What is Isekai?

what is isekai

What is Isekai manga or anime? Literature, fine arts, cinematography, the diversity of their genres – concepts and terms are international, understandable to all. Individual differences are only in the historical and cultural aspect. But Japan is proud of the most striking phenomenon in its literature and art. Manga, as the art of drawing and literature, which has roots in the depths of centuries, in the 19th century became an independent kind of Japanese literature. And in the 20th century it began to conquer the whole world as a specific genre.

Nowadays, few people are surprised by the words manga, anime, fantasy, otaku, isekai.  Although the term Isekai appeared recently and is the name of a relatively young genre of manga, which developed practically before our eyes. Now Isekai manga is popular not only in Japan, but also around the world and has an astounding commercial success.

Isekai in translation means another world. It is a genre of fiction about people or individuals trapped in other worlds, fictional worlds, virtual or parallel universes. The word perfectly reflects the peculiarities of the genre – stories about a hero getting from our world to a fantasy world with magic, swords and adventures. Can get from the real world to a virtual game. From a fictional world to another fictional world, from the modern world to the past or future, and so on. Variations can be very different, but the essence is the same. It is a kind of fantasy world with the addition of elements from other genres.

What is Isekai Origins?

What is Isekai Origins

The origins of Isekai should be sought in Japanese folk tales.  In the tale of the fisherman Urashima Taro, who saved the turtle and she invites him into the underwater kingdom in the palace of the sea goddess. According to one version, the goddess was the turtle. The fisherman spends some time in the palace, but then asks the goddess to let him go home.

The goddess agreed to let him go and gave him a box as a parting gift. But she tells him not to open it. When he returns home, he discovers that 300 years have passed since he left for the underwater kingdom. All his family and friends are dead and he is left all alone. Out of despair, he opens the box, and that hour he grows old and dies.

Elements of the Isekai can also be seen in ancient myths, fairy tales from various countries and myths of visits to the afterlife. The first modern works of Isekai were Haruki Takachiho’s novel Warrior from the Other World. And also Yoshiyuki Tomino’s television series Dunbain Fighting Aura. In foreign literature, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and Harry Potter fit the definition of Isekai.

Isekai History.

The genre’s beginnings date back to the 1980s-90s of the 19th century. These were manga about traveling to other worlds, and with other Isekai themes. But they were mostly stories for female audiences. And the characters were more often school-aged girls in fantasy worlds. Manga such as Mysterious Game and Knights of Magic, were published in magazines aimed at a youth audience, mostly female.

The second period falls in the first decade of the 20th century. Isekai manga begins to gain popularity due to the appearance of stories with a variety of plots, extensions of places and forms of getting heroes into other worlds.

Isekai History

And modern manga is characterized by such a multitude of plots and characters that this genre has become the most in-demand. Isekai are easy to follow and entertaining. They contain unusual worlds and situations and heroes who find themselves in them.

The Isekai genre became very popular and overwhelmed the manga market, causing a negative reaction in Japan and abroad. It came to the point that in 2016 a Japanese storytelling contest banned all stories with isekai.

Manga and Anime Genre.

Isekai then is a transition to another world in one’s own body. It can be a move to an alternate, neighboring, virtual, afterlife. And our world with changes, a transfer from one fictional world to another.  Ways of transition are different: the protagonist is transferred to another world in different ways: teleportation, through portals and some gates, the transfer of consciousness in virtual worlds, by summoning.

The Golden Word Master – the Four Heroes and the Innocent Bystander with the Unique Cheat.

The Golden Word Master - the Four Heroes and the Innocent Bystander with the Unique Cheat

The Golden Word Master – the Four Heroes and the Innocent Bystander with the Unique Cheat Manga is not about the fate of one character. But about a group of high school students.

The kingdom of Victoria is inhabited by humans, demons, beasts and spirits. The demon king wants to destroy the humans. The demons are very strong and are powerful wizards. There are few people in the kingdom and they will not be able to resist the demons. So the king decided to call for 4 heroes from the 21st century. to fight the demons. He was surprised to see five guys instead of four.  The fifth was Hiro Okamura, summoned to our world to fight monsters. He happened to be near the guys during the summoning.

Everyone had to pass the hero test.  Everyone’s identity as a hero was confirmed, except Hiro. Hiro was happy with the test results and demanded to be brought home. He doesn’t want to fight, he’s not a superhero. However, the return was impossible. The guys were angry at first. But then they took into account that they are all heroes and they can do it without him. Further events will show which one of them is a real hero, who really knows how to fight and defeat demons. 

Isekai tensei is reincarnation into another world. The protagonist goes to another reality after his death.

The strongest mangaka reincarnated in another world Manga.

