Analyzing Mushoko Tensei, the web novel that put Isekai on the map.

Jemini

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Before you read too far, I would like to note that I will do my best to avoid spoilers. I should mention also that I have only started reading Mushoko Tensei recently following the anime adaptation it just got, and have only gotten up to half way through the 7th book out of 23. Despite being the first Isekai to make a major splash on the web novel scene, and also being the ORIGINATOR of several of the modern day Isekai tropes of the webnovel generation, it took this long for it to get an anime adaptation due to it's heavy use of R-15 level sexual content (and extremely rare once per 5 books or so R-18 content.)

That said, it is an absolutely amazing series worthy of a read for anyone who wants to do well writing in the Isekai genre. It is incredibly helpful to know the origin of these tropes, and how they are generally applied far more poorly these days compared to earlier. Mushoko Tensei is written in a style that handles things like OP harem protagonists far better and with a lot more care than the modern day general wish fulfillment. Despite having this sort of content, it actually manages to avoid becoming a basic wish-fulfillment story by making the MC have several flaws, place them into gut-wrenchingly difficult situations, and challenging them a lot with interpersonal drama and situations that really have no right answer. Instead, Rudeus (the protagonist of the story) has to simply do the best he can and winds up making horrible mistakes despite his best efforts that are often a driving part of the next phase of the plot.

This is how to handle character flaws well. Something a lot of authors struggle with. A character flaw is not just a mark on your character to make them less perfect. Most people tend to treat those character flaws like some kind of superficial decoration. However, the correct way to handle character flaws is showcased perfectly in Mushoko Tensie. In this series, Rudeus' character flaws are ever present, and they often lead to major plot-altering errors in judgement. Things he winds up regretting for years to come and change the course of his life.

Another thing to draw attention to is definitely the way the OP protagonist realistically deals with becoming that way. For one, he doesn't have some kind of cheat skill aside from the fact he was able to begin practicing things like magic at an extremely young age due to his previous-life intelligence. Aside from this, his main source of power comes from pure hard work. This, of course, falls into the category of the "hard working protagonist" trope also common nowdays. However, this one is also handled far better in Mushoko Tensei than it is handled in most modern day Isekai.

In the typical use of the "hard working protagonist" trope, it is mostly a justification for why the MC is so powerful, and it doesn't do much to explain why the protagonist is so incredibly self-sacrificingly hard working despite already being stronger than anything they have ever encountered or had to deal with. In the case of Muskoko Tensei however, his hard-working attitude is very well explained.

His back-story in his previous life is that he was a NEET Otaku who wasted his life. This is as far as we find out in the anime, but the web novel goes a little deeper into it. It turns out, as an elementary student he was actually a fairly promising child who was pretty much the top of his class. Then, when he was in middle school, he got a computer and learned how to code and wrote a few computer programs that amazed people. However, he let all that success go to his head and felt he was so great he could just start resting on his laurels. He began to not pay attention in class, and his grades slipped. He became overweight as well, and then due to his poor grades he got put into one of the worst highschools where he got bullied so severely it traumatized him and made him not even want to ever leave the house again.

He realizes that the reason his previous life turned out so horrible is because he wasted his previous life due to how much he got conceted as a child. Therefore, no mater how well he does with his magic or other skills in this current life, he refuses to think of himself as someone great. In fact, every single time someone praises him, his mind immediately goes to every single error and mistake he has made in his life (of which, due to the more realistic way the story is told, include a lot of things even in his Isekaied life.) And, his thoughts about his mistakes counter-balance the praise to such a degree that it actually over-compensates for any pride the praise may have triggered. In fact, this attitude is to such an extent that his hard-working nature in and of itself starts to look more like a character flaw as well rather than something to be admired.

There is also a second reason why he is so hard working. Up until the age of 13, he got a very warped view of the world. His father is hailed as one of the most talented swordsmen in the world for being able to raise all three of the major sword styles to the advanced level of skill. There are people far better than his father in one specific sword style, but his father is the only person who has ever advanced all three styles that far. Later, until the age of 13, he meets a series of adult fighters who are progressively even stronger than his father is, 2 of which he even learns from but feels woefully inadequate because he is unable to understand their lessons. (His talent in in magic, not in physical combat. His physical close quarters combat abilities are above average for a normal person, but weak compared to the average warrior.) Meanwhile, he also has a friend along for the ride who has far more talent as a warrior than him and absorbs the lessons from those same 2 warriors more powerful than his father like a sponge.

