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The “isekai” genre has exploded recently with its latest additions for the past few years. People have many different opinions on why this is; some say it is because most of them, if not all of them, are set in a fantasy setting, which is already a popular genre, to begin with. Others say that it lets the viewer be able to be inside the shoes of the protagonist since these protagonists come from the real world (bonus points if they are a male living in the city since many anime viewers are either male or living in the city).
These anime series can be a good starting point for beginners who are newly exploring the anime world, as well as for veterans who want to try out the popular shows. However, there is a lot of them out there and it can be hard to pick just one. Plus, if you are limited on time, picking one that you would realize later on is not for you can be extremely frustrating.
This guide will help you avoid all of those inconveniences. Whether you are a beginner just starting your journey or a veteran looking for something new, this guide compiles the best isekai anime that caters to your taste.
What is an isekai anime?
The isekai genre (translated as “different world” or “other world” in English) is a genre found in Japanese media such as light novels, manga, and anime where the main protagonist is teleported or transported into another world. The method by which the person is transported may vary from story to story. The most common method is for that person to die either through natural or unnatural causes. This is where the “Truck-Kun” meme is generated from since much isekai anime use a truck as a plot device to kill the person.
Many other isekai anime series do not necessarily make the person to be transported die. In stories where magic is involved, they simply teleport that person because they were summoned either by accident or by choice. Another reason could be that something is going wrong with the magic in the world or a spell goes wrong which results in the person being teleported to the world.
If the story has a science fiction setting, the other world where the main protagonist will be teleported in would most likely be a virtual reality world such as a social network or a video game. When the main protagonist is transported into a fantasy world through virtual reality as a video game, the genre shifts between fantasy and science fiction depending on which the anime series focuses on.
How are these recommendations chosen?
The anime series listed here have high scores in the following categories:
- General score
- Size of community
- Overall rank
The data from these categories come from a combination of the internet’s consensus such as discussions in Reddit and other forums plus the scoring system of MyAnimeList. Furthermore, these recommendations are separated into subcategories depending on where the story’s other main focus is.
For example, some isekai anime series revolves around comedy and the hilarity of the situations the main protagonist gets themselves into. This way, you can choose more carefully the anime series you would want to watch. The subcategories are as follows:
- Fantasy World in a Video Game
- Light-hearted Adventures
- Comedic Situations in a Fantasy World
- Action-packed Stories
- Drama in a Magical Fantasy Setting
Fantasy World in a Video Game
Sword Art Online
- Genres: Action, Game, Adventure, Romance, Fantasy
- Other Titles: SAO
- Studio: A-1 Pictures
In the year 2022, technology has evolved; virtual reality games exist now where players can fully immerse themselves in the world using only their thoughts. Sword Art Online is one of those games which was just newly released, and one person, Kazuto Kirigaya, also known as Kirito, can get his hands on the game. He logs in and so do many others to find themselves in the medieval fantasy world of Aincrad.
However, in a sudden twist, the game creator disables the players’ ability to log out; the only way for them to get back to reality and escape the game is to complete all of its one hundred levels. Even worse, when a player dies in the game, they die in real life too. Kirito bands together with like-minded individuals to become stronger to defeat all one hundred levels and escape while surviving deadly monsters and other dangerous players alike.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want the players in the video game to try to escape the world they are in. Also, choose this if you want to have a dash of romance in your isekai. This anime is very popular among veteran anime watchers as its first season was released back in 2012. Because of its popularity, this could be considered culturally significant in the anime world.
- Genres: Action, Game, Adventure, Magic, Fantasy
- Other Titles: N/A
- Studio: Satelight
The popular MMORPG Elder Tale received a sudden update that changed the lives of over 30 thousand gamers in japan; the players logged in are now unable to log out. After a moment of shock and disbelief, everyone realizes that they must learn to survive and live their lives in this new world. One veteran gamer by the name of Shiroe immediately tests out his new environment, and just like everyone, he learns that the game is still as is; there are still EXP, HP, items, etc.
A returning veteran after years of inactivity by the name of Naotsugu and a petite yet fearsome assassin by the name of Akatsku joins Shiroe in his journey to form a societal system so that all players do not devolve into chaos. He strives to bring stability in the virtual city of Akihabara while at the same time survive against dangerous monsters and hostile players using his strategic wits.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want the focus of the anime to be politics/forming a society in a fantasy world.
- Genres: Action, Game, Adventure, Magic, Fantasy, Supernatural
- Other Titles: N/A
- Studio: Madhouse
As the virtual reality game Yggdrasil begins to shut down their servers, a powerful wizard from the dark guild of Ainz Ooal Gown named Momonga decides to spend its last few moments in-game. As the clock strikes midnight, something strange happens that shocks him to the core; he is still fully conscious as his character! Furthermore, the NPCs in the game begin to develop their personalities as well.