The strongest mangaka reincarnated in another world Manga

An example of this is The strongest mangaka reincarnated in another world Manga. The action takes place in the capital city of Stormheim. For 14 years it has been under attack by the Oder, an undead living in the north of the country. The army, the knights repelled the order attacks. But the forces were unequal, as strong magic is needed to defeat the order. The actions of heroes with swords alone were not enough. So the princes and princesses, by order of the queen, searched all over the country for people with a talent for magic and summoning, to send them to study at the royal academy of magic.

Princess Medisfina believed that any gifted person, whether commoner or aristocrat, had the right to study at the Academy to become magicians. Prince Auswell believed that only aristocrats could be magicians, and study magic abroad. And the princess found such a talent among the commoners, Akira Rainford, a boy of 7, who has a tremendous ability to summon magical beasts.

The child amazed everyone with his intelligence. His unusually prudent attitude toward the world around him, and he did not want those around him to know about his talent. No one suspected that the body of a seven-year-old boy contained the mind of a grown man. Kashimiro Akira, 29, a famous mangaka who won a prestigious award for his work “Revenge Match” was on top of success. And suddenly he is horrified to learn that he has blood cancer.

Drawing: Saikyou Mangaka wa Oekaki Skill de Isekai Musou Suru Manga.

Drawing: Saikyou Mangaka wa Oekaki Skill de Isekai Musou Suru Manga

Drawing: Saikyou Mangaka wa Oekaki Skill de Isekai Musou Suru is another title for this manga. On the way to success, he lost all his friends, his girlfriend left him. And his mother is not interested in anything but money. In his stressed state, while driving a car to save mother and child, he crashed into a post and died.

But fate gave him a chance for a second life, asking beforehand what kind of mother he wanted to choose. He chose a commoner, wanting to have a normal quiet life, refusing an aristocrat, a millionaire, a person of royal blood and reincarnated into the body of a child. He lived in a simple family with loving parents, trying not to stand out and be mediocre. And if it wasn’t for his meeting with Princess Medisfina… Read this manga and learn about the fate of the extraordinary boy.

Within these two types there are many sub-genres.

Reborn 80,000 years Manga.

Reborn 80,000 years

One of the sub-genres is considered “reverse” isekai. The protagonist enters our world from the fantasy world. This includes stories where a creature from another world is somehow transferred to our reality. An example of a reverse Isekai is the manga Reborn 80,000 years.

The Star Emperor, after spending 80,000 years in the empty universe due to betrayal, returned to earth. He is reborn in the body of Yang Chen, the son of a servant, a weak and battered boy. The emperor wants revenge on those who betrayed him, but first he must restore Yang’s powers. Since he still has the ability to heal, he heals the boy’s body and then begins training.  Eventually regaining his strength and using his old skills and abilities, he began to climb the social ladder.

The Isekai life subgenre includes plots where the heroes, having found themselves in another world, most often in a video game, prefer to live a normal life. They use their knowledge and skills, rather than fighting demons and dragons. They open a typography for magical folios, stores and cafes, and try to change the government system.

ReLIFE is an example of isekai, where the main character gets an opportunity for a second life in his own body. He is either reborn or transferred to another, younger self with all his knowledge, and has a chance to start a new life, correct past mistakes, and change for the better.

There is also a distinction between the classic Isekai and the new isekai.

He Sneered During His Second Time As the Hero As He Tread the Path of Revenge Manga.

He Sneered During His Second Time As the Hero As He Tread the Path of Revenge Manga

In classic isekai, the heroes find themselves in a fantasy world and use a magic sword to save princesses, as in Nidome no Yuusha (Warrior from Another World). Or fight monsters and evil tyrants, i.e. act in the classic world of sword and magic. Harem stories, novels, and anime with elements of Isekai also appear. All of these served as the basis for further development of the genre.

The Strongest Anti M.E.T.A. Manga.

Neo-Isekai is a breakthrough in the development of Isekai in the first decades of the 20th century. Characterized by the introduction of elements of computer games in the stories of Isekai manga, where the hero finds himself in the virtual reality of the game fantasy.The Strongest Anti M.E.T.A. manga tells the story of a college student who died in a car accident. He was reborn in the body of a guy in another world. This is where his misadventures begin.

First the emperor marries him off to his daughter, trying to take advantage of his extraordinary abilities, then the princess steals his talents and powers. On the emperor’s orders, he is killed, thrown into the woods, and this is where the logging systems come into play. The reward system gave him a welcome set, with which he regained his powers and abilities, and he began to gain points and experience, increasing his skill levels and techniques. As a result, he became a strong warrior capable of defeating any powerful force.

Comedic and romantic plots, harem stories, and the blend in Isekai with other genres emerge.