All of this gives him 2 major false impressions that, combined with his fear of becoming conceited that has become truly pathological, causes him to underestimate himself to such an insane degree that he's never satisfied with his current level of strength. 1 is that due to only associating with some of the most powerful people in the world, he comes to the impression that the world he's in is completely filled with these exact kinds of people and there's no way he can survive in this world if he doesn't keep getting stronger. 2 is that when he sees this friend of his picking up physical combat lessons so much more readily than him, he feels threatened that he will be seen as useless if he doesn't strive to keep up the pace. This is also likely due to his past-life trauma of bullying, but he is extremely insecure and constantly in fear of rejection from others.

These are all things that other modern day web-novels have attempted to knowingly or unknowingly imitate, but I have yet to see anyone really do it as well as Mushoko Tensei. It plays all of the above flaws and justifications so straight that you really feel the MC's insecurity. It does not treat his insecurity as a gag like most of the imitators do, it actually takes you along for the ride. You, as the reader, can realize that he's actually crazy powerful in this world. However, due to his level of insecurity and just how much you are taken along for the ride, you do not realize just how severely he's underestimating himself until you see an alternate POV chapter from someone of similar age to him, which come out extremely rarely. You see adults call him absurdly talented, but even with that you don't get the full picture until you see it from someone close to his age and very personally involved with him. This, also, is due to how masterfully this series actually does manage to take you along for the ride in the protagonist's insecurities. Even you, the reader, feel like he needs to do more to measure up due to all the mistakes with harsh consequences that he keeps making, even more so because the average web-novel reader today is used to the protagonists being more frustratingly perfect than Rudeus who keeps making deadly or almost deadly mistakes, or mistakes that nearly rip relationships apart.

Anyway, I've talked as much as I can without revealing spoilers. In conclusion, it would serve any Iseki writer very well to read this series. There is a lot to learn from it. The anime fails to portray some of the subtlety in the source material, but it also has been fairly good so far from what I've seen.
 

Assurbanipal_II

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Before you read too far, I would like to note that I will do my best to avoid spoilers. I should mention also that I have only started reading Mushoko Tensei recently following the anime adaptation it just got, and have only gotten up to half way through the 7th book out of 23. Despite being the first Isekai to make a major splash on the web novel scene, and also being the ORIGINATOR of several of the modern day Isekai tropes of the webnovel generation, it took this long for it to get an anime adaptation due to it's heavy use of R-15 level sexual content (and extremely rare once per 5 books or so R-18 content.)

That said, it is an absolutely amazing series worthy of a read for anyone who wants to do well writing in the Isekai genre. It is incredibly helpful to know the origin of these tropes, and how they are generally applied far more poorly these days compared to earlier. Mushoko Tensei is written in a style that handles things like OP harem protagonists far better and with a lot more care than the modern day general wish fulfillment. Despite having this sort of content, it actually manages to avoid becoming a basic wish-fulfillment story by making the MC have several flaws, place them into gut-wrenchingly difficult situations, and challenging them a lot with interpersonal drama and situations that really have no right answer. Instead, Rudeus (the protagonist of the story) has to simply do the best he can and winds up making horrible mistakes despite his best efforts that are often a driving part of the next phase of the plot.

This is how to handle character flaws well. Something a lot of authors struggle with. A character flaw is not just a mark on your character to make them less perfect. Most people tend to treat those character flaws like some kind of superficial decoration. However, the correct way to handle character flaws is showcased perfectly in Mushoko Tensie. In this series, Rudeus' character flaws are ever present, and they often lead to major plot-altering errors in judgement. Things he winds up regretting for years to come and change the course of his life.

Another thing to draw attention to is definitely the way the OP protagonist realistically deals with becoming that way. For one, he doesn't have some kind of cheat skill aside from the fact he was able to begin practicing things like magic at an extremely young age due to his previous-life intelligence. Aside from this, his main source of power comes from pure hard work. This, of course, falls into the category of the "hard working protagonist" trope also common nowdays. However, this one is also handled far better in Mushoko Tensei than it is handled in most modern day Isekai.