Not wanting to go back to reality where he has no friends or family, he gathers his loyal servants to assist him in his goal: to conquer the world! This proves to be a difficult task to do as the game offers him challenges in his plan for world domination. So far, he is the only known player that is still in the game after its servers shut down, yet he ventures on to find others in the same situation as him.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want the focus to be on the action and the world-building. Also, choose this if you want your main protagonist to be powerful already while having an insanely large ambition.
- How Not to Summon a Demon Lord
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
- Other Titles: Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken
- Studio: 8bit
Satoru Mikami is a 37-year-old corporate worker content with living a monotonous lifestyle in Tokyo. One day, while having a casual encounter with his colleague on the streets, a random assailant appears and suddenly stabs him. As he is dying, he hears a strange voice echoing in his mind and reciting incomprehensive words and commands unfamiliar to him. He regains consciousness, only to find himself in the form of a slime creature in an unfamiliar place.
After a moment of confusion and disbelief, he discovers that this new form of his can perform certain skills, particularly the ability to devour anything and mimic anything in terms of both appearance and abilities. He stumbles upon a dragon called Veldora who was sealed away for the past 300 years for annihilating a town to ashes. Satoru frees the dragon, and in return, the dragon grants Satoru divine protection. Now, Satoru embarks on an adventure in this new fantasy world he is reincarnated in.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want mindless fun adventures with a simple concept.
- Bakemono no Ko
- In Another World With My Smartphone
- So I’m a Spider, So What?
Comedic Situations in a Fantasy World
- Genres: Comedy, Adventure, Parody, Fantasy
- Other Titles: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!
- Studio: Studio Deen
A high school student/shut-in NEET named Kazuma Satou is on his way home after buying a video game. On his way home, he tries to save someone from peril and do something he thought was heroic; instead, he dies in a laughable and pathetic death. Regaining consciousness, he finds himself with Aqua, a blue-haired goddess who laughs at his sudden death. She then gives him two options; he can ascend to the heavens or reincarnate in a fantasy world. Of course, he picked being reincarnated in a fantasy world.
As part of the course, he is tasked to defeat the Demon King of the world and is given a chance to pick one item to bring with him to aid in this task. Kazuma, irritated of Aqua, chooses her instead, and the both of them are thrown into this new world. By then, Kazuma realizes something: Aqua is completely useless! Furthermore, they have to work hard as living in this new world is not as easy as they thought it would be. Forming a party with two other weirdos, Kazuma’s journey starts by carrying his useless teammates along.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want a fantasy setting with a party of weird individuals who find themselves in comedic situations. This anime series is packed with jokes and gags.
No Game No Life
- Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Supernatural
- Other Titles: NGNL
- Studio: Madhouse
In the realm of video games, there is an insanely skilled player under the username “Blank”. However, it turns out that this player is controlled by two shut-in siblings: Sora and Shiro. One sudden day, a strange email arrives challenging them to a chess match. As the both of them won this chess match, their opponent reveals themselves to be Tet, the God of Games, and he transports the sibling into a new world called Disboard.
Here, every conflict is settled through games. May it be a simple squabble among two people or an all-out war between two countries, all parties in the conflict must wager something they deem equal to their opponent’s wager. In this world, Sora and Shiro have a new goal in mind: to unite all sixteen races using their skill in games and replace Tet as the new gods of Disboard.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want insanely skilled and smart main protagonists who often get into humorous situations along with their funny ally Stephanie Dola. You can also choose this if you are looking for a fantasy world with a unique concept. Much like Sword Art Online, this is an extremely popular anime series among veteran anime viewers. Currently, this is #14 in terms of popularity in the MyAnimeList ranking.
- My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
- Isekai Quartet
- Gabriel Dropout
- The Devil is a Part-Timer!
- I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level
Rising of the Shield Hero
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy
- Other Titles: Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari
- Studio: Kinema Citrus
An otaku named Naofumi Iwatani finds himself being summoned as the “Shield Hero”, one of the Four Cardinal Heroes in the kingdom of Melromarc. All of these heroes are summoned from modern-day Japan and are tasked to protect the kingdom from the Waves of Catastrophe which have been wrecking the land and its citizens for centuries. They are respectively given a sword, spear, bow, and shield to aid in their quest.
However, Naofumi is belittled by his fellow heroes as well as the kingdom’s people because his shield offers weak offensive abilities. After being betrayed by Malty Melromarc, an individual who was supposedly willing to train alongside him, he is discriminated against and hated among the people of the kingdom for something that is not his fault. Hurt by these events, he strengthens himself and begins his journey of saving his reputation. Along with him is Raphtalia, a demi-human slave he saves from the verge of death.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want a good redemption arc in your action-packed isekai stories. Also, choose this because of Raphtalia.
Saga of Tanya the Evil
- Genres: Action, Military
- Other Titles: The Military Chronicles of a Little Girl; Youjo Senki
- Studio: Nut
After losing a battle of wits against Being X, a self-proclaimed god, the challenger is reincarnated as a little girl named Tanya Degurechaff in a world with magical warfare slowly plunging into a state of world war. Tanya quickly rises in her country’s military ranks and becomes infamous for being ruthless and vicious, earning her the title “Devil of the Rhine”. She tries to recreate the peaceful life she once knew, yet Being X proves to be the strongest obstacle in this attempt.
