Isekai – 異世界
Isekai, an insanely popular subgenre of Japanese light novels. Just when did this insane trend start? what is it all about? How has it affected us as audiences? Let’s find out!
Isekai is a Japanese fantasy novel subgenre where the protagonist of the series “somehow” ends up in another world. The “somehow” can range from simply waking up in a new world to dying and being reincarnated into a new world.
The Isekai genre dates back to the 90’s with series like El Hazard: The Magnificent World and Digimon in the later 90’s. In the past decade, the genre grew exponentially, with the introduction of light novel series including Sword Art Online (2009), Log Horizon (2011), RE:Monster (2012), Re: Zero (2012), OVERLORD (2012), Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash (2013), and a seemingly neverending list of more Alternate World themed light novels.
Earlier series of the genre started off with the protagonists being average people in the alternative world. Digimon features Destined/Chosen Children (DigiDestined) who enter the virtual world of Digimon. The same is still some modern series including Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash.
However, most modern Isekai works tend to give the main protagonist cheat-like abilities and “blessings”. Unlike the older series in the genre where characters grow and develop to become stronger in the new world, modern Isekai light novels sets the main protagonist to be overpowered already in many situations. Take for example “In Another World With My Smartphone”, Touya Mochizuki is blessed by god as an apology for accidentally killing him.
Yes, almost all series in the genre also have the harem/reverse harem tag (#feminism), they do not always share the limelight. Log Horizon is a prime example of an Isekai story without harem. The main reason why harem is usually included is because most fantasy stories with the harem tag sells, and money speaks for itself.
Reincarnation in alternate world. Like Isekai x Harem, Reincarnation x Isekai is a popular duo. Many stories of the genre start off with the protagonist dying from an “accident” as an explanation to why they end up in another world. Due to this popular story setting, there are a lot of Isekai series that also have the reincarnation tag. You know what they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Isekai genre is so overwhelmingly popular that Kadokawa had to ban the genre entirely from their light novel competition in 2017 since the genre almost dominated all the competition submissions. Is the genre overplayed? or do you not mind having more series with similar settings? Let us know! As always, if there is anything else you want us to explain, let us know in the comments!