What does Isekai Mean?

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When you’re looking for new anime, “Isekai” is suggested to you and you don’t know what it means? We’ll tell you what’s behind the term.

What Isekai Means: Other World

The Japanese expression “Isekai” means something like “Other World”. The term refers to a subgenre of Japanese fantasy light novels, manga, anime and video games. In this, a normal character is thrown out of ours into a fantasy or parallel world.

Origin of Isekai

The idea behind “Isekais” can be found in Western literature such as “Alice in Wonderland” or “Peter Pan” since about 1865. “Isekai” stories can also be found in Japanese literature before the 20th century. However, they only became popular on a large scale in manga and anime around the 1980s.

Especially in the nineties, the enthusiasm for this fantasy genre reached a new peak with mangas and anime like “Inuyasha”. With “Chihiro’s Journey to Wonderland”, one of the most successful anime films in the world also belongs to the “isekai” genre. The popularity continued and franchises like “Sword Art Online” hold up to this day.

After the release of the latter, even subgenres like “Trapped in MMO” developed. Parodies such as the 2019 anime “Isekai Quartet” also testify to the genre’s enormous popularity.

Themes of Isekai

In an “Isekai” story, a seemingly normal person becomes a:e hero:in another world through magic, prophecy, and the like. This can exist parallel to ours or be completely fantastic in nature. The “chosen ones” travel to the other world or are reborn in it, often with supernatural powers.

The protagonists of “Isekais” are usually outsiders, socially awkward and feel lowkey out of place in their world.

Development of Isekais

“Isekais” – evolved in recent years from targeting a more female Shōjo audience of the nineties to a male Shōnen audience. Also, the protagonists are now more often gamers or otakus.

Likewise, “other world” stories are increasingly found in Western or live-action film adaptations since the nineties. For example, film series such as “Matrix” or “Planet of the Apes” deal with similar narratives as in “Isekais”.

Examples of Isekais

Here are a few examples of the genre:

  • Sword Art Online
  • Inu Yasha
  • Overlord
  • Digimon
  • .hack
  • Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World

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The author AWSMONE, who works for Scrollbytes Organisation, has been vetted and has the necessary know-how or education to be able to write about any entertainment topics. Learn more on our about page.