What Is Isekai Anime, And Why Is It So Popular?

By Jason Collins | Published

Isekai Anime
No Game No Life

Most of us would love to get transported to our favorite fictional universe. Harry Potter fans would love attending Hogwarts or shipping in Diagon Alley. Star Trek fans would join the Starfleet and explore strange new worlds. Lord of the Rings fans would excavate with the Dwarfs or drink and smoke with Hobbits. Warhammer 40k fans—they don’t really want none of it. In the context of anime, however, there’s a whole subgenre that’s characterized by its focus on people transported into fantastical words. Of course, we’re talking about Isekai anime.

Isekai anime is a subgenre that revolves around a protagonist who has been transported from their mundane, everyday world into a parallel universe or a fantastical realm

At its core, the Isekai anime is a subgenre that revolves around a protagonist who has been transported from their mundane, everyday world into a parallel universe or a fantastical realm.

The transportation or teleportation in the Isekai anime subgenre is often abrupt and occurs through various means, such as summoning rituals, virtual reality games, a sudden twist of fate, or, perhaps most frequently, reincarnation. And this is the very best thing about the whole genre, as it enables the protagonists to reinvent themselves.

Re: ZERO -Starting Life in Another World

Now, there are different shades of this; most protagonists are ordinary people, some might be a bit socially awkward, while others might be highly skilled individuals.

In most cases, however, they’re often relatable, average individuals who often find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. Depending on the setting, these individuals are either transformed into extremely powerful personas or receive quite mediocre treatment but are followed by exceptional luck.

Whatever the case may be, the entire premise allows for action, introspection, and personal growth, all of which are usually followed with plenty of humor and fantastic animation.

Isekai anime allows for action, introspection, and personal growth

Besides the base premise, Isekai anime provides good fun, and they also feature recurring elements that are focused on the fandom’s desire to explore their favorite franchise universe. Many titles, such as Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation or Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! follow the stories of unremarkable individuals reincarnated into fantasy worlds.

Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!

Once transported/reincarnated, they become exceptionally powerful or skilled in their new environment, often by combining their previous knowledge with their newly found or acquired skills and abilities. The plot of isekai anime is often set in fantasy worlds akin to RPG games, and so they often center on adventures, questing, or exploration of the new world.

Of course, this also involves various battles, saving the new world, defeating evil overlords or demon kings, being the demon king, or uncovering the mysteries of the new world.

In some instances, the isekai anime genre even focuses on individuals looking to find their way back to the real world or at least helping someone else return to theirs. And this is precisely what makes this particular genre so popular.

Not only does it accommodate a wide variety of storylines and settings, but it is also action-packed, comedic, dramatic, or romantic, and most often, it is all of the above, which means that somewhere out there, there’s an isekai anime for nearly every taste, as its diversity ensures the subgenre’s appeal to broader audiences.

Isekai anime
The Rising Of The Shield Hero

Also, witnessing a relatable protagonist gain incredible powers and abilities is inherently satisfying and entertaining to the viewers, as it fulfills the timeless power fantasy in which the underdog becomes a hero who achieves feats once thought impossible.

The protagonist’s character development often resonates with the viewers, while the exploration of universal themes such as friendship, morality, ethical dilemmas, and the pursuit of belonging often draws the viewers deeper into the narrative.

Here are several recommendations for those interested in exploring this subgenre:

  • Re: ZERO -Starting Life in Another World (Re: Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu)
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime (Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken)
  • No Game No Life (No Game, No Life)
  • Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation (Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu)
  • The Eminence In Shadow (Kage no Jitsuryokusha ni Naritakute!)
  • Konosuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World! (Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!)
  • The Rising Of The Shield Hero (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari)
  • Ascendance Of A Bookworm (Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa)
  • Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious (Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore Tueee Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru)

In the end, the popularity of the Isekai subgenre lies in its ability to transport viewers to imaginative worlds. As it continues to evolve with each subsequently released title, its popularity is likely to endure, offering anime lovers an ever-expanding choice of fantastic narratives and worlds to explore and enjoy.