Within the past few years, the Isekai anime genre has exploded in popularity, and a flood of anime has entered the market to fill the demand. Featuring ordinary characters who are transported to fantasy worlds, the stories are mostly about learning to adapt to a drastically different environment.
Popular titles include Eight Bit studio’s That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime, but others have also managed to distinguish themselves from the pack. These anime either put a fresh spin on an already tired genre or simply lean into classic tropes with open arms, much to the delight of fans.
Updated on February 6th, 2022 by Tanner Fox: Having gained an incredible amount of popularity in the 2010s, the isekai genre has yet to lose any steam. A perfect fit for Shounen and Shojo anime alike, characters teleporting to or reincarnating in high fantasy otherworlds has become a very familiar trope.
There are hundreds of anime that follow the basic isekai formula, and, while the premise may come off as overused and dull if done incorrectly, plenty of anime add a new twist to proceedings or include new elements that make them worthwhile.
Death March To The Parallel World Rhapsody (2018)
• Available on Crunchyroll and Funimation
Rather than having to die or fall into a strange ritual, the series protagonist of Death March To The Parallel World Rhapsody, Ichirou Suzuki, is reincarnated after he overworks himself and wakes up inside an RPG world that contains elements of games he was programming before he fell asleep. Almost immediately, he is attacked by a group of monsters and forced to defend himself, quickly learning that he can now use magic and level up.
What sets Death March apart is that the protagonist and his eventual companions simply explore the world they are in rather than set out to accomplish particular goals. It’s a great option for fans who love world-building and who are more interested in the journey than the eventual destination.
My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead To Doom (2020)
• Available on Crunchyroll
Catarina Claes lived a mundane life until a minor accident reawakens memories of her past life. She was once a video game-obsessed outcast, and she’s been reincarnated as a villain in a women’s dating sim. Realizing that she’s destined for failure, Catarina does everything she can to subvert the system and forge her own path.
A tropey shojo series that’s as soft as it is safe, My Next Life As A Villainess is firm within genre boundaries, but those who enjoy a simple and sweet Isekai offering likely won’t want to turn this down.
How Not To Summon A Demon Lord (2018)
• Available on Crunchyroll and Funimation
How Not To Summon A Demon Lord begins with two girls, Rem and Shera, casting a ritual to enslave a demon to their service. What they don’t realize is that the demon they’ve summoned is actually a human named Takuma Sakamoto. Of course, the socially awkward Takuma manages to flip the script on Rem and Shera and instead binds them to his service.
Instead of revealing his true identity, Takuma decides to lean into his role as the Demon Lord Diablo and embrace the strange surroundings he now calls home. The trio then sets off to discover how Rem and Shera can break their contract with Takuma and end their service to the “Demon Lord” they misguidedly summoned.
The Devil Is A Part-Timer! (2013)
• Available on Funimation and Tubi
Unlike most Isekai anime, The Devil Is A Part-Timer takes a novel approach to the reincarnation trope by transporting a fantasy character into our normal world. Satan is trying to take over the territory of Ente Isla, but, when he is cornered, he escapes through a portal that spits him out in modern-day Japan.
Upon arrival, Satan and the followers that escape with him change into humans and are forced to contend with their new surroundings. To survive, Satan takes on a part-time job at a local fast-food restaurant, MgRonald’s, while also keeping an eye out for old enemies in this strange new world. The series is full of comedy and cleverly subverts viewers’ expectations time and again.
I’m Standing On A Million Lives (2020)
A group of middle school students is transported to a medieval fantasy world to complete quests, returning once they’re finished only to be summoned again sometime later. Somewhat of a mix between an Isekai and a teenage slice-of-life series, I’m Standing On A Million Lives wears many hats, but it still struggles to stand out among a sea of similar offerings.
While the plot is ridiculous and the characters—particularly the protagonist—can be tough to take seriously, there’s a hearty dose of humor in this isekai adevnture, and characters like the Game Master introduce enough intrigue to keep viewers engaged throughout the season.
Grimgar Of Fantasy And Ash (2016)
• Available on Hulu
Many protagonists in Isekai anime become overpowered shortly after being reincarnated, but this is not the case in Grimgar Of Fantasy And Ash. This anime is set in an RPG-like world where a group of amnesiac strangers is forced to work together to survive. The setting of the anime is brutal and realistic, and the characters face genuine challenges that could easily kill them.
Even low-level goblins are no easy task for the group of adventurers, which makes their journey all the more gritty and realistic. Fans of the series appreciate that Grimgar Of Fantasy And Ash takes the fantasy genre seriously and isn’t afraid to take a dark turn when appropriate.
Log Horizon (2014 – 2015)
• Available to purchase on Prime Video
Log Horizon begins like any other Isekai anime. At the start of the series, 30,000 gamers from Japan become mysteriously trapped inside a virtual reality game. One of the players, Shiroe, is a wily veteran of the game and manages to attract a group of fellow players stuck there with him. Together, Shiroe and his companions navigate the game’s adventures and learn how to coexist with the game’s NPCs known as “natives.”
