One of the Important Conditions for a Good Isekai

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With the amount of Isekai anime coming out every season, it’s getting harder and harder to avoid it as a genre. Shows like “Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody” and “The Rising of the Shield Hero,” for however questionable their quality, will always be on people’s radar because, well, its the new Isekai, so maybe it will be good. Still, despite its current oversaturation in anime, the Isekai genre still has one advantage over others: Its potential.

Now, before any of what I am about to say gets lost in language, I am not saying that other anime do not have potential. I do think, however, that the general premise that comes along with what defines an Isekai is one that can be taken in a lot of different ways. It also seems to me that the Isekai anime that most people would agree are bad fail to take advantage of the world that they have set up, either because the story doesn’t engage with these elements in an interesting way or they rely on previous tropes that have become tired.

One good example of this is “In Another World with my Smartphone.” Sure, in the beginning, the setup has a bit of novelty. A kid enters another world that he knows nothing about, with the catch being that he can bring his smartphone and have it work, as well as allowing him to use magic. However, unlike a comedy show like “Konosuba,” none of this is played for laughs, and the main character mainly comes across as overpowered and uninteresting. In this case, the story has failed to engage with the world and its mechanics in an interesting way and has therefore failed to realize its potential.

An example of a good Isekai would be something like Log Horizon. In it, the main character Shiro suddenly appears in a world that is eerily similar to an MMORPG he plays called Elder Tale. He assumes this because the world itself is structured much like the game and because he now has all the abilities of his in-game character, as do all of the other 30,000 players that are trapped in the game-esk world. From there, much of focus of the plot is on figuring out how the world itself works, as well as building up the world’s infrastructure enough to where adventurers can live happily in the hopes of one day escaping back to the real world. Shiro, being a famous player of Elder Tale, becomes a sort of de-facto leader, and starts to build up the political alliances and government infrastructure that makes the world function. In this way, Log Horizon does engage with its world in an interesting way, and actively tries to understand utilize its mechanics, fully realizing its potential.

However, this is not the only condition on which to judge whether or not an Isekai anime is necessarily good. If this were my sole condition on which to judge that, then I would have to admit that Sword Art Online is good, and I am not sure I am quite ready to do that.

It is helpful to think about it in some philosophical terms. In Epistemology, there is a concept known as Necessary and Sufficient Conditions. A Necessary Condition is one that is required for something to be true or for a definition to be met and a Sufficient Condition is one that satisfies a truth or definition completely. In this case, I would argue that engaging with the fantasy world that has been set up in an Isekai story is a Necessary, but not Sufficient Condition for calling that Isekai good.


What do you guys think are the elements of a good Isekai? Let me know in the comments below. Also, if you would like to support The Aniwriter or are just feeling generous, consider donating on Ko-fi or using one of my affiliate links below:

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12 comments

  1. This is brilliantly written! I haven’t watched many Isekai anime, but one of the things that does lose its charm for me is when characters are overpowered for the sake of being so. As you’ve said, it’s not engaging any more. Log Horizon was a series that I loved because of its unique take on the literal world-building, like economic infrastructure and things like that. While Shiro is a badass, he isn’t perfect and faces lots of struggles in the process of trying to make a life out of the situation he was put into it. Thanks so much for this. It was interested to read and gives me some food for thought when I got into Isekai titles in the future. 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love your inclusion of Log Horizon! For me, it’s the standard against which I measure all entries in the isekai genre.

    Point of clarification: Are you sure Goblin Slayer’s an isekai? I was under the impression is was straight-up fantasy like Full Metal Alchemist or Spice and Wolf.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think mostly all I want from isekai stories is something that entertains. There are some, like Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, that manage to be just compelling stories beyond what the isekai genre usually allows for and are just good at what they do, but most isekai makes for fairly good popcorn entertainment.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know. I couldn’t get into Log Horizon. I’ve tried multiple times but I just find the first couple of episodes dull and then I move on. I get there’s a lot of love for it but it doesn’t work for me.

        Liked by 1 person

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