What Isekai Currently Is and What Makes a Good One

What Isekai Currently Is and What Makes a Good One

Priandi Constadi

Previously, we’ve talked about a brief explanation of isekai and how it compares to the fantasy genre in different culture. If you haven’t already checked that out, you can read all about it from here [add link].

Moving on to the isekai in today’s world, now, it seems that the work concept behind Sword Art Online was largely taken by its imitators, yet somehow it is overtly directed toward sexuality. The fantasy is not just being a cool, badass “chosen one” but, frequently we see more recent isekai anime falling into this trend of having a loner, otaku, NEET, and/or hikkikomori protagonist, who is not only a hero in the other world, but a chick magnet. Thus, you get the isekai harem genre. It’s similar to the western childhood fantasy concept, but with an added element of sexual conquest.

However, isekai has become something that critics have said to be “boring”. Because from time to time, its formula is getting more and more predictable; it’s a hack that is used to create a really low-effort anime or light novel. Take a protagonist that’s a ‘nobody’, put him in a world with somewhat under-powered demons to fight and some babes who want his uh, “sword” — and boom, you’ve got a hit.

Good isekai are (perhaps) the ones that could do several, if not more, of the following:

  • Explore how the fantasy world interacts with and how it affects the real world.
  • Have a protagonist who grows, develops, and learns something meaningful from his or her experience in another world.
  • Have a romantic relationship that feels genuine.
  • Have people in the other world who exist for their own reasons, not just to marvel at how great the protagonist is.
  • Have the protagonist genuinely struggle and be challenged.
  • Have more going on in the fantasy world than just what the protagonist is doing. This makes the world feel more real; because let’s face it, the real world isn’t revolving around us either.
  • Have a compelling and/or psychologically complex villain. A lot of isekai stories suffer from boring villains, whose motivation is not fully explored or revealed.

A few good examples of isekai anime

If you want to see some good isekai anime from the past, perhaps Inuyasha, Escaflowne, and Fushigi Yuugi can be good starting points for you. These anime are also good for their interesting world exploration and magic.

Another good isekai anime is Re:Zero. This anime has a protagonist who starts out weak, but through immense struggles, he learns and grows a lot through the course of the series. Side characters seem like real people, who exist because they have their own respective purposes, not just to serve the plot or praise the protagonist. If you want to see a protagonist who actually struggles and is actually put into real danger, we recommend Re:Zero.

Overlord is a dark comedy that never ceases to amaze its fans. It is enigmatic as it is magnificent. It displays a satisfying, brutal, and dark world while still evoking laughter every now and then. It presents a gratifying, action-packed scenes during the most crucial moments. The main character, a gamer, is logged into the servers of an MMORPG on its last day of service. However, as the game shuts down, he finds that he is stuck as his avatar in the game and can’t log out. As a lich, he forms his own guild in this new world and sets out to conquer it. Overall, Overlord seems to do many things right for an isekai anime.

Drifters is interesting to us as well. The characters taken from real world are historical ruthless badasses. They use their tactical and other battle-related knowledge from our world to help oppressed elves cast off their shackles and rebel against their masters. Yes, there are fanservices, but it’s no harem, and the focus is on warfare — not sex or romance. It also focuses more on factions and groups than on a single protagonist. Which is nice because it’s realistic — wars aren’t fought by one person and it takes more than one person to completely revolutionize a society. And it means if you find the protagonist boring, you’re not stuck with just him for very long, as the focus shifts to different characters fairly regularly.

KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World is one of the most hilarious isekai anime. Kazuma (the protagonist) is an anti-social gamer who has a pretty embarrassing death. The anime follows Kazuma’s adventures as he forms a guild with less-than-desirable members. High on entertainment value, KonoSuba is surprisingly very advanced. It has many video game and fantasy world tropes, which make it look like a generic show, yet, it’s anything but generic. In fact, it delivers the most laughs out of any anime on this list. Grand, hysterical, lavish, and adventurous — KonoSuba is a comedy gem that should never be missed!

Overall, the trend seems to be using the basic proven formula of the genre and give it a twist. Take Overlord for example, it is what happens when the protagonist is a demon king, who would be a bad guy in a different story. There are bad isekai that come out a lot, but there are also ones that explore the tropes of the genre in interesting ways.

If you want to have experience of isekai stories, you can download Memories games here for iOS & here for Android.