Log Horizon doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel or do anything new in the genre, but it’s a solid series that sticks to a tried and true formula. It’s a classic adventure story that checks off all the boxes when it comes to swords, sorcery, and fantasy drama.
The Rising Of A Shield Hero (2019 – )
• Available on Funimation
After he’s summoned to another world to help defend it from invaders known as Waves, Naofumi Iwatani must rebuild his reputation while protecting the populace following the betrayal of one of his companions. Granted a single shield, Naofumi’s struggle to become a hero is fraught with peril and difficulty, but, with the help of a few friends, he may save the world and restore his honor.
Though it initially gained attention in the West thanks to its controversial subject matter, The Rising of a Shield Hero has since gained a notable fandom, and fans of That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime are bound to enjoy it.
KonoSuba (2016 – 2017)
• Available on HBO Max and Crunchyroll
KonoSuba begins with Kazuma Satou dying prematurely and being presented with the choice to either continue on to heaven or be reincarnated into a new world. He predictably chooses the latter and is subsequently thrown into a fantasy world that keeps trying to get him to confront a villain known as the Demon King.
On his journey, Kazuma is joined by other adventurers such as the mage, Megumin, and the crusader, Darkness. Kazuma and his dysfunctional party stumble along as best they can, and the resulting adventures are equal parts exciting and hilarious.
RE: Zero – Starting Life In Another World (2016 – 2021)
• Available on HBO Max and Crunchyroll
Unlike most Isekai protagonists, Natsuki Subaru of RE: Zero – Starting Life In Another World is not transported into a new world by a video game or after getting hit by a truck. Unfortunately for Natsuki, he is teleported completely at a random—and, worse still, he has no special powers in this new world. He quickly befriends a half-elf named Satella and her companion, Puck, agreeing to help them recover a stolen insignia.
When they are abruptly killed, Satoru wakes up in his bed and quickly realizes that every time he dies, he is granted a new life and an opportunity to save himself and his friends. The series is part Groundhog Day and part dark fantasy, and it offers a refreshing twist to the reincarnation trope.
Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon (2015 – )
• Available on Hulu, Peacock, and Crunchyroll
In a fantasy world, gods send humans into a dungeon to fight for their amusement. In the dungeon, fighters can claim crystal shards which are used as currency and crafting materials. Heros are also grouped by their prestige and achievements, placing a further emphasis on dungeoneering success.
Essentially a combination of video game and separate-dimension high fantasy isekai tropes, Is It Wrong To Try To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon is a quintessential series within the genre that Slime fans will absolutely love.
No Game No Life (2014)
• Available on Peacock, and Crunchyroll
In No Game No Life, fans are introduced to another set of hapless gamers who are suddenly transported into a game. Sora and Shiro are reclusive shut-ins who game 24/7, but this all changes when they are challenged to a game of chess by the God of Games, Tet. They are then transported to Disboard, a world where games are used to resolve conflicts.
The matches are high-stakes, and Sora and Shiro quickly realize that the games in Disboard are much more real than anything they used to play in their previous lives. True to form, Sora and Shiro quickly adapt to their new home and set out to take down Tet and become the rulers of Disboard.
Overlord (2015 – 2018)
• Available on Tubi, Hulu, Funimation, and Crunchyroll
Overlord is one of the most popular titles that has emerged during the Isekai renaissance, and it’s easy to see why. When Momonga’s favorite virtual reality game, Yggdrasil, is about to be shut down, he decides to log into the game one more time and remain inside until the servers are disconnected. However, rather than being kicked from the game, Momonga finds himself trapped inside Yggdrasil in the form of his skeleton “Overlord” character.
Assuming the name of his former guild in the game, Ainz Ooal Gown, he sets about expanding his domain and vanquishing the various monsters and factions that stand in his way. With reliable jokes, solid animation, and plenty of action, Overlord has solidified its position in the crowded genre.
So I’m A Spider, So What? (2021)
• Available on Crunchyroll
One of the newest Isekai titles is already asserting itself as easily one of the best. So I’m A Spider, So What? leans into all of the best tropes of the genre and actively tries to break the fourth wall as much as possible. The protagonist is a high school girl who was killed in an explosion and reincarnated as a low-level spider monster at the bottom of a dungeon that’s filled with dangerous creatures in a fantasy world.
Throughout the story, the unnamed spider struggles to slowly level up, gradually becoming more and more powerful while her fellow classmates engage in an epic political power struggle around her. It’s hilarious, campy, and brimming with excellent fights, and it’s a must-see for fans of Isekai anime.
Sword Art Online (2014)
• Available on Netflix, Hulu, Funimation, and Crunchyroll
In the distant future of 2022, a virtual reality MMORPG is released which takes Japan by storm. Millions log into its virtual world, but a twist is revealed when the game’s creator seals every player inside, holding them hostage until someone can conquer all 100 of the game’s levels. The stakes are high, as in-game termination results in real-world death, and it’s up to Kirito to assemble a party of heroes and save the day.
Though trope-filled and overly-silly at times, Sword Art Online is one of the most important anime series of the past decade, and anime fans of any caliber ought to give it a try.
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