In the typical use of the "hard working protagonist" trope, it is mostly a justification for why the MC is so powerful, and it doesn't do much to explain why the protagonist is so incredibly self-sacrificingly hard working despite already being stronger than anything they have ever encountered or had to deal with. In the case of Muskoko Tensei however, his hard-working attitude is very well explained.

His back-story in his previous life is that he was a NEET Otaku who wasted his life. This is as far as we find out in the anime, but the web novel goes a little deeper into it. It turns out, as an elementary student he was actually a fairly promising child who was pretty much the top of his class. Then, when he was in middle school, he got a computer and learned how to code and wrote a few computer programs that amazed people. However, he let all that success go to his head and felt he was so great he could just start resting on his laurels. He began to not pay attention in class, and his grades slipped. He became overweight as well, and then due to his poor grades he got put into one of the worst highschools where he got bullied so severely it traumatized him and made him not even want to ever leave the house again.

He realizes that the reason his previous life turned out so horrible is because he wasted his previous life due to how much he got conceted as a child. Therefore, no mater how well he does with his magic or other skills in this current life, he refuses to think of himself as someone great. In fact, every single time someone praises him, his mind immediately goes to every single error and mistake he has made in his life (of which, due to the more realistic way the story is told, include a lot of things even in his Isekaied life.) And, his thoughts about his mistakes counter-balance the praise to such a degree that it actually over-compensates for any pride the praise may have triggered. In fact, this attitude is to such an extent that his hard-working nature in and of itself starts to look more like a character flaw as well rather than something to be admired.

There is also a second reason why he is so hard working. Up until the age of 13, he got a very warped view of the world. His father is hailed as one of the most talented swordsmen in the world for being able to raise all three of the major sword styles to the advanced level of skill. There are people far better than his father in one specific sword style, but his father is the only person who has ever advanced all three styles that far. Later, until the age of 13, he meets a series of adult fighters who are progressively even stronger than his father is, 2 of which he even learns from but feels woefully inadequate because he is unable to understand their lessons. (His talent in in magic, not in physical combat. His physical close quarters combat abilities are above average for a normal person, but weak compared to the average warrior.) Meanwhile, he also has a friend along for the ride who has far more talent as a warrior than him and absorbs the lessons from those same 2 warriors more powerful than his father like a sponge.

All of this gives him 2 major false impressions that, combined with his fear of becoming conceited that has become truly pathological, causes him to underestimate himself to such an insane degree that he's never satisfied with his current level of strength. 1 is that due to only associating with some of the most powerful people in the world, he comes to the impression that the world he's in is completely filled with these exact kinds of people and there's no way he can survive in this world if he doesn't keep getting stronger. 2 is that when he sees this friend of his picking up physical combat lessons so much more readily than him, he feels threatened that he will be seen as useless if he doesn't strive to keep up the pace. This is also likely due to his past-life trauma of bullying, but he is extremely insecure and constantly in fear of rejection from others.

These are all things that other modern day web-novels have attempted to knowingly or unknowingly imitate, but I have yet to see anyone really do it as well as Mushoko Tensei. It plays all of the above flaws and justifications so straight that you really feel the MC's insecurity. It does not treat his insecurity as a gag like most of the imitators do, it actually takes you along for the ride. You, as the reader, can realize that he's actually crazy powerful in this world. However, due to his level of insecurity and just how much you are taken along for the ride, you do not realize just how severely he's underestimating himself until you see an alternate POV chapter from someone of similar age to him, which come out extremely rarely. You see adults call him absurdly talented, but even with that you don't get the full picture until you see it from someone close to his age and very personally involved with him. This, also, is due to how masterfully this series actually does manage to take you along for the ride in the protagonist's insecurities. Even you, the reader, feel like he needs to do more to measure up due to all the mistakes with harsh consequences that he keeps making, even more so because the average web-novel reader today is used to the protagonists being more frustratingly perfect than Rudeus who keeps making deadly or almost deadly mistakes, or mistakes that nearly rip relationships apart.

