BOOM, it was a bomb, the very important, decision making guy who they MUST consult to do ANYTHING, which is the very reason why they just WENT to him, why the entire scene happened, was killed by some young scouts? What does all this mean? Whats gonna happen next without a "Leader", without the guy who makes decisions, and what kind of role are the scouts playing here? Why did this happen?
We have questions, the tension rises and we once again set expectations for whats gonna happen next. We want to know, we crave for information and that is why we continue watching.
This, is simply brilliant story telling, a standard is set by which things work, we know and understand this and so do our characters, after all they must and are abiding by this, that's why all those scenes were happening, and just on the side, while all this is happening, while the plot is being continued, the next two scenes are being established without without explicitly telling us, our interest and our curiosity are caught and we continue on because we want to know whats next.
Back to Mushoku Tensei
I could take a part lots of scenes, but to me Eris best girl so I'm gonna start with her introduction.
In the anime even before she's being shown, Rudeus tells us in inner monologue about her personality traits, even before we can set any expectations based on her behavior, and when she's finally shown to us, she's not more but a generic shouting, sitting on her high horse, angry Tsundere which we can dump into the trash bin with all the other tsunderes of the tsundere over-satiated animes.
And then when he finally does something unexpected which not all characters do to tsun tsun, he fights back, and he gets smacked for it, hunted and the rather cool scene of her trying to murder him comes in, but all the action and tension that has finally been able to built based on her truly overpowering him, is overshadowed by the scene being overpowered by Rudy's inner monologue and it quickly becomes flat and boring.
These two scenes had... little to no meaning at all, they introduced Eris and the hunt wasn't very exciting, pretty short, boring and unnecessary, if they had just shown us Rudy running away from her that would have been the same and had the same effect on us, Rudy being a wimp.
And only in the next episode do we get to know Eris' grandfather, who kind of behaves just like her, loud, annoying, imposing, and he's kind of on a high horse as well, basically old male Eris, wow. And ofc he's criticizing Rudy for his behavior Eris kind of did the same the day before.
There is, nothing left for our imagination, things just happen and the story goes on with no apparent target, we don't really know whats next and there's no real drive and desire to know as there is barely no foreshadowing to anything that happens, most things that happen are being retold by Rudy constantly anyway.
This is bland and monotonous story telling, nothing really exciting is happening and when it does it becomes 2ndary in favor of Tomokazu Sugita talking about whats happening.
Now here's how it happened in the Novels, and how I believe they could and SHOULD have done it, cuz it's just that much better;
The 2nd Volume starts with Rudy running for his fucking LIFE, from what? We don't know, it's dangerous, ferocious, and our MC who in the past volume has been established to be pretty fucking broken, which didn't really get the impact in the past few episodes in the anime, is running from it, so it must be pretty fucking nuts if Rudy of all things is running from it. Rudy's inner monologue tells us he's pretty afraid of the thing.
This simple introduction is great, on one hand it shows us that our MC isn't entirely invincible after all, he's still scared of things, and quite a lot at that, his fear of whitewater's hunting him is written in quite detail, Rudy is still human despite all his power. The other things this scene does great is catch our attention, wait whats going on? Why is our still kind of pretty strong MC running from something.
Our curiosity is snagged away and we are inclined to continue reading to find out whats happening, we set more expectations, and start actively thinking about whats going on, whats hunting him, why is it hunting him, ect. ect. Tension rises as our Interest in whats next comes along as well.
But, as the story wills it, we are sent a little while back... and we want to know how things ended up like this, so we read...
The next part begins with Rudy arriving in town, well city, some things that happen around the entrance of the city are explained and Rudy curiously asks Ghislaine about them, who answers him to the best of her ability... This simple scene is once more... pretty good, it shows and explains other jobs people in this world have, it gives us a rough image of what kind of time/era we could give this world from ours and it is not explained by the author or our MC's inner monologue to us, the world interacts with us by the characters interacting with each other. And the thing Rudy asks Ghislaine about is the stable thing to travel between towns which they use later to escape the kidnappers, it establishes the existence of this kind of thing so it doesn't just turn up randomly later on because they needed it to quickly get away.
Next we finally arrive at the estate and after some small talk one of the first major things that happen is the grandfather enters, loud, annoying, imposing, criticizing Rudy to all ends, and when Rudy apologizes for his own mistake and admitting it's probably his fault, the old guy permits Rudy to stay. He's not fine with it, he permits it. His little soft spot when other people give in... it also shows how this guy here is in power, and gives us a standard for whats to come next, because the next thing we have is Eris marching in in a very similar fashion to her grandfather, similar behavior, loud, annoying, not really imposing since she's still young, and she criticizes Rudy for any small thing she can find and then Rudy slaps her and she rages all over him, he runs and the chapter concludes as all the pent up tension from the very beginning is finally released and we are being satisfied with a conclusion which we probably didn't see coming.
We realize Eris is basically copying her grandfather, we're not being told how she is, we're shown a standard which we're capable of immediately putting to use Eris' personality speaks of itself and she doesn't appear as a Tsundere because the story wanted one for no real reason but there's a reason why she's like this and it even builds up on this, she's even more violent by nature, which is the very first thing we add to her personality as soon as we realize the first scene was her...
See where I'm going with this? A simple standard is shown to us, we don't realize it, but it's there without being told to us, and as soon as things play out we immediately put all points together and everything makes sense.
We're being told a story, an exciting story which builds upon itself and we're left satisfied as at the end all tension is finally released and the chapter concludes with our interests fulfilled ...
Other Random Rants
These are Copy Pastes from other times.... not very detailed but they exist and I can work based on these in future.
Sylphie - Time
Re:Zero uses it incredible visuals to impress us and makes certain scenes more powerful, or shows us whats going on instead of telling us, we saw subaru get massacred by rem a few times instead of beign told "So I died a few times by some weird ass flying flail"
Mushoku Tensei instead does "Time passed, Sylphy is now pretty good with magic"
how much time passed
what happened in that time
how is 'good with magic' in relation to rudy, of whom we know is a god damn genius and far above average
and more questions arise
but none get answered
instead they continue to rush the story and continue on with the next scene
answers to some of these questions become VERY VERY important later on
without an answer to them it's just gonna feel forced af later on
this could have easily been fixed
by them instead of telling us what happened show us the two kids infront of their favorite tree practicing magic during different times of the day/year or if it was only a few months different kinds of flowers or crops in the background.
and maybe show them do different sizes of waterballs to show sylphies progress
and SOOO MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE
20 seconds would have been enough
instead we get
rudy crouching at the tree saying "some time passed she's pretty good"