Given what I said about the first volume, the cover to this one had a genuine, “All my worst fears CONFIRMED!” vibe to it. It was to my surprise that vol. 2 is actually something of a step in the right direction for this series. Things kick off with a no-holds-barred lesson in swordplay from Rudy’s father, after which the kid is sent to live with his wealthy relatives for the next five years. Kind of a long-term character-building project. While Rudy will be learning more of swordplay from the “CAT LADY WITH THE HUGE BOOBS!!!” or “Ghislaine” as she’s normally called, the boy is also stuck with the job of teaching the youngest daughter of the Greyrat household magic. Upon Eris’ introduction, the narrative turns into “The Taming of the Tsundere” as Rudy has to employ all of his survival and people skills into turning this violent and unruly brat into someone who can interact with others in a normal manner.
Writer Rifujin Na Magonote hasn’t really tuned down his protagonist’s more unlikeable qualities here. He has at least found a pretty good way of distracting me from them with Eris. Unbelievably mean and angry even by the standards of her character type, I not only have no objections to the hurt she dishes out onto our protagonist (after all, he’s still kind of a smartass) but Eris’ extreme personality forces him to think creatively about how he deals with her. Yeah, it’s not the most progressive of plots, but the tone is just over-the-top enough to make it work.
For the converted and open-minded, that is. This series does still feel like it’s aimed squarely at fanboys who like seeing fantasy tropes messed with little to make it appeal to a broader audience. The writer’s attempts to add some dimension to Ghislaine beyond the above-mentioned description have the opposite effect by showing that she’s thoroughly self-insufficient in the text story. Also, anyone who was wondering just what Rudy was like when he was born into this world with his personality intact will get some answers in the bonus manga focusing on the house maid, Lilia. The short version: He was even creepier as a baby than he is now. So vol. 2 is kind of a “one step forward, one step back” affair. I kinda wish it didn’t feel the need to pander so hard to the fanboy crowd, yet “Mushoku Tensei” isn’t quite a lost cause in my book. Yet.