Anyway, I've talked as much as I can without revealing spoilers. In conclusion, it would serve any Iseki writer very well to read this series. There is a lot to learn from it. The anime fails to portray some of the subtlety in the source material, but it also has been fairly good so far from what I've seen.
I just want to add that the novel was a major disappointment for me. Its apparent qulaity stillelludes me. :blob_neutral: Otherwise, have a nice day.
 

Jemini

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I just want to add that the novel was a major disappointment for me. Its apparent qulaity stillelludes me. :blob_neutral: Otherwise, have a nice day.

There is, of course, still taste to be accounted for. Due to how hard Rudeus' life gets, it becomes a rather hard series to read. There is also the fact that the writing is just plain heavier, to the same extent as many modern western fantasies. It also focuses on interpersonal drama to a level that manages to perfectly walk the line where it gets to you but doesn't go so over the top it makes you roll your eyes at it. Rather, it's in that sweet spot where you can really relate to it.

All of this causes the series to have certain aspects in it's tone that I can easily see being difficult for some people to read. It's not the faveolus stuff you see in most modern day Isekai. It may have an OP harem protagonist, but it is the farthest you can possibly get from wish fulfillment, and wish fulfillment is what most people who read OP protagonist harem stories are actually looking for. Therefore, it's very easy to see why it would wind up in a zone where some people would have a lot of difficulty with the tone.

EDIT: The appeal is also fairly technical in nature. It has appeal to people who are more into literature because it showcases several writing techniques very well and makes full well-rounded characters. To use an analogy and put it more simply, Mushoko Tensei is like a perfect medium-rare steak, while most of our modern Isekai, even the top headliner ones, are like tasty disserts. If you are used to all the sweetness of those disserts, it's perfectly reasonable to be surprised and not understand the harder to digest steak. However, as someone who has been serious about studying literature, the masterful showcasing of all these writing techniques has blown me away as I read through this series.

HandTrondheim said:
People really have a lot of time these days. 😁

Literally took me 15 minutes to write all that up, just head to page. Some people are just able to analyze literature and have a good typing speed. This is what it means to be an author, it's a skill set that is part of the package of skills you need to be able to succeed at writing.
 
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Assurbanipal_II

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There is, of course, still taste to be accounted for. Due to how hard Rudeus' life gets, it becomes a rather hard series to read. There is also the fact that the writing is just plain heavier, to the same extent as many modern western fantasies. It also focuses on interpersonal drama to a level that manages to perfectly walk the line where it gets to you but doesn't go so over the top it makes you roll your eyes at it. Rather, it's in that sweet spot where you can really relate to it.

All of this causes the series to have certain aspects in it's tone that I can easily see being difficult for some people to read. It's not the faveolus stuff you see in most modern day Isekai. It may have an OP harem protagonist, but it is the farthest you can possibly get from wish fulfillment, and wish fulfillment is what most people who read OP protagonist harem stories are actually looking for. Therefore, it's very easy to see why it would wind up in a zone where some people would have a lot of difficulty with the tone.

[quote="HandTrondheim]

Literally took me 15 minutes to write all that up, just head to page. Some people are just able to analyze literature and have a good typing speed. This is what it means to be an author, it's a skill set that is part of the package you need to be able to succeed at it.
[/QUOTE]

Oh my, that is a possible interpretation, but whether the interpretation is correct is another questione entirely. For me, the novel was a lifeless husk consisting of tropes witha glacial pace. You may call it deep, but I have found nothing such.
 

NotaNuffian

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There is, of course, still taste to be accounted for. Due to how hard Rudeus' life gets, it becomes a rather hard series to read. There is also the fact that the writing is just plain heavier, to the same extent as many modern western fantasies. It also focuses on interpersonal drama to a level that manages to perfectly walk the line where it gets to you but doesn't go so over the top it makes you roll your eyes at it. Rather, it's in that sweet spot where you can really relate to it.

All of this causes the series to have certain aspects in it's tone that I can easily see being difficult for some people to read. It's not the faveolus stuff you see in most modern day Isekai. It may have an OP harem protagonist, but it is the farthest you can possibly get from wish fulfillment, and wish fulfillment is what most people who read OP protagonist harem stories are actually looking for. Therefore, it's very easy to see why it would wind up in a zone where some people would have a lot of difficulty with the tone.



