There are many Japanese terms that come up a lot when discussing anime and its subgenres, like Shounen, Josei or Ecchi. One term that has become increasingly popular in recent years is Isekai. But what is it? Isekai translates to “Another World” and in regards to fictional genres it describes a story that involves a character finding themselves in a parallel world.
This concept isn’t unique to Japan, Western classics such as Alice in Wonderland or The Chronicles of Narnia could be considered Isekai stories. Stories of this nature aren’t even new in anime, an early example of this concept would be The Vision of Escaflowne from 1996. Even Inuyasha centres on the typical story of a typical girl suddenly being transported to a new world and thrust into a fantasy situation.
More recently isekai has become a more popular theme in anime as the trend of light-novel adaptations has grown, with Log Horizon and Sword Art Online really bringing this type of story to the forefront around 2011-2012. Since then we’ve seen a whole range of isekai series spring up which all bring different ideas and new approaches to the standard format. With so many ways to be transported elsewhere such as entering a Restaurant to Another World or just being In Another World With My Smartphone!
Here are a few popular isekai series from the last few years that I can recommend:
Re:Zero – Starting Life In Another World
Set in the standard fantasy kingdom of Luguncia, Re:Zero features the standard trope of a lonely otaku suddenly being transported away (literally in the blink of an eye.) In a similar style to the common video game mechanic, he finds his only ability is that he can respawn at a save point after dying.
No Game No Life
Brother and sister gaming duo Sora and Shiro end up getting taken by the God of Play to live in a colourful world where all conflict is solved by playing games. Instead of being based on video games though, a lot of the challenges they must take part in are based on traditional games and puzzles.
Konosuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World
After his surprise death, Kazuma is given the option by the Goddess Aqua to be taken to a fantasy world that works based on traditional RPG elements. Much to her surprise he takes her there with him in this character-driven comedy which parodies many isekai tropes. With the level up systems and daily quests this series effortlessly combines the ‘traditional fantasy’ and ‘game world’ settings.