Her strategic wits and amazing combat initiative unintentionally boost the mighty empire, turning it into one of the most powerful nations in history. Many people see her as a villain because of her ruthless nature, but that does not stop her from being a crazy and powerful soldier despite only being a little girl. Her only ambition is to defy Being X.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want to see badass military warfare combined with magic.
- Re: Creators
- World Trigger
- Suisei no Gargantia
- Mondaiji-tachi ga Isekai kara Kuru Sou Desu yo?
Drama in a Magical Fantasy Setting
Re: ZERO -Starting Life in Another World
- Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Suspense, Psychological
- Other Titles: Re: Zero
- Studio: White Fox
Subaru Natsuki, a teenager, leaves the convenience store and as he leaves, he is suddenly transported into a fantasy world. While in a state of confusion and shock, a bunch of thugs approaches him and beats him up. He is unable to fend for himself because he only has with him a bag of groceries and a cell phone. Luckily, he is saved by a mysterious yet beautiful woman named Satella. She explains to him that she was looking for the person who stole her insignia and happened upon the befallen Subaru during her search.
As thanks, Subaru helps her find her insignia and succeeds in locating its whereabouts. Unfortunately for both of them, a dark force who have been stalking the pair brutally murders them as they locate the insignia. Moments after dying, Subaru wakes up and finds himself in the same situation before meeting Satella. He is once again beaten up and meets her, yet this time he knows what will become of them. Using this strange power, Subaru repeatedly dies and respawns to solve the problems he will face along his journey.
Why choose this:
Choose this if you want something a little bit darker in your isekai stories. It is also popular, being ranked #21 in MyAnimeList’s popularity ranking.
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation
- Genres: Drama, Fantasy, Ecchi
- Other Titles: Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu; Jobless Reincarnation: I Will Seriously Try If I Go To Another World
- Studio: Studio Bind
A 34-year-old shut-in who had been bullied throughout his life dies in a tragic accident after trying to do something heroic. Yet, in a sudden turn of events, he finds himself being reincarnated as a baby named Rudeus Greyrat born from two loving parents. What’s more, is that his memories and knowledge from his previous life as a shut-in remain even in this new world.
He quickly adapts using his preserved memories and begins to show extremely impressive magical capabilities which exceed all expectations. In this new world, he meets Roxy Migurdia, who helps him in honing his magical skills; Paul, his father that taught him the way of the sword; and Sylphiette, a girl the same age as him who became his best friend. So, he grows and strives to become a productive member of society, and perhaps find love, something he had not found in his previous life.
Why choose this:
Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation is a wish-fulfillment isekai, meaning if you are in the same boat as the main protagonist, then this might be a good pick for you. It is considered as one of the pioneers of the isekai genre, so it is a fit enough to be a part of this list.
There are many isekai anime series out there to choose from. With that said, different people have different tastes and preferences regarding the story, plot, genre, etc. If you are a beginner to the genre itself, below is a list of strong recommendations that are beginner-friendly. These are recommended for beginners mainly because you can watch them within a short amount of time.
- No Game No Life (only has one season)
- Rising of the Shield Hero (second season to release on 2022)
- That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime (the second season just released on 2021)
If you want to get serious into the isekai genre, then the following anime series are recommended:
Why are the above anime series recommended? Well, these are essential to watch and understand so that you can watch another anime series, Isekai Quartet. Isekai Quartet is a comedy show featuring the main characters in the above listed such as Subaru, Kazuya, Momonga, Aqua, etc. When you watch and understand this, then you know you have been into the isekai rabbit hole.
Answer: That depends on which isekai anime series you are watching. There are many out there that are not that solid in terms of plot, story progression, pacing, world-building, etc., but there are also many out there that can do it right. So far, it can be considered a good genre considering many of the popular and trending series right now are isekai anime series.
Answer: Sometimes, isekai anime series are a way for the viewer to fill in the shoes of the main protagonist, since many of these series feature a city dweller escaping into a fantasy world. If you have been in the city, then surely you would have dreamt of escaping into a fantasy world at some point or another. Many people, maybe you even, can relate to the main protagonist in isekai anime.
Answer: Among the popularity ranking in MyAnimeList, Sword Art Online seems to be the most popular isekai anime being the fourth on the list. Above Sword Art Online from third to first is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Attack on Titan, and Death Note. The second most popular would be No Game No Life, taking up the 14th position in the list.
Answer: It could be Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation, where the main character is reincarnated as a talented child, or Saga of Tanya the Evil, where the main character is reincarnated as a vicious war-mongering little girl.
Answer: It could be How Not to Summon a Demon Lord, where the main character becomes the demon lord of the new world, or Overlord, where the main character is the villain aiming for world domination.
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