Anime. Everybody knows somebody in their lives who loves it, watches it, lives it, eats it, and breathes it! The consumers of this medium used to be the victims of bullying and ridicule back in the days of middle and high school, but now it is among the ranks of mainstream and has become widely accepted all across the globe. So out of all of the genres that your average otaku consumes on a daily basis, what is it about the Isekai genre?
Every new anime season; there has been an influx of anime titles from this genre. Some of them are strong contenders of being ‘Fan Favorites’ like That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime, while others were trying something new but might have made a misstep somewhere. Out of all the anime genres the Isekai genre is…the most saturated. Like every genre before it there is some history as to why it became what it is today, and don’t think you’re outta the woods America; cuz’ we’ve been on the ‘isekai’ train with our own fairytales. (Alice in Wonderland, Narnia, The Wizard of Oz, does that ring a bell?)
For any history buffs out there; the concept of this genre came from ancient Japanese Literature, and the story of Urashima Taro – who saved a turtle and was brought to an undersea kingdom. (I wonder if that’s the story that inspired The Little Mermaid and Aquaman…?) Five days later he returned to his village; 300 years into the future. That story was adapted into one of the FIRST anime isekai films in 1918 by Seitaro Kitayama, but if we’re talking about modern isekai stories; there’s Warrior From Another World (1976), Aura Battler Dunbine (1983), Fushigi Yugi (1992), El-Hazard (1995), need we go on?
In simple terms; Isekai has had its foot in the anime game for a long time, and Miazaki’s Spirited Away (2001) was one of the most well-known and popular isekai anime movies of its time. (In fact, there are still fans who cosplay as that ‘spirit’ thing to this very day. We forgot its name so don’t @ us!) Also happening in the 2000’s was the popularized isekai anime title; The Familiar of Zero (2004), which popularized isekai through light novel and web novel media. This of course led to Familiar of Zero fan fiction becoming so popular on the website “Let’s Become Novelists”, that it spawned a genre of original isekai novels on that site; which led up to the creation of Re:Zero (2012) by Tappei Nagatsuki.
You guys may be hating on it now, but in 2012 Sword Art Online took isekai’s popularity to the next level. (We know Progressive is gonna fix that, but at the time it came out people couldn’t stop talking about it!) This was also the year that the term “isekai” was coined, and as anime titles like SAO became popular, it led to more web novels being written on ‘Naro’ (Let’s Become Novelists); like Mushoku Tensei (which became an anime), Saga of Tanya The Evil (which also became an anime), and TONS of others that all came afterwards. The Isekai genre got SO popular in the early/mid part of the 2010’s that fans…in both Japan and the West (i.e. the U.S.)…were SICK of it! Why do you think there’s a ‘brand new’ isekai title…EVERY! DAMN! YEAR?!
This genre got so annoying, that there was a blanket ban placed on it in 2016 due to it overcrowding the anime and manga market. Fans to this day are wondering ‘How long are they gonna milk this genre?!’, but if you ask Kadokawa (manga publisher) in 2017, they ended up banning all isekai stories in their own contest. You know this genre is oversaturated when big-name manga publishers, and isekai-churning web novel websites start banning it from any contests they host. All because of a fisherman who saved a turtle…
No matter how sick of it we are, isekai is still a popular genre in both anime, and manga. Throughout every anime season there is gonna be at least 2-3 isekai titles that will be subbed, dubbed, and dropped by fans. It’s become the genre you love to hate; which might explain why Konosuba got created. The Isekai genre has become so saturated that it’s now the butt of many jokes; even to the point where parody anime titles (like Konosuba) are made.
Something so small as a man saving a turtle and being transported to another world, has allowed this genre to ascend to a level of popularity; that it has achieved meme status in that same aspect. Isekai has gained a cult following over the years, but for some fans – at the cost of its own self-respect. Its the one genre that is both hated and loved at the same time; from its copy-and-paste storylines, to its half-assed character development. However, there have been some titles that have managed escaped this ‘curse-like’ cliché, so when some one says “Not another damn isekai!”, just know that the fisherman and the turtle started it.
Until next post, stay nerdy.