Literally took me 15 minutes to write all that up, just head to page. Some people are just able to analyze literature and have a good typing speed. This is what it means to be an author, it's a skill set that is part of the package of skills you need to be able to succeed at writing.
I will be honest, I am bias at anyone praising Mushoku Tensei considering it being the first few JP web novels I read.

I read it in tandem with Tate Yuusha, Arifureta, Re:monster and I dropped the trio just for more Mushoku, probably because I felt that it resonates with me more instead of just being a dick stroke.

That being said, there are also certain aspects that I disliked and liked, first being harem, at least they fucked. Second being how occasionally Rudeus just paralyze in fear and uncertainty when compared to the trio, which I get it, you are once bullied, stop that and function normally.
 
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Ununique

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Before you read too far, I would like to note that I will do my best to avoid spoilers. I should mention also that I have only started reading Mushoko Tensei recently following the anime adaptation it just got, and have only gotten up to half way through the 7th book out of 23. Despite being the first Isekai to make a major splash on the web novel scene, and also being the ORIGINATOR of several of the modern day Isekai tropes of the webnovel generation, it took this long for it to get an anime adaptation due to it's heavy use of R-15 level sexual content (and extremely rare once per 5 books or so R-18 content.)

That said, it is an absolutely amazing series worthy of a read for anyone who wants to do well writing in the Isekai genre. It is incredibly helpful to know the origin of these tropes, and how they are generally applied far more poorly these days compared to earlier. Mushoko Tensei is written in a style that handles things like OP harem protagonists far better and with a lot more care than the modern day general wish fulfillment. Despite having this sort of content, it actually manages to avoid becoming a basic wish-fulfillment story by making the MC have several flaws, place them into gut-wrenchingly difficult situations, and challenging them a lot with interpersonal drama and situations that really have no right answer. Instead, Rudeus (the protagonist of the story) has to simply do the best he can and winds up making horrible mistakes despite his best efforts that are often a driving part of the next phase of the plot.

This is how to handle character flaws well. Something a lot of authors struggle with. A character flaw is not just a mark on your character to make them less perfect. Most people tend to treat those character flaws like some kind of superficial decoration. However, the correct way to handle character flaws is showcased perfectly in Mushoko Tensie. In this series, Rudeus' character flaws are ever present, and they often lead to major plot-altering errors in judgement. Things he winds up regretting for years to come and change the course of his life.

Another thing to draw attention to is definitely the way the OP protagonist realistically deals with becoming that way. For one, he doesn't have some kind of cheat skill aside from the fact he was able to begin practicing things like magic at an extremely young age due to his previous-life intelligence. Aside from this, his main source of power comes from pure hard work. This, of course, falls into the category of the "hard working protagonist" trope also common nowdays. However, this one is also handled far better in Mushoko Tensei than it is handled in most modern day Isekai.

In the typical use of the "hard working protagonist" trope, it is mostly a justification for why the MC is so powerful, and it doesn't do much to explain why the protagonist is so incredibly self-sacrificingly hard working despite already being stronger than anything they have ever encountered or had to deal with. In the case of Muskoko Tensei however, his hard-working attitude is very well explained.

His back-story in his previous life is that he was a NEET Otaku who wasted his life. This is as far as we find out in the anime, but the web novel goes a little deeper into it. It turns out, as an elementary student he was actually a fairly promising child who was pretty much the top of his class. Then, when he was in middle school, he got a computer and learned how to code and wrote a few computer programs that amazed people. However, he let all that success go to his head and felt he was so great he could just start resting on his laurels. He began to not pay attention in class, and his grades slipped. He became overweight as well, and then due to his poor grades he got put into one of the worst highschools where he got bullied so severely it traumatized him and made him not even want to ever leave the house again.

