I was watching The Anime Man’s Summer Anime 2018 preview and at least three different anime were of the Isekai genre. This decade of anime has been dominated by Isekai. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, Isekai can be translated as “different world.” An Isekai anime has the series protagonist transported to another world. This could be either a virtual world like an MMO or a parallel fantasy universe. The characters must adapt to the new world until they can find a way home. Wish fulfillment is a common theme in Isekai, like an overpowered protagonist or being surrounded by beautiful love interests.
Isekai has been around for a long time now but didn’t reach mainstream status until recently. Early examples of the genre would be El-Hazard, Escaflowne, and Inuyasha. All taking place in fantasy worlds. The early 2000s saw the .Hack franchise showcase a virtual world. While many anime fans laud .Hack/Sign a classic, I found it to be rather boring. All these people are just talking. Try playing the game. Sword Art Online dropped in 2012 and everything changed. SAO took over the anime community like never seen before. Players were stuck in a virtual MMO where they could die for real. It had such a promising start but completely fell off the wagon after episode 3. It went from dramatic science fiction to shonen/harem nonsense. SAO became the standard for many Isekai to come. A rather low standard if you ask me. Regardless of quality, SAO is extremely popular. With popularity comes many imitators.
Several Isekai anime take up space on the seasonal charts with each new season. Isekai has become the anime equivalent of the FPS. So many studios want part of the SAO pie. Its reached a point where I role my eyes every time I see the phrase “transported to another world.” I’ve seen so many of them at this point that they’re all starting to blend together. Was I watching In Another World With My Smart Phone or Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody? Many of these anime even have the same generic art style. The protagonist is almost always some awkward loser who is some how good at everything and anything with a vagina wants to bang him. Its pathetic otaku wish fulfillment.
Wish fulfillment isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Just look at No Game No Life. It was such a blast to watch. There’s a right way and a wrong way to do wish fulfillment. Unfortunately, its an easy thing to screw up. Its hard to pin down how to do it right. No Game No Life and Overlord manage to pull it off. The problem with SAO was Kirito was an empty shell of a character who could bullshit his way through the plot. He seemed to gain abilities for the sake of plot convenience. If he knew how to hack and overwrite programs, why wasn’t he doing that to stop Kayaba’s plan. He could have saved many people. But no, he needed to save his waifu’s pet fairy. If the protagonist is overpowered, just go all out with it. Seeing an overpowered character completely obliterate the competition or come up with ridiculous plans to outsmart adversaries can be so much fun. But only doing it out of plot convenience is lazy writing. The best example of how to do an OP character is One Punch Man, where he seems bored by his power.
Isekai has been beaten into the ground. It has become stale and boring at this point. There isn’t much more that can be done with the genre. I’ll be skipping anything that has characters transported to another world. These types of anime don’t seem to be made from passion, but rather a way to exploit otaku buying habits. Studio executives want to sell figures and Blu-rays. That’s why an Isekai anime is a cliché storm. A creative writer could do something interesting with it, but those types tend to stay away from the genre. Not only are these anime full of lazy writing, they also have generic art. They all have the samey look to them. Anime is a visual medium, take advantage of that. The artists should go overboard with creativity to create imaginative worlds like we’ve never seen. Instead, we get a generic fantasy RPG style you’ve seen so many times.
Being an escapist myself, I can understand why the idea of being transported to another world is appealing. Have you seen this world? It sucks. The world of anime provides an escape from the suckage. But Isekai has been done so many times that the concept has becoming boring. Doesn’t watching the same thing over and over get boring? The popularity isn’t concerning as so many other good anime keeps coming out. Anime in 2018 has so much variety that you can completely avoid Isekai. There’s so much good anime to watch. I don’t have to bother watching these types of anime. However, I still wish there were less Isekai each season. It would make scrolling through Crunchyroll less frustrating.