Isekai (Japanese: 異世界, lit. "different world") is a subgenre of Japanese fantasy light novels, manga, anime, and video games revolving around a normal person from Earth being transported to, reborn or trapped in a parallel universe. Often, this universe already exists in the protagonist's world as a fictional universe, but it may also be unknown to them. The new universe can be an entirely different world where only the protagonist has any memory of their former life, as in Saga of Tanya the Evil, or one that they reincarnate in. It may also be one where a formerly virtual world turns into a real one, such as in Log Horizon and Overlord.

In a Reverse Isekai, fantasy characters are transported from their respective worlds and/or are forced to assimilate into modern society, such as The Devil Is a Part-Timer!



The subgenre can be characterized as wish fulfillment, with the person being transported often being a NEET, shut-in, or gamer (as in No Game No Life). In the new fantasy world, they are able to succeed through use of their comparatively unimportant-in-real-life genre knowledge, or gaming skills through the use of a game interface only they can access.[1][2] Their power can range from tremendous magical abilities surpassing anyone else, as in In Another World with My Smartphone,[1] to relatively weak, as in Re:Zero, where the protagonist does not gain any special power beyond the ability to survive death in a type of temporal loop.[3]

While the protagonist of an isekai work is usually a "chosen hero", the genre was also subverted by Drifters, where the people entering the fantasy world are historical generals and other warriors who are more brutal than the inhabitants of the world themselves,[4] and in That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, where the protagonist starts as a bloblike monster with special abilities rather than a human.[5] Some stories involve people being reincarnated as unusual inanimate objects, like a magical onsen.[6]


The concept has origins in ancient Japanese literature, particularly the story of Urashima Tarō, a widely known folk tale in Japan that isekai writers grew up with. It is about the fisherman Urashima Tarō, who saves a turtle and is brought to a wondrous undersea kingdom, but the story later has a twist (after spending what he believed to be 4-5 days there, he returns to his home village only to find himself 300 years in the future). Several later examples from English literature include the novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), as well as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), Peter Pan (1902) and The Chronicles of Narnia (1950).[7]

Early anime and manga titles that could be classified as isekai include Fushigi Yûgi (1992 debut) and El-Hazard (1995 debut), in which the protagonists stayed similar to their original appearance upon entering a different world.[1] Other 1990s titles identified as isekai include the novel and anime series The Twelve Kingdoms (1992 debut) and Magic Knight Rayearth (1993 debut).[8] The anime film Spirited Away (2002) was the first world-wide known isekai anime film, although the term "isekai" was not commonly used at the time.

The .hack franchise (2002 debut) was one of the first to present the concept of isekai as an actual virtual world, with Sword Art Online (2002 debut) following in its footsteps.[9] A popular isekai light novel and anime series in the 2000s was Zero no Tsukaima, where the male lead Saito is from modern Japan and is summoned to a fantasy world by the female lead Louise.[10]

Later titles such as Knight's & Magic (2010 debut) and The Saga of Tanya the Evil (2013 debut) involved their protagonists dying and being reincarnated in a different world.[1][11]

The genre eventually became so popular that in 2016, a Japanese short story contest banned any isekai entries.[12] The publisher Kadokawa banned isekai stories as well in their own anime/manga-style novel contest in 2017.[13]

Isekai seriesEdit

In 2017, Goo Ranking conducted a poll in Japan asking people to name their favourite isekai anime. The top ten were Spirited Away, Pop in Q, Sword Art Online, Magic Knight Rayearth, Re:Zero, The Twelve Kingdoms, KonoSuba, World Trigger, Kyo Kara Maoh and Gate.[8]

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


  1. ^ a b c d "Hacking the Isekai: Make Your Parallel World Work for You". Crunchyroll. Archived from the original on 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  2. ^ "Here's What Would Really Happen If You Were Sent Into a Fantasy World". Anime. Archived from the original on 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  3. ^ "'Re:ZERO – Starting Life In Another World – Death Or Kiss' Official Trailer For Visual Novel Released: Upcoming PS4 And PS Vita Game's Screenshots Revealed". The Inquisitr. 2016-12-28. Archived from the original on 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  4. ^ "FEATURE: Head Space - "Drifters" - An Isekai Gone Wrong". Crunchyroll. Archived from the original on 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  5. ^ "'Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken' Anime In 2018 Based On 'That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime' Manga-Novel". The Inquisitr. 2018-03-07. Archived from the original on 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  6. ^ "Japanese novel stars boy reincarnated as hot spring that beautiful women want to get inside of". SoraNews24. 2017-02-06. Archived from the original on 2018-03-21. Retrieved 2018-03-21.
  7. ^ "Why Are There So Many Parallel World Anime?". Anime News Network. January 31, 2017. Retrieved February 9, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Amaam, Baam (18 April 2018). "The 15 Greatest Isekai Anime as Ranked by Japan". GoBoiano. Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  9. ^ Kamen, Matt (2017-10-02). "Anime: the 10 must-watch films and TV shows for video game lovers". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  10. ^ "10 Anime Like Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?". MANGA.TOKYO. 12 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Knight's & Magic| MANGA.TOKYO". MANGA.TOKYO. Archived from the original on 2018-09-16. Retrieved 2018-07-23.
  12. ^ "Short Story Contest Bans 'Traveling to an Alternate World' Fantasy". Anime News Network. Archived from the original on 2018-03-20. Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  13. ^ "Anime-style novel contest in Japan bans alternate reality stories and teen protagonists". SoraNews24. 2017-05-22. Archived from the original on 2018-03-21. Retrieved 2018-03-21.