He realizes that the reason his previous life turned out so horrible is because he wasted his previous life due to how much he got conceted as a child. Therefore, no mater how well he does with his magic or other skills in this current life, he refuses to think of himself as someone great. In fact, every single time someone praises him, his mind immediately goes to every single error and mistake he has made in his life (of which, due to the more realistic way the story is told, include a lot of things even in his Isekaied life.) And, his thoughts about his mistakes counter-balance the praise to such a degree that it actually over-compensates for any pride the praise may have triggered. In fact, this attitude is to such an extent that his hard-working nature in and of itself starts to look more like a character flaw as well rather than something to be admired.

There is also a second reason why he is so hard working. Up until the age of 13, he got a very warped view of the world. His father is hailed as one of the most talented swordsmen in the world for being able to raise all three of the major sword styles to the advanced level of skill. There are people far better than his father in one specific sword style, but his father is the only person who has ever advanced all three styles that far. Later, until the age of 13, he meets a series of adult fighters who are progressively even stronger than his father is, 2 of which he even learns from but feels woefully inadequate because he is unable to understand their lessons. (His talent in in magic, not in physical combat. His physical close quarters combat abilities are above average for a normal person, but weak compared to the average warrior.) Meanwhile, he also has a friend along for the ride who has far more talent as a warrior than him and absorbs the lessons from those same 2 warriors more powerful than his father like a sponge.

All of this gives him 2 major false impressions that, combined with his fear of becoming conceited that has become truly pathological, causes him to underestimate himself to such an insane degree that he's never satisfied with his current level of strength. 1 is that due to only associating with some of the most powerful people in the world, he comes to the impression that the world he's in is completely filled with these exact kinds of people and there's no way he can survive in this world if he doesn't keep getting stronger. 2 is that when he sees this friend of his picking up physical combat lessons so much more readily than him, he feels threatened that he will be seen as useless if he doesn't strive to keep up the pace. This is also likely due to his past-life trauma of bullying, but he is extremely insecure and constantly in fear of rejection from others.

These are all things that other modern day web-novels have attempted to knowingly or unknowingly imitate, but I have yet to see anyone really do it as well as Mushoko Tensei. It plays all of the above flaws and justifications so straight that you really feel the MC's insecurity. It does not treat his insecurity as a gag like most of the imitators do, it actually takes you along for the ride. You, as the reader, can realize that he's actually crazy powerful in this world. However, due to his level of insecurity and just how much you are taken along for the ride, you do not realize just how severely he's underestimating himself until you see an alternate POV chapter from someone of similar age to him, which come out extremely rarely. You see adults call him absurdly talented, but even with that you don't get the full picture until you see it from someone close to his age and very personally involved with him. This, also, is due to how masterfully this series actually does manage to take you along for the ride in the protagonist's insecurities. Even you, the reader, feel like he needs to do more to measure up due to all the mistakes with harsh consequences that he keeps making, even more so because the average web-novel reader today is used to the protagonists being more frustratingly perfect than Rudeus who keeps making deadly or almost deadly mistakes, or mistakes that nearly rip relationships apart.

Anyway, I've talked as much as I can without revealing spoilers. In conclusion, it would serve any Iseki writer very well to read this series. There is a lot to learn from it. The anime fails to portray some of the subtlety in the source material, but it also has been fairly good so far from what I've seen.

As much as I love this series I have to correct you on some points:

1. The isekai genre and a lot of it's tropes existed before MT
2. MT can hardly be called the web novel that put isekai on the map when the likes of log horizon, rising of the shield hero, overlord, rezero and others exist and that definitely found far more success around the same time as MT if not more due to some even immediately getting light novel adaptations a year after starting the web serial.
3. In all honesty Mushoku Tensei was a series that very much acted more like a traditional fantasy story than an isekai. And this is why a lot of the focus was on characters not just the main character for comparison the story of rising of the shield hero the protagonist is never really made to face their flaws instead it seems to portray that he is a good person at heart and makes sure to reinforce this through the bonds he shares with others, unfortunately this makes the rest of the characters seem like they lack any agency it feels like they exist to accompany and support the main character rather than as people who live in that world. In Mushoku Tensei this is demonstrated to be the opposite and gives in to traditional fantasy by having the character ponder on their actions and truly self-reflect. This in effect makes the characters in the story far more interesting because it feels like they are really people who live their own lives and not just a buffer to make the audience see the protagonist a certain way and this leads to further drama as the main character must actually get to know the characters and what makes them tick not just comfort them and act like a guardian all the time. Another reason Mushoku Tensei reads more like a traditional fantasy than an isekai is the fact that Rudeus is at home in the other world there is never a moment where he questions if he is an outcast in the sense of who he was in the past, whereas in shield hero you know the character feels some type of way when it comes to slavery, pedophilia, and the world itself it is very modern and uncompromising. In MT Rudeus has no real issue with any of the previously listed so long as it's considered ok in that society and benefits him, he doesn't even care too much about the world at large in comparison to his family and the people he truly cares about albeit he does feel regret and guilt at certain decisions when the outcome causes harm to others who could be labeled as innocent or undeserving.
 

Jemini

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Oh my, that is a possible interpretation, but whether the interpretation is correct is another questione entirely. For me, the novel was a lifeless husk consisting of tropes witha glacial pace. You may call it deep, but I have found nothing such.

As I mentioned in the OP, Mushoko Tensei was the originator of those tropes. (Thus, by definition, it was technically not full of tropes. It was a trend setter.) As the originator, this is one more reason skilled authors can really learn something from this series, because those tropes were done first and done best by Mushoko Tensei.

The same would go for Ranma 1/2, which is the second of two series by the same author that originated the Harem genre. (And, of the two, it's the superior one IMO.) As the originator, it handled the genre that is now otherwise gag-inducing in a far more mature way. Rather than rely on the tropes for being tropes, it blazed it's own path and had well-reasoned thinking for every decision made.

Glacial pace is all just a matter of taste though. The series follows the character as he grows up, and gives more of a feel you're peeking into his daily life in all it's mundane dirtiness full of hardships. This series is character driven, not action driven. You may have missed it, but I edited in an analogy to my previous post you just quoted comparing Mushoko Tensei to a steak, while a lot of the modern action thriller wish-fulfillment Isekai are more like diserts. This point applies here as well.
 

Jemini

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As much as I love this series I have to correct you on some points:

1. The isekai genre and a lot of it's tropes existed before MT
2. MT can hardly be called the web novel that put isekai on the map when the likes of log horizon, rising of the shield hero, overlord, rezero and others exist and that definitely found far more success around the same time as MT if not more due to some even immediately getting light novel adaptations a year after starting the web serial.

Hmm... I suppose that's the weakness of reading in the English language market. I was not aware of the dates those others came out. I was also largely parroting something I'd heard before.

Looking at the list of titles though, what I heard before may have rather been referring to the Isikai via reincarnation method Vs. the literal portal of the portal fantasy. Also, harem. Well done harems are fairly rare, most harems are usually trash, but you really have to stop and appreciate it when someone actually does it well like MT and Ranma 1/2.

EDIT: Now that I've gone and lined up 2 harems actually considered to be good, I'm beginning to sense a pattern. The major driving force of the story is not the harem concept in either of them, nor is it made a big deal of. It's just something that happens to be there as well while a lot of the real appeal comes from something else. There's also a very heavy emphasis on non-sexual relationships in both of them, and interpersonal relationships are very important.
 
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ForestDweller

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Yeah, MT was a surprise for an isekai, so much so that it inspired me to write my own

Guess I'm following the footsteps of all those writers on Syosetu. 🤣
 

lnv

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Before you read too far, I would like to note that I will do my best to avoid spoilers. I should mention also that I have only started reading Mushoko Tensei recently following the anime adaptation it just got, and have only gotten up to half way through the 7th book out of 23. Despite being the first Isekai to make a major splash on the web novel scene, and also being the ORIGINATOR of several of the modern day Isekai tropes of the webnovel generation, it took this long for it to get an anime adaptation due to it's heavy use of R-15 level sexual content (and extremely rare once per 5 books or so R-18 content.)

I personally think people give it too much credit due to the nostalgia of it being one of their first reads.

