Mushoku Tensei is the fusion of three different aspects, and depending on which one you want to focus on and which one to ignore will greatly affect your enjoyment of the series.
-The first aspect is the game-like fantasy adventure, which is by far the most mundane and passable part of the show. There is no shortage of anime that have magic and levels and adventurer guilds, and monster continents. Going in for that will only make you think it’s just another isekai.
-The second aspect is the coming-of-age part of the plot, which is by far the most interesting and the one most people praise the show for. There is a lot of time spent on showing the main character growing up and slowly learning his skills, while at the same time showing how the people of the world spend their everyday lives. It’s a fairly mundane medieval type of society with basic-world building and lore, but the attention to detail helps in immersing you in the show instead of making you feel it’s just another dull videogame-inspired country.
-The third aspect is the perverted side of the characters and easily the biggest detractor for most people to get into it. The protagonist was a major creep and a pedo in his previous life, and many of these aspects carried over to this world. Many other men are also sexual predators who never miss the chance to assault women. The women being horny and easily forgiving them for all the terrible things they keep on doing doesn’t help.
This third aspect is what attracted the most buzz and what defined the whole show. No matter how many apologists try to excuse the males’ terrible behavior as normal and expected, there will always be many who will not accept such things and who will forever see them as the author pandering the creepy otakus so that his light novels will sell more. The show would be much better received if it didn’t have such elements in general.
The parts where the main character wants to live his life in the fullest and to redeem for his past mistakes are great. The parts where he reverts to his old ways and the show either frames it as comedy or as easily forgivable in that world is plain normalization of immoral behavior and damages the good parts. It’s not like we, the audience, are supposed to give him another chance, as much as we are supposed to keep forgiving him again and again, because we are supposed to identify as creepy pedos like him, who wish we could be forgiven no matter how many times we do creepy pedo stuff. When there is no actual punishment for the protagonist’s awful behavior (that is, something more than a scolding and a tsundere slap) then there is no reward for not acting like that, or even a reason for wanting to change. He is not a child who doesn’t know any better; he is a self-aware 40 year old pedo who was reincarnated and despite being given another chance, he keeps repeating the same crap and he never gets actually punished for it. Not only that, many other men are perverts as well and despite being older than the supposed protagonist, they never get punished either. So it’s not like the protagonist gets away with it because he looks like a child. Everyone gets away with it and the show keeps framing it like a misunderstanding or a joke or this society allows it and therefore it’s okay. Although it isn’t. It’s deliberate and it keeps happening, as if it’s telling you ‘everyone does it so it’s okay’.
It’s what eventually keeps the show as just another sleazy power fantasy for otakus, instead of an actually good example of how isekai and redemption stories should be like. If there is no actual fear of punishment because the protagonist looks like a child, or it’s always framed as a joke, or the society has no problem with it, then what value is there in the redemption? He’s not risking anything, nobody around him minds it much, and the society allows it to keep happening, so what kind of redemption are we talking about? Therefore the show as a whole is a failure, since it has a completely passable videogame-like setting and a good attempt at a coming of age that is ruined by the way it celebrates creepy otaku behavior. Watching it for a hollow redemption that might happen down the line is not worth your time. Especially when said redemption is just about the protagonist becoming another generic harem lead with a collection of pretty ladies that want his D. You know, like yet another isekai aimed at otakus.