The isekai genre has rapidly been growing in popularity over the years. The idea of being reborn and/or summoned to a new world was once only seen in a few series like Log Horizon, Sword Art Online, The Familiar of Zero and .hack//Sign but now in 2021 there are a multitude of isekai in every shape and size. You have series like How Not to Summon a Demon Lord, I’m Standing on a million Lives and Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation just to name a few of the more recent releases! However, one thing we are noticing about the isekai genre as of late is the strange internal battle going on between the various anime. Two recent anime in particular—How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom and Spirit Chronicles—are both isekai but one leans more towards a fantasy theme while the other tries for a more realistic approach. This made our group at Honey’s Anime have our own internal debate. Which is better fantasy isekai or realistic isekai?!
One for Realistic Isekai: Easier to Relate With!
We have no doubt that the fellow otaku out there have no doubt read quite a bit fantasy novels/books like Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones but have you ever related to those strange worlds? Yes, you could consider yourself a grand master of all things fantasy but if you found yourself thrown into a world of dragons and magic—like Isekai Cheat Magician—would survival really be possible? Unless you’re lucky and born into that new world with tons of magic and instant knowledge, fighting toe to toe with dragons might spell a quick end to your new fantasy life.
That’s why in our minds, realistic themed isekai is easier to relate to. Yes, you might be in a world of magical abilities and half-humans like How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, but you’ll notice a setting that you can understand a bit more. Fantasy is just that, fantastical and that often makes it hard to imagine anyone being launched into a strange new land of oddities and somehow just being accustomed to everything overnight. Watching realistic isekai creates a better level of immersion as we can see the confusion on the main character’s expressions—since they are in a fantasy world—but equally see how this new land might not be so different than the world we’re so use to.
One for Fantasy Isekai: Real is What We’re Trying to Escape When Watching Anime!
The whole point of any medium whether it be anime or video games is that we are trying to escape our current worlds for a new one. In our minds we hope to be whisked away to a world like Overlord where we can be meet busty beauties and be overpowered heroes! Entering a new world and doing paperwork to save a failing economy sounds like a business job we already could possibly have!
Fantasy isekai transports us viewers into a new world and we get to watch environments foreign to us. We see cool OP heroes do battle against mages and barbarians instead of writing quarterly reports for 20+ mins. As much as we loved The Devil is a Part-Timer, the idea of ending up in another world and working in a burger chain just seems like a horror story more than a fantasy one. We try to escape the world when watching anime and realistic isekai just reminds us the real world is behind us as we stare at our screens.
Another Point for Realistic Isekai: Get Rid of the Cliché Fluff
As epic as Sword Art Online can be, the idea of an OP hero is done so much that we could spend a literal ten pages just writing isekai protagonist names who have OP abilities. Isekai already has slowly begun to feel repetitive and while every season has a few shows that try to be different, no isekai labeled anime can escape the generic themes most have embed into them.
That’s why series like Log Horizon bridge the gap between fantasy and real-world so well. There are the obvious magical escapades of our heroes within but also the scary reality of how humans can be if left unwatched or unpoliced. Realistic isekai allows for newer stories to be presented to us rather than just watching another high school boy being sent to a world to save it with overpowered weapons/skills.
Another Point for Fantasy Isekai: Attention-Grabbing from Start to Finish
Anime like The Rising of the Shield Hero and Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest are captivating series as they constantly have action or drama. Only fantasy series can accomplish this so well! Let’s be honest, as much as we loved .hack//Sign for basically spearheading the isekai genre, there were a lot of boring moments to it as it constantly made us remember they were just in a game most of the time. Being bored while watching any anime isn’t a good thing folks…
Neither realistic nor fantasy isekai are bad by any means but each definitely has its pros and cons. Ultimately, the viewer has the final say whether they like one over the other but no one can deny that this argument of which is better is a fun one to have occasionally. What side do you align with readers out there? Do you prefer realistic isekai or fantastical ones? Tell us via the comments before and keep stuck to our isekai-loving hive here at Honey’s Anime for even more articles like this one!