That said, it is an absolutely amazing series worthy of a read for anyone who wants to do well writing in the Isekai genre. It is incredibly helpful to know the origin of these tropes, and how they are generally applied far more poorly these days compared to earlier. Mushoko Tensei is written in a style that handles things like OP harem protagonists far better and with a lot more care than the modern day general wish fulfillment. Despite having this sort of content, it actually manages to avoid becoming a basic wish-fulfillment story by making the MC have several flaws, place them into gut-wrenchingly difficult situations, and challenging them a lot with interpersonal drama and situations that really have no right answer. Instead, Rudeus (the protagonist of the story) has to simply do the best he can and winds up making horrible mistakes despite his best efforts that are often a driving part of the next phase of the plot.

Ah, no. People seem to misunderstand the problem with tropes. You don't need to know where they came from, most came way before MT. The problem with tropes is authors copy and pasting the tropes without thinking about how well they fit into the story. Aka, it is authors going, hey I want to have this too. Instead of, does this make sense for my story? I like to call this the "Tombs that open once every 10,000 years opening up every Tuesday paradox". Where effectively, in early content, tomb raids were something that happened once or twice in the entire series. But due to authors putting them in blindly without even thinking, new content has the MC going to ancient tombs that open once few millenniums every other arc.

Wish fulfillment is also a subgenre of isekai and many other genres and are simply there to appeal to their niche audiences. They had other forms before, they simply expanded to the isekai genre. As people who live in different countries, its hard to relate to a lot of the wish fulfiment aspects since our culture is different. So while it turns us off when it becomes too extreme, they are simply aiming at their own niche, not at us.

This is how to handle character flaws well. Something a lot of authors struggle with. A character flaw is not just a mark on your character to make them less perfect. Most people tend to treat those character flaws like some kind of superficial decoration. However, the correct way to handle character flaws is showcased perfectly in Mushoko Tensie. In this series, Rudeus' character flaws are ever present, and they often lead to major plot-altering errors in judgement. Things he winds up regretting for years to come and change the course of his life.

Rudus character is a copy and paste of the 1970-1990s Japanese protagonist in anime and manga. That kind of character was already dated by the time we entered the 2000s. It's fairly 2 dimensional if you ask me.

Another thing to draw attention to is definitely the way the OP protagonist realistically deals with becoming that way. For one, he doesn't have some kind of cheat skill aside from the fact he was able to begin practicing things like magic at an extremely young age due to his previous-life intelligence. Aside from this, his main source of power comes from pure hard work. This, of course, falls into the category of the "hard working protagonist" trope also common nowdays. However, this one is also handled far better in Mushoko Tensei than it is handled in most modern day Isekai.

The flaw is comparing an isekai vs a wish fulfillment isekai. They are 2 different genres despite both having isekai in them. But that doesn't automatically make one better than the other.

In the typical use of the "hard working protagonist" trope, it is mostly a justification for why the MC is so powerful, and it doesn't do much to explain why the protagonist is so incredibly self-sacrificingly hard working despite already being stronger than anything they have ever encountered or had to deal with. In the case of Muskoko Tensei however, his hard-working attitude is very well explained.

That is mostly cause the government demanding the industry put in "Ideal Unrealistic Japanese Values" into MCs. Thus you have this idealistic MC who is always modest and self sacrificing.

Anyway, I've talked as much as I can without revealing spoilers. In conclusion, it would serve any Iseki writer very well to read this series. There is a lot to learn from it. The anime fails to portray some of the subtlety in the source material, but it also has been fairly good so far from what I've seen.

You already released quite a bit of spoilers, so I won't comment on those.

Overall, I think your nostalgia is blinding you to see it better than it really is. Though I also can't deny that part of my dislike for the MC is his overall character, I was never too fond of the stereo typical 1970-1990s MCs...

End of the day, the most important thing for a writer to do is not to figure out where a trope came from, but to break down the trope and think about it carefully. If it fits well into your story or how you need to change it so it does. Because as humans, we all are lazy by nature, so if someone already did the work, we subconsciously skip a few steps without thinking. And often times implementing these tropes with much less thought than we would put into our own writing. Kind of like when you get excited about something, then think back a year later and wonder why you acted that way in the first place. The same applies to tropes, they may sound fun and you can't wait to put them in. But first we have to stop ourselves and ask, do they make sense for my story? And should I maybe make some changes to make it fill in.

PS I am enjoying the anime more than the manga or novel, but a lot of that has to do with the production value. I still can't help cringe at the MC.
 
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