Hello and welcome back to Otaku Thursday! And welcome, welcome to a new season of anime! Star and I have a lot of titles we’re watching this season, but since it’s so early in the season (honestly guys, these titles are hot off the press), I am not going to be hitting you with a first impressions. Not today. That’ll be for another time. No, today I wanna talk about something else: ISEKAI. Isekai, or as I like to refer to it: but why? Now, don’t get me wrong. I like a good Isekai every once and a while, but sometimes I find that 50% of an anime season is made up of Isekai titles that I’m astounded even became anime. So, now I ask myself the question: why Isekai? WHY are you so popular. Without furthr ado,
So Isekai. What exactly is Isekai? Well, literally meaning other world, it’s essentially someone getting teleported to another world. The ‘other world’ can be a fantasy world, or sometimes a parallel world, and sometimes I believe even time-travel can technically count as an Isekai. Okay, I’m not totally certain about that last one since they are still in their world–they just changing their future so in a way…they are going to a different world. Anyway, that’s essentially what an Isekai is. And sometimes Isekai is great–I mean, I loved The Chronicles of Narnia (which was probably one of my first Isekai ever–along with Digimon), HELL–I write Isekai. But I just ain’t about it when it comes at me in troves and troves every single anime season. Like seriously, if I read another anime description of “your average every day guy down on his luck, being transported to another world”, I’mma flip my keyboard.
Now, being anchored in the fantasy realm alone probably explains the popularity of Isekai. After all, fantasy is king. Most people can enjoy the notion of a fantastical world where they can forget about their mundane life and perhaps even their daily problems. It’s a notion you often hear about books and media in general–that they can be used as a way to escape the present reality. But Isekai takes that a step further by having a protagonist who also thinks that–and who actually gets to escape into another world. So I can see why some people would want that experience. But then I’m like–okay. I get it. Different world to escape into…but why are there so many where the main character doesn’t just wake up in another world but when they die and get reincarnated into another world? Because those too count as Isekai and those are the ones I find most often (and that most often have the most ridiculous premises–let’s not talk about the time I got reincarnated as a hot spring). Well, being naturally curious, I looked this up and found out that reincarnation Isekai have surprisingly dark connotations. Some people who tend to really see themselves in main characters who are disillusioned with life, may be deeply depressed and therefore have a desire to die themselves. Thus Isekai can be a way to live out that scenario, to truly and fully escape from stressful lives and situations. In a way though, that makes it both twisted an yet deeply profound, because it’s also these stories that tend to value human life more than anything. But also, they can be great ways to live out a fantasy that truly feels like a release.
Once I came to understand the reasoning behind Isekai though, it began to make more sense why I see a lot of humorous Isekai. Because the main characters tend to live happily and usually fulfill something they never got in their normal/old life. So then…why are so many also slipping into harem or ecchi territory so much? Like, no shame I just tend to not enjoy that as much. These themes are just so common in Isekai that if I tell someone I’m watching an Isekai, they immediately assume there’s a harem involved or some sort of ecchi undertones. Which y’know, is fair. A lot of Isekai feature these. But I mean, the more I come to understand the meaning and purpose of Isekai, the more I forgive it for these faults. At the end of the day, Isekai is a fantasy–whatever that fantasy entails. We don’t hear no one complaining about Game of Thrones up in here. So creative freedoms and what not. I might not be about it, but for whoever is–pop off my liege.
Now, a last thing I want to talk about with Isekai is time travel anime. Okay. Mainly because I would like to think that it can count as an Isekai. Take for example, Tokyo Revengers, which I’ve recently been exposed to. Sure he’s going to his past, but it’s a past that’s altering his future so therefore it feels like he is traveling between parallel worlds in a way. Different worlds than what he came from. Is that not Isekai? I’ll just drop the urban dictionary link for you to read and decide. Plus if we count time traveling anime as Isekai, it makes even more sense when you think about why so many people enjoy Isekai. If you can escape your current life and into a fantasy world–that’s great. But I’m sure there are a lot of people who would want to be able to Isekai themselves into their past or a different timeline where they could live their lives a little better–make different choices–and be happier. Maybe it was to change a tragic accident, maybe to become closer to someone they wished they could’ve been close with. It makes sense that people want to read those kinds of stories since we live but one linear life.
I think in my research into why Isekai are so popular, I’ve come to appreciate the genre on a whole new level. While yes, I still think maybe I see too many new anime with an Isekai premise, I totally get why they exist in such troves now. They play on the human condition in interesting ways and are forms of comfort and entertainment. A way to live out a wish or dream, an escape from every day life and stresses. So…how can you fault them that much? Read and enjoy what you want, live your best reincarnated life through these stories. Pop off my liege.