There something that attracts me towards anime set’s in a gaming world or different world than ours. It might be just love of games or something else but I enjoy this genre. Though I was unaware of Isekai genre until SAO or I should say that I didn’t distinguish it. Digimon, Inuyasha, Narnia, Alice in Wonderland and many other’s came before SAO which did explore the trapped in another world idea but I never saw them belonging to Isekai category. There is a very easy explanation for this distinction. While there was quite a large amount of anime that used the Isekai idea but they never relied on only “Otherworld” aspect of it. Digimon, Inuyasha, Narnia, Alice in Wonderland are fundamentally adventure animes, the story revolves around the characters, their adventure, and development, throwing them in another world is just an excuse used to create a great adventure fantasy story. On the other hand, SAO bets all its money on the idea of another world. It revolves around being thrown into another world rather than creating a great adventure story driven by characters. it uses the setting itself to drive the story and characters. This makes the story distinctly Isekai-ish in nature. Again I could be wrong but the first feeling of Isekai that I got was from SAO and there might be media or anime before SAO that have that distinct Isekai-ish feeling.
SAO did a great job in creating an excuse for getting dump in another world. It also generated the tension around this idea by saying that if you die in the game world you die in the real world as well. It executed the idea well or it seems that it did until the second episode. SAO did manage to generate a large following with idea of being trapped in another world and that included me as well but it is sad to say SAO didn’t do anything with it. SAO created the false experience of being tense, edgy and serious but on the surface main character didn’t face any real dangers as he was a Gary Stu the cousin of Mary Sue, better than her yes but still her cousin. SAO became just another drop in a harem-romance genre at its end. I will talk about SAO in detail in another post right now we will focus on next candidate.
After SAO I had lost hope for a good Isekai anime but then came Log Horizon. Another anime which revolves around trapped in a gaming world and this time Log Horizon use this theme to its advantage. But what is truly different between the SAO and LH are characters. SAO relied on streamlined characters with simple and often bland motivations with OP characters but LH relied on complex characters with each characters having a different personality than the last, each with their own aspiration, goals and worldview, nothing complicated but this variety helped LH to create a believable world. LH also truly nails the aspect of being trapped in the game, in this world everyone is a gamer and acts like a gamer and this makes sense. This combination makes ‘s LH’s world truly like a game world with its lore, guilds, financial systems. I would call LH a nerds anime because without liking things like Economics, Politics, Psychology, Gaming, Business, State Planning and Philosophy one simply cannot enjoy it to fullest and due to this reason I think it is not popular as SAO. Though being great its second season didn’t live up to my expectations, well beggars cannot be choosers I guess.
Then we came to Today. Anime like Overlord uses the SAO formula but with more emphasis on OP MC and not unrequired Harem. Overlord is basically a power fantasy done well. Anime like Konosuba takes this idea up a notch to create one of the best if not the best comedy anime of all the time, and I love Konosuba it is truly a god blessing on this wonderful world. Then there are anime like No Game No Life which focuses more on its strategic and nerdy aspects than Isekai aspect. Lastly, there is Death March which took everything that is wrong with SAO and multiplied it by ten and divided the tension in SAO by infinity to get an anime which what SAO should have been. A Harem with super OP MC who is the blankest of the blankest slate which you can roleplay in, who is possibly a god in this new world and probably the nicest guy you will ever meet in the universe and this makes it a truly enjoyable anime, not good anime per say but heck it is enjoyable.
What future holds for Isekai genre I dont know, it will probably branch in many different directions. Thanks for reading and share your thoughts in the comment section.