Isekai is a genre that has developed a bit of a mixed reputation among anime fans. Vilified for being intensely saturated, fans of the genre have been delighted to see it revived with some truly outstanding titles in the past few years. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!) was a moment that sparked a change in the isekai genre with an emphasis on comedy more than anything else that has become synonymous with the genre in 2021.
Be that as it may; however, the best isekai in the game right now are not the ones we visit solely for laughs, but rather, shows like the ones we are about to present. Anime titles that are a unique and highly developed experience, a combination of various elements that make each of these titles unique while still being bound to the basic isekai formula—a protagonist finding themselves in another world. Here’s a list of some of the best isekai we’ve seen in recent years—believe us, the titles may be a mouthful, but they are worth your time!
5. Honzuki no Gekokujou: Shisho ni Naru Tame ni wa Shudan wo Erandeiraremasen (Ascendance of a Bookworm)
- Episodes: 14
- Aired: October 2019 – December 2019
Motosu Urano is a bookworm through and through, desiring to read any and all kinds of literature. Her dream job is to become a librarian; however, she fails to achieve that goal when she is crushed under a pile of books and dies. As she draws her last breath, she wishes to be able to read more books in her next life. She is reincarnated as a frail five-year-old named Myne, who lives in a medieval era. In this world, a time before the printing press, books are a luxury that can only be afforded by the rich. However, Myne is determined to read whatever she can find – there’s only one question: what is it that is making her so sick in her new life?
Ascendance of a Bookworm is one of the more underrated titles on this list, but it’s definitely one of the more unique Isekai titles. There is a heavy slice of life element to this show that most Isekai tend to shy away from given the assumed elements of magic and fantasy that are pretty much central to the genre. The show’s pacing speaks to the construction – it is well thought through, artistically beautiful, and an Isekai for people who want fewer gags and a more character-driven story.
4. Shinchou Yuusha: Kono Yuusha ga Ore Tueee Kuse ni Shinchou Sugiru (Cautious Hero: The Hero Is Overpowered but Overly Cautious
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2019 – December 2019
Ryuuguuin Seiya is the most uptight, cautious individual in the universe. For him, enough preparation would be too little preparation, but nothing could prepare him for what would eventually happen: Seiya is summoned by the goddess known as Ristarte to save the world of Gaeabrande from destruction. When Ristarte pulled up his stats, she was shocked to see just how powerful Seiya is; however, she could never be prepared for just how cautious her new champion really is. He goes all-out against the weakest of foes, buys excess supplies despite being too powerful for most enemies to even lay a scratch on him and he always stays on the extra-safe side, going as far as buying three identical sets of armour! Can someone who never takes any risks do something as risky as saving an entire world from its doom?
This hilarious isekai should be on every isekai recommendations list because of just how complete a post-KonoSuba isekai it is! We said “isekai” way too many times in that sentence; however, that’s a testament to what Cautious Hero is – an out-and-out isekai title built on humour, but also a universe that follows the basic fantasy skeleton – magic, gods, summoned beings and – dare we say it – Demon Lords and reincarnation! It does quick, witty comedy but mashes in a slapstick feel with its humour, but the best part is the running gag never really loses steam and the overall anime is a very short yet satisfying journey you enjoy for the fun and the thrill of it. This is also one of a few notable isekai titles that boasts an opening or ending theme song performed by the band MYTH & ROID, a truly exceptional banger of an opening theme.
3. Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu (Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation)
- Episodes: 11
- Aired: January 2021 – March 2021
A jobless 34-year-old shut-in who had been bullied his whole life finally gets a second chance when he is revived as Rudeus Greyrat, the son of two loving parents in a world of fantasy, magic, and adventure. Retaining his knowledge and intelligence from his previous life, Rudeus explores his new home. He soon learns that he has an unprecedented level of magical talent, which prompts his parents to hire a tutor to help him hone his abilities. Roxy Migurdia arrives to teach Rudeus all she knows about magic, while his father Paul attempts to teach him the blade. Rudeus battles with the lingering psychological damage from his previous life, but he thinks that with this new life, he can finally become someone he is proud of, someone worthy of the love he desires.
This was a surprise hit in the Winter 2021 season that pushed the envelope when it came to art and animation. Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation is one of the most beautiful isekai to air in recent times, with crisp, breathtaking colours and landscapes to the interesting character designs. Mushoku Tensei; Jobless Reincarnation also boasts a strong story component, with a reincarnation arc we are yet to see. It is unique in showing the life of the protagonist from the moment of their birth, we literally watch Rudeus grow up in front of us, which immediately makes this a lot more interesting an isekai trajectory.
2. Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken (That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2018 – March 2019
Mikami Satoru is a thirty-seven-year-old salaryman who has never been in a romantic relationship nor had any experience with love. He is stabbed in a random incident while hanging out with his colleague on a busy street. As his life fades away, Satoru hears a strange voice that he has never heard before. He regains consciousness and comes to the realization that he has been revived – as a slime monster in an unknown world!
Satoru explores his new physiology and the area around him and stumbles upon the Catastrophe Class monster known as Veldora, the Storm Dragon, who has been sealed away for 300 years. Satoru feels sorry for the beast and promises to one day destroy the seal, becoming the dragon’s first friend in centuries. In return, Veldora gives Satoru the name “Rimuru Tempest” and with that, Satoru leaves the cave in which he first found himself to explore the greater world, unknowingly making a big name for himself in a new world.
That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime is one of the most surprising isekai titles simply because the premise of a human dying and becoming the weakest kind of monster just doesn’t sound that great. However, the series is such a feel-good kind of show with a different take on the central premise of being transported to or reincarnated in another world. We can’t help but root for Rimuru and his vision of a utopia for his fellow monsters! That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime is packed with action, incredibly interesting lore and a lovable cast of characters that only gets better with its second season! From the “new school” of isekai anime, That Time I Got Reincarnated As a Slime is one of the very best and comes highly recommended.
1. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World –)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2016 – September 2016
Natsuki Subaru is a 17-year-old whose mundane visit to the convenience store becomes a one-way ticket to a fantasy world. Assuming it to be just like in anime and manga, Subaru sees himself as a summoned hero, one who is destined for greatness; however, things aren’t what he imagined. The worst thing happens when Subaru is attacked by thugs and badly beaten.
Luckily, however, a pale-skinned, silver-haired beauty named Satella steps in to save him from his attackers. She is in pursuit of a thief who stole her insignia. Grateful for her help, Subaru offers to help Satella find what she seeks; however, when they eventually find it later that night, the two are brutally murdered. Things get very weird when Subaru regains consciousness to the same scene he saw when he first arrived: the same market, the same thugs, and the same Satella.
Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:ZERO – Starting Life in Another World –) is the best isekai anime to come out in recent times. The first season was a phenomenon when it aired in 2016 and for four long years, fans of the series had to wait for a second season. When it eventually arrived in 2020, the second season would go on to make Re:ZERO one of the most compelling anime stories we’ve seen and a long, painful journey with some truly rounded, developed characters.
Season 2 part 2 opened the story in a way that is the sign of a true classic as characters we have known from the very beginning are only now getting their backgrounds coloured in. From characters to plot, story and lore, Re:ZERO is the kind of experience you will not forget and it hits the ground running from the word “Go”. There simply is no other isekai series quite like this one and we will be talking about Re:ZERO for years to come.
While the isekai genre may be filled to the brim with incoherent storylines and unimaginative plotlines, it is also an arena where authors really flex their abilities to create some truly compelling stories. Shows like Youjo Senki (Saga of Tanya the Evil), Re:Creators, and Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika Nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shiteshimatta... (My Next Life As a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!) have managed to use the isekai basic formula to create incredible stories that show that even one of the most overplayed tropes in the history of media can have new life breathed into it! These are titles worthy of an honourable mention for sure! What is your favourite isekai title from recent times? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think!
For the past decade, the Isekai (or other world) genre has been progressively increasing like wildfire. The roots of this trope can probably be traced back to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and anime for the past 25 years has offered its own distinguishing take to it. A good number of anime use elements of Japanese culture, and there are others that take inspiration from Western European style of fantasy. Some are akin to time travel to alternate timelines, and there are those that just take it to a different level of imagination that you’d think was the product of somebody’s experiments with some crazy hallucinogens. Like Alice, a majority of the main characters are teenagers with issues and when they find themselves trapped in a different world, not only are they on a quest to help that world, but to make themselves better people as well. So, what are some top 10 Isekai titles that represent this legacy? Read our updated picks to find out!
10. Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu (How Not to Summon a Demon Lord)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 5, 2018 – September 20, 2018
For crying out loud, there’s even the word “Isekai” in the title! What if you could somehow find yourself magically transported in the world of your favorite video game? Well, that’s pretty much what happens to Takuma Sakamoto, where he assumes the role of Diablo, the character he plays in the online world of Cross Reverie. After being summoned, two girls want to make him their slave, but thankfully, his pre-existing knowledge and skills of the world gives him a one up in knowing how to defend himself, and in turn, makes the girls his slaves instead. Despite being a loser in the real world, Takuma as Diablo just makes the most of his situation to become the top dog.
Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu is more or less the ultimate geek fantasy. When you’re put in a world that you already have an external and internal familiarity with, along with inheriting the overpowered abilities of your character, then as Shinji from the English dub to Evangelion would say, “What’s wrong with running away from reality if it sucks?” In the world of your favorite game, you can have anything you want and with a bag of chips. The fact that the main character can live out his fantasies is pretty much how it’s a unique Isekai series.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 10, 2018 – December 26, 2018
Based on the hit Japanese PSP game, Conception tells the story on how Itsuki graduates from high school, and his cousin tells him that she’s pregnant. To make things crazier, the two of them are summoned by a light into the world of Granvania, where Itsuki is tasked with combating the “impurities” plaguing it. And what does he have to do in order to help out? Get some girls pregnant! As for his cousins’ role in all of this, well, that’s watch the anime to find out.
Like Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu, Conception is another anime of how a regular guy is forced into another world, and is given a tremendous role within it aka saving it. Some people may not like it for its premises, but to some males, it sounds like Itsuki is living the ultimate male fantasy. While the world of Granvania may sound like it could use its own Maury Povich, who would say no to such an offer?
8. Akanesasu Shoujo (The Girl in Twilight)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 1, 2018 – December 17, 2018
If you’re familiar with Netflix’s Stranger Things, then you know how the main cast are members of a ham radio club and use their equipment to get in contact with Eleven in the Upside Down dimension. the hat’s sort of the basis in relation to what Akanesasu Shoujo does with Asuka and her friends from her school’s radio club. Instead of making contact with that world, they end up opening a portal to a different world full of monsters and find a warrior princess who resembles Asuka (and other characters who are their respective counterparts).
This notion of Isekai is a unique take on it as akin to let’s say what you see in Star Trek where alternate universes not only exist but are the equivalent to a certain person can exist in that universe as well. It explores many unique worlds where the lives of the cast can go in many ways and explores it in a more scientific way in addition to magical. What makes this anime ultimately distinct in an abundant world of Isekai anime is not only do we just see the typical Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland story, you see how the characters lives could alternatively be under different circumstances.
7. Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken (That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime)
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 2, 2018 – March 19, 2019
As opposed to opening a portal with some form of magic, what if the way you were sucked into a different world was by dying? That’s pretty much what happens to 37-year-old loser Satoru Mikami. Upon his death, he is sucked into a world of fantasy where he’s reincarnated as a slime that takes the form of an androgynous pre-teen that can use magic and it becomes something more.
By taking the new name Rimuru Tempest, he can use his position as a slime to absorb the skills of anything and mimic their appearance. However, unlike some other characters who find themselves in such a situation, he comes to embrace his role with little to no fears or complaints. As Satoru, he was a nobody; but as Rimuru, he can find his true destiny. He’s not afraid to stand up for himself and his friends and learns to find the positive rather easily compared to his counterparts on the anime listed here. Some stories and people like to teach you that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone, but this anime gives us another message and that message is whatever it is what you’re looking for, sometimes it’s in a place where we least expect it.
6. Sword Art Online: Alicization
- Episodes: 24
- Aired: October 7, 2018 – March 31, 2019
Everyone can agree that the SAO franchise as a whole is an out of left-field take of the Isekai genre. As opposed to being magical in nature (though the fantasy aspects are expressed in a different sense in context to the story), the people in this other world immerse themselves in a virtual MMORPG. It’s a very different critique to the phenomenon in a realistic sense. Most of the participants are there by choice and it gives them an opportunity to be somebody else and live out a fantasy. A tall girl can be a short and cute one, and a bodybuilder can be a skinny teenager, etc. It allows them to immerse into their roles in more ways that one.
If you’re familiar with traditional Japanese RPGs and modern online RPGs, then pretty much every trope you can think of is present in this series and they do serve their purposes. However, its gimmick of taking place in a virtual world re-explores the concept of Isekai from a different angle that makes the genre fresh, regardless of how controversial the SAO franchise has been. Though it takes place in a virtual fantasy world, on the outside, it is Sci-Fi in nature in regards to the ethics of technology and human experimentation, and these distinctions are why we acknowledge it as a creative addition to this list.
5. Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku (Now and Then, Here and There)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: October 14, 1999 – January 20, 2000
If you’ve read pretty much every underrated anime list (including ours), then you’ve likely come across this title. Now and There, Here and There is about how Shu, an average school boy, is trapped in the world of Hellywood, where the entire world is practically a desert, and children like him are forced into Hamdo’s (the main villain) army. Compared to the majority of what we listed, Now and There, Here and There is a rather dark Isekai anime for numerous reasons we wish to avoid due to spoilers. What makes this anime a worthy addition and a strong recommendation is how Shu does his best to handle his dire situation and stay optimistic in this dystopian world where there’s no more water. Instead of using a gun, he prefers to use a wooden sword not only due to his background in kendo, but as a symbol of sticking to his principles and how he refuses to kill anyone.
