In some cases, we earn commissions from affiliate links in our posts.
What is Isekai Anime?
Isekai translates to ‘different world'. In this genre, a character or characters are transported to another world. The way this happens is varied. Sometimes a character will suddenly get transported, sometimes they die in real life, sometimes they get trapped in a game.
The type of world they're taken to also has a couple variations. It can be a game world where everything works like an RPG (role playing game) with stats, etc. It can be a similar world with small differences. It can be a strange world where magic or special powers are the norm.
Where Did Isekai Come From?
The origins of Ikesai can be traced back to ancient Japanese literature. Isekai writers often reference the story of Urashima Tarō – a Japanese folk tale. In it, the main character is a fisherman who rescues a turtle and is rewarded with a trip to the Dragon Palace beneath the sea.
In the palace, he is entertained by princess Otohime for what he believes to be a few days. When he returns home, he learns he was gone for at least 100 years. Once home, he opens the forbidden tamatebako (jewelled box) Otohime gave him and turns into an old man.
Versions of this folktale were included in Japan's nationally designated textbook all elementary school children read.
What Was the First Isekai Anime?
Urashima Tarō was adapted as an anime in 1918. It's actually one of the oldest anime created in Japan.
Other Isekai-like stories from English literature added to and influenced the genre. Stories like The Wizard of Oz, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Chronicles of Narnia and others.
After this initial period, Isekai was produced as manga and anime. One of the first, and most widely know isekai anime film is Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.
Among the first ‘modern' style isekai anime was .hack, which presented isekai as a virtual world setting. One of the more recent shows influenced by .hack is Sword Art Online which became a successful franchise and introduced millions of new fans to the isekai genre.
What Isekai Should I Watch?
Good question! There's no shortage of shows to choose from. If you really enjoy this genre, there's also a large manga catalog you can read.
This list is by no means definitive, but a good place to start exploring what isekai anime to watch.
Isekai Quartet is kind of a mashup of several isekai series. A red button appears out of nowhere, so of course our main characters press it. Characters from Overlord, Re:Zero, The Saga of Tanya the Evil, and Konosuba are all transported to another world where they get stuck trying to lead a normal school life.
Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody
(Death March kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku)
Burnt out computer programmer finally gets a chance to rest, but wakes up in a fantasy RPG world. The world is a mash up of the games he worked on as a programmer. His plan is to live peacefully in the world, but the demon king might have other plans.
Isekai no Seikishi Monogatari (Tenchi Muyo! War on Geminar)
Mysteriously kidnapped, Kenshi Masaki is transported to the world of Geminar. In exchange for going home, he pilots a mecha tasked with assasinating the newly crowned empress. His attempt fails, and he's captured alive. Instead of killing him, the empress offers a chance at redemption. The pair become ensnared in a plot that could plunge the entire planed into war.
isekai maou to shoukan shoujo dorei majutsu (How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord)
Takuma Sakamoto is a recluse in real life, but in the MMORPG he plays his alter ego Diablo the demon king rules the game. One day, he's transported to a world like the MMORPG he plays but two girls who summoned him. The girls attempt to make him their servant, but the spell backfires and they become his servants instead.
Isekai Shokudō (Restaurant to Another World)
Restaurant to Another World is a unique take on the isekai genre. In Tokyo, Nekoya is a popular western cuisine restaurant that has served food for the last 50 years. Every Saturday, the restaurant closes to the public in order to serve patrons from another world. Magical beings like elf's and dragon's enter through the restaurants doorway to another world.
Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni. (In Another World With My Smartphone)
Touya Mochizuki is accidentally killed by God with a stray bolt of lightning. Don't you just hate it when that happens? To apologize, God offers to grant Touya one wish. His wish is to keep his smart phone in his next life. God resurrects him in a fantasy world where the phone can access data from the old world.
The Rising of the Shield Hero (Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari)
A geeky young man, Naofumi Iwatani opens a book and is summoned to another world along with three other young men. The purpose of the summoning is to fight waves of catastrophe which threaten the realm. Not only does Naofumi get stuck with only a Shield, he's set up, betrayed, and cast out alone. Bitter and not willing to trust anyone he buy a slave Raphtalia, and and Egg that eventually hatches into a bird/human named Filo. The three ultimately form bonds with each other while fighting off waves of catastrophe, and dealing with political strife.
Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online is currently one of the most successful isekai franchise today. Set in the future where virtual reality games wear special gear that stimulates the players brains to create a realistic experience. The VRMMORPG Sword Art Online is a hot new beta release that 1,000 players including Kazuto Kirigaya gets to play. The players are enamored with the game, but quickly learn they can't log out and if they die in the game they also die in real life.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken)
Struck by a car and killed, 37 year old Satoru Mikami is reincarnated in another world as a blob like creature called a slime. Although a slime might not seem like the best being to get reincarnated as, he possesses the ability ‘predator' that allows him to devour other creatures and get their powers.
In the final few hours of the VR game Yggdrasil, Momonga spends his last minutes in the game as the servers are powered off. Expecting to walk away from the game, Momonga is shocked to learn he's still his character and the game hasn't stopped. Additionally, the NPC's (non playable characters) in the game develop their own personalities and look at Momonga as their leader.
No Game No Life
Two reclusive siblinbgs are undefeated in their online game. Eventually they're challenged by the god of another reality to a chess game. Upon winning, they're offered the chance to live in a world that centers around games. In the world called Disboard, any disagreement no matter how big or small, are settled with games.
The Devil is a Part-Timer (Hataraku Maou-sama!)
Satan, the Demon Lord lauches a quest to overtake the land of Ente Isla. When he's defeated, he retreats through a portal and lands in the human world. Finding himself in present day Tokyo, Satan has no magic or powers, forcing him to live as a normal person and work at the fast food restaurant MgRonald's until he can find his way back.
Elder Tale, the wildly successful MMORPG is played by millions. When the latest expansion pack releases, 30,000 players are swiftly transported to the game world and unable to exit. Veteran gamer Shiroe leaves his shy life behind and creates a new life in this world, and interacting with NPC's and other players.
What other isekai shows do you watch? Let us know in the comments! :)