Isekai is a genre of anime that is very popular among fans these days. These are fantasy shows that are usually filled with magic and other worldly elements. However, there are also isekai animes without magic. So in this article, I will be explaining what exactly is isekai anime and helping you understand its types.
From the definition of the Japanese word “Isekai” to its types and subtypes, I’ll be covering everything you need to know about the Isekai genre.
This genre has been in existence for decades, and it is only growing more and more popular in the anime community. We will also be looking at the reasons for its success and how it has changed over the years.
Definition of Isekai Anime
Alright, so let’s begin with the basics. What exactly is an isekai anime? What does the Japanese word isekai mean? How long has this genre been in existence in the anime and weeb communities?
What is Isekai Anime?
The term “isekai” is a Japanese word that means “another world.” Therefore, the animes in the genre are usually about a main character who gets transported or summoned into another world.
Usually, this other world is full of magic and magical beings. Most animes in this genre also have a ton of female characters who make the anime fun and interesting. However, there are some shows that don’t rely on this “harem” trope.
Historical roots of Isekai Anime
Historically, isekai animes have been in existence even in the 1980s and 1990s. According to Wikipedia, the first isekaiJapanesee story came out in the late 1970s in the form of a novel.
Similarly, a few anime series were also aired that featured the main characters in another world. However, the isekai category did not exist back then, and they were only known as “shonen” or “shoujo” animes.
Later on, in the 2010s, the isekai genre became a worldwide hit thanks to Sword Art Online’s success, and it officially became recognized as a genre.
Common elements of Isekai Anime
These anime series usually have a common theme to the point where it gets cliched sometimes. In this section, we’ll be taking a look at some of the most common elements of an isekai anime.
- Magic: All characters usually have some sort of magical ability.
- Monster girls: Elves, demi-humans, and other monster girls exist in the fantasy world.
- Supernatural beings: Supernatural beings like spirits, fairies, and demons exist.
- Harem: These shows usually have a harem of girls following around the male lead.
- Overpowered MC: The main characters usually start out weak and end up becoming overpowered.
- Game-like mechanics: Most anime in this genre have game-like mechanics where the MC levels up and is able to monitor his stats.
Types of Isekai Anime
Isekai anime has several popular types and subtypes that make them unique and interesting. These are categorized according to the tropes used in most shows in this genre.
Here are the three popular types of isekai anime:
- Transported to Another World
- Trapped in a Game World
- Reincarnated in a Fantasy World
Transported to Another World
In stories of this type, we usually see the main characters mysteriously getting transported to another world. Sometimes it is because the wizards in the other world summoned them as “heroes.”
Other times, it is just a pure, mysterious, supernatural element at play—maybe gods or evil forces—that summon them into another world.
Some of the popular anime under this type include “Re:Zero”, “No Game, No Life”, and “The Rising of the Shield Hero.”
Trapped in a Game World
This used to be one of the most popular types of isekai, where the main characters get stuck inside a game.
This type gained popularity with Sword Art Online, where the main characters get sucked into a VRMMO game and have to fight their way out.
Animes that fall under this category usually revolve around advanced virtual reality games that somehow (magically or scientifically) take the players into the game world.
Some of the popular animes under this type include “Overlord”, “Sword Art Online”, and “Log Horizon.”
Reincarnated in a Fantasy World
Currently, in the 2020s, reincarnation isekai animes are the most popular among fans. From hit series like “That time I got reincarnated as a slime” to newer shows like “Reincarnato come una spada,” this type is filled with famous shows.
The anime that fall under this type usually have a main character who died on Earth before getting reincarnated in another fantasy world. Most often than not, they are reincarnated as non-human characters, which makes these shows interesting.
The Evolution of Isekai Anime
Since this genre kind of has been existing for over 4 decades now, it has gone thorugh several changes. Over the years, the plot and tropes used in this genre have changed a lot. In this section, we will be taking a look at the evolution of the isekai anime genre.
Early Isekai Anime
As I mentioned before, Isekai anime series have been in existence since the 1980s and 1990s. Some of the best classic shows that fall under this genre include “Fushigi Yuugi” and “Digimon.”
These are usually adventure stories aimed at teenagers who thirst for an adventurous story filled with action and comedy.
Isekai Anime’s growth in popularity
After Sword Art Online’s humongous success in the 2010s, this entire genre exploded. We got hundreds of new shows that followed a similar premise and flooded the anime community with stories where the MC is stuck in another world.
This genre became so popular that each year we got dozens of isekai series getting aired all year round.
Trends in modern isekai anime
While the genre had explosive growth, it kind of started to become stagnant. People got used to the same old themes and stories; that was the story’s selling point.
Therefore, authors had to come up with new themes and plots that fans had never heard of before. This is where the reincarnation concept and kingdom-building concept come in.
With reincarnation, the main characters are reborn as something they are not. Sometimes they become monsters, sometimes they become sentient weapons, and other times they are born into normal human families. This became a trend.
Another trend I see that is growing nowadays is the slice of life isekai theme. These shows have nothing to do with action or adventure. They are simply the main characters living their lazy lives in a fantasy world.
These shows are weirdly calming and have an overall peaceful effect on their viewers.
Why is Isekai anime popular?
Finally, let’s get to the important part. Why is isekai anime so popular? What is the secret to its success? I could think of three main reasons why this genre has become famous among fans. They are:
- Relatable Main Character
The first and foremost reason is obviously escapism from reality. This is the reason why we all need entertainment. We need to take our minds off of things and ease the mental pressure by focusing on something fun.
Isekai animes provide a great means of escapism as they take their viewers to a fantasy world unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. These stories are captivating and have an overall positive sentiment, making the viewers feel good.
Relatable Main Character
The main characters in these shows are usually very similar to their audience. The MCs of these shows are shown as otaku or NEET, who are obsessed with anime and video games. These characters lived horribly on Earth without achieving anything worthwhile.
Therefore, seeing them get a second chance at greatness in another world is a treat to watch for most fans because they relate to the MC.
Let’s just face it. Most Isekai fans love their shows because it is so satisfying to see a loser in the real world become a hero in another world. It fills the hole in the watcher’s heart from being an insignificant person in real life.
These shows give a temporary sense of fulfillment as we get to see a nobody in real life become the biggest, baddest person in an alternate world. It gives us the idea that anything is possible, and even the laziest type of person can actually become a valuable asset to the world.
In this article, we just explored the definition of isekai, the types of isekai anime, and the evolution of the genre over the years. This is everything that you need to know about the popular isekai anime genre.
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