Isekai Anime and Manga Main Characters.

The protagonists in Isekai can be both men and women. Existence in real life with no hope for the future, living in poverty and misery, a dull gray life, is quite a common background from which the protagonist is transported to a new world. The hero may be an office worker with no prospects, a gray clerk, a clumsy high school student who is bullied by his classmates.

In other words, the main character initially is an unremarkable person or just a complete loser, and in social terms. But getting to the new world, the need to survive there, awakens in them new forces and a desire to survive. 

As a result, using his knowledge and skills from the old life and acquired skills in the new one, he becomes a successful person.  This is how apathetic, socially awkward young people find their way to thrive in the Isekai world. The baggage they bring from Japan is different from the local experience and invariably turns out better. It can be scientific or technical information, cooking recipes, knowledge of video games, half-forgotten school curriculum – it is enough to own any profession or have a passion for something.

Isekai based on the reincarnation of heroes are very popular. Very often the hero’s death occurs in a car accident, a common way to die is to get hit by a truck and die.  The truck appears in many Isekai series, which kills the protagonist, and the protagonist is reincarnated into another world. The heroes may drown, die in an obscure disaster, or be killed in a fight or betrayal.

After that, they relocate physically without changing, but for the most part relocating into someone else’s body. And this is where the fantasy of the authors is amazing. The transmigration can be into an infant or a small child, can move into a prince or a princess, into some kind of negative personality that the hero has to fix. The heroes have to survive in an unfamiliar place, have to find their way back to their native land, overcoming difficulties.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Manga.

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Manga

An example is Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation Manga. A 34-year-old unemployed man, who has come to the conclusion that he has wasted his life, sees a truck coming at pedestrians and pushes them out from under the wheels, but dies himself. Afterwards, the protagonist comes to himself in the body of an infant in a magical world and decides to be someone of significance this time. Eventually the hero becomes a wizard and successfully fights the gods.

In modern Isekai manga, plots where along with magic, medievalism, and a variety of fantastical creatures, the hero spins in virtual reality are very popular. He goes through the ranking systems, raises his level, acquires new skills and abilities, earning points and receiving rewards. And the reader, looking at the initial performance of the character, can surmise whether the hero will resolve conflicts by force or by cunning. You can tell by the level how far the hero has progressed and whether he has achieved much by the standards of another world.

The female characters in Isekai operate according to the same laws of the genre, but the plot is more often dominated by the romantic component.

The Antagonist’s Pet Manga.

The Antagonist’s Pet is about a girl’s second life in the pages of a novel she was reading. Sasha has become a character from a poor noble family. But she does not want to repeat her difficult life, and decides that she will live in peace and comfort. To accomplish this, she will please one and all. She will be a nice pet She gives up her pride and changes her behavior. And indeed it paid off.

She began to be invited into the homes of noble people, the number of influential connections increased. But as she becomes acquainted with high society, her opinion of it changes. She sees how stupid the prince is, she feels pity for the girl who should marry him, and she wants to save her.   She does not agree with the plot of the novel, and wants to change it.  . Read the manga and learn about Sasha’s fate.

An offshoot of the Isekai genre is the genre in which the protagonist, who after death, is transported to his or her own young self. With new knowledge and old intelligence they are able to live their lives anew, avoiding their past mistakes.

Not too long ago, stories of heroes reborn as animals, magical creatures, and monsters appeared, which are no less interesting than the classic stories.

I’m A Spider, So What? | Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka?

I’m A Spider, So What? | Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka?

The manga I’m A Spider, So What? | Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka? tells of the interesting reincarnation of a man into the body of a spider monster.

There is a constant battle between a genius and a demon king. The result of one clash, in the form of a huge blob of energy broke through the barrier between the worlds, and crashed into a Japanese school completely destroying one school class. The souls of the students were scattered all over the world and everyone found a new life.

A girl sitting in a literature class suddenly felt severe pain and lost consciousness. She woke up in a strange place, realizing that this was not earth, but another world. And she herself turned into a spider, her size does not correspond to the size of earthly spiders, she looks like a monster. Everything around her is unfamiliar, she does not know what species live in this world, what dangers may be waiting for her. And then she heard a voice in her head that sounded like a robot voice.

She got an estimate of her abilities, what level she was at, how many points she had earned.  She realized that she had to live in this game world, and most importantly she had to survive in it. How she coped with the hardships of the world around her and how she fought for her life you will find out by reading Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka? manga.

This is how the Isekai genre shows that an unremarkable person, who finds himself in different conditions and in different environment, can prove that he is not a loser, but a smart, successful and invincible person. In the real society he does not see ways to succeed, but as soon as there is an alternative, he is immediately realized. Never give up hope!

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Written by TheLastOne

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