In addition to Shu’s story, we are also given the story of Sara, whose story is just too difficult to get into not because of spoilers, but just how disturbing it gets. Through Shu and Sara’s stories, you see how gender roles are used in a world of war and why these characters can have certain mentalities. People like to say that males have privileges in regards to why they can be optimistic and we have to admit that this anime does a great job of supporting that argument and why we recommend you watch it.
4. Bakemono no Ko (The Boy and the Beast)
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Aired: July 11, 2015
In this modern classic directed by Mamoru Hosoda, we have a tale of how Ren, an orphan who chooses to live homeless in the alleys of Tokyo’s trendy Shibuya district. After following some suspicious figures to another alley, he finds himself in an alternate world of what resembles feudal Japan with animals acting like humans. There he finds himself becoming a disciple and adopted son of Kumatetsu, a bear that’s also a master of martial arts. For the next 8 years, Ren lives and trains with Kumatetsu and becomes an accomplished martial artist despite being a human.
Due to the circumstances surrounding Ren’s predicament, unlike other characters from the other anime we listed, for the longest time, he doesn’t care about going home. He has found meaning with his life with Kumatetsu and you see how much of a positive influence their relationship has on each other. Through taking Ren as a disciple, Kumatetsu learns the value of friendship and it motivates him to become a better person. Through Kumatetsu, Ren finds that parental figure he was looking. However, what makes the proverbial rabbit hole deeper in this movie is when Ren comes back to the real world. You see how a lack of education has affected his development (he’s practically illiterate), but you see how he is now driven to succeed in his world as well when he chooses to go to school and resume his relationship with his birth father.
3. Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi (Spirited Away)
- Episodes: 1 (feature film)
- Aired: July 20, 2001
Of course, no top 10 Isekai Anime list is complete without anime’s first ever Oscar winner, Spirited Away. What makes this particular anime stand out is that it is a critique of modern Japan with its “lost generation” just a little over a decade after the end of the nation’s economic bubble. The circumstances of Chihiro’s journey are more or less at the fault of her selfish parents who pretty much stole food from a stand (despite claiming they were willing to pay), and she has to pay for it through servitude and the expense of her true identity. After that, she’s forced into the world of spirits where she is forced into a life of servitude at a hot spring bath house. In addition, she is re-named “Sen,” an alternate reading to the kanji of “Chi” in “Chihiro.”
Though this hit film is very much in tune with Miyazaki’s themes of respecting nature, it’s a very distinguishing critique of modern Japanese society and how the actions of adults, no matter how well-intended, have consequences for our children, and this is masterfully portrayed through Chihiro’s story. Not only does Chihiro pay for the price of what her parents have done, she has to regain her humanity in the process. In retrospect, some viewers can say it’s an effective critique on Japan’s present work culture where people work to the point that they no longer have an identity other than for the good of the company. The reason why this movie is on this list is because it was certainly ahead of its time in more ways than one, and by expressing it through a world of spirits, it makes adult viewers re-evaluate the kind of example and world we want to set for our children.
2. Fushigi Yuugi (The Mysterious Play)
- Episodes: 52
- Aired: April 6, 1995 – March 28, 1996
If any anime is the true OG to modern Isekai, it is without a shadow of a doubt, Fushigi Yuugi. Miaka is pretty much your average Shoujo ninth grader. She’s not that academically inclined, but she’s very outgoing. During a trip to the library with her best friend Yui, she is lead to an old section of the library where she finds the Shijin Tenchi-sho, a novel about Ancient China but with magical Kung Fu Fighting. While Yui reads the book to her, they find themselves trapped in the book and after circumstances force them apart, they become priestesses to two separate kingdoms. Yui becomes the Seiryuu no Miko for the Eastern Kingdom, and Miaka becomes the Suzuku no Miko for the Southern Kingdom. As a result of their respective kingdoms at war, they become enemies in a quest to find their respective seven warriors in order to summon their kingdom’s God, and have any of their wishes come true.
Fushigi Yuugi has everything you need to make a great Isekai anime. It’s an excellent coming of age story about friendship and romance. It has a strong cast of characters who each have their own contribution to the progression of the story. Not only do you see the characters develop individually on the Suzaku no Miko side, you enjoy how they develop as a group. As for the Seiryuu cast, they have their own distinguishing personalities and relatable qualities as well. But if there’s anything that’s the heart of this story, it is that true love conquers all as expressed through Miaka’s romance with Tamahome (who rivals Tuxedo Mask as the anime heartthrob of the 90s). Last, this is one of the few anime titles where Yuu Watase, the original creator, isn’t afraid to admit that the main villain, Nakago, is her favorite character.
1. Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari (The Rising of the Shield Hero)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: January 9, 2019 - Ongoing
At number one, we have one of the genre’s present hits, Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari. Naofumi Iwatani was just an average 20-year-old college student who enjoyed gaming until a book about the Four Heroes summons him into their world. There, he meets three other young men who are also from Japan but from alternative versions of it. Naofumi is chosen to be the Shield Hero, and lots of people don’t take him seriously due to the nature of his weapon and no one wants to team up with him until Malty, the Princess decides to. However, things turn for the worse for Naofumi when Malty pulls a Christine Ford on him and everybody takes her side and he’s more or less exiled from the team but still expected to carry out his duties as a hero despite being more innocent than Kobe Bryant.
While it isn’t as dark as Now and Then, Here and There, Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari does have its own take on the genre. Initially, Naofumi is pretty enthusiastic about being a hero and has no complaints about carrying out his duties. However, after he’s unreasonably betrayed, you see how it has made him bitter and angry after how everyone treats him without hearing his side of the story. After that, Malty does everything she can to screw him over for no reason. He has every reason to say no but still has to carry out his duties because it’s his only way home. However, as the series progresses, Naofumi does his best to rebuild his reputation in the kingdom and amongst the rest of the warriors to prove himself and his innocence.
Through this anime, you feel what it’s like to be forced into a situation that is out of your control and things just get worse for whatever reason. This anime teaches us that while we have no control over what happens, we still have control as to how we react to them and Naofumi’s phases in regards to his situation is pretty much relatable in its own way. Some people may interpret his situation is an anti-#metoo message or whatever, but the anime also teaches us that in some instances, there are two sides to every story and that some people can be innocent of such serious accusations.
Last, we have to give some honorable mentions to a couple of classics, Aura Battler Dunbine and Magic Knight Rayearth. Aura Battler Dunbine was pretty much Isekai before Isekai even became a thing but with mystical mechs. For Magic Knight Rayearth, it came out during a time when Magical Shoujo was at the height of its popularity and it took that genre to a new level of creativity. Whether it would be through our top ten our or our honorable mentions, Isekai anime take the characters and viewers on a unique journey of self discovery. They teach us to appreciate what we have and the people around us. Yes, we may have issues in our lives but running away from them isn’t going to solve anything. Even if you found yourself in a different world upon waking up, you still have problems both internally and externally to deal with, so what better way to learn than saving a world that you’re sucked into?
Ah, the “Isekai” trope. In recent years, the Isekai trope has permeated nearly every single anime release season and 2016 was an especially beautiful year for fans of isekai anime. For those of us who are unfamiliar, “Isekai” is a reference to a situation in which characters find themselves transported to an alternate dimension or universe. Marooned in an unfamiliar place, characters have to display exceptional adaptability in order to survive long enough to find a way back to the world from whence they came. There are countless titles that are driven by this fairly simple plot device and while bordering on cliché, the isekai trope is still one of the most beautifully developed in anime and it can be argued that anime does it best! Without wasting anymore time, let’s jump through this portal into the worlds of the Top 10 Isekai Anime!
10. Isekai Shokudou (Restaurant to Another World)
- Episodes: TBC
- Aired: July 2017 –
At the bottom floor of a building with a dog-shaped signboard, in the shopping district of a certain town near the office street lies a cafeteria named “Youshoku no Nekoya”. Having been in business for 50 years, the cafeteria serves all sorts of customers, mostly the salarymen who work at the nearby offices. Despite being open for so long, there is a secret to Nekoya that even its most faithful customers do not know: when the restaurant is closed on Saturdays, special guests are invited to have their meals there. However, these aren’t ordinary guests – when a certain bell rings, customers from different realms arrive in order to have the regular Western cuisine served to the general public. Since these are customers from different worlds, food at this cafeteria is exotic to them and every week when the bell rings, Youshoku no Nekoya becomes Isekai Shokudou.
This slice of life anime plays with the Isekai trope in a way that hasn’t really been seen all too often. Instead of having characters trapped in another realm, the show’s premise allows for the conditions which allow characters to move in between worlds are very quickly explained and understood. The main focus is simply the experiences of the various characters of a plethora of different otherworldly backgrounds eating food in the normal world. Such an anime is an enjoyable watch perhaps right after enjoying another isekai anime with a heavier plot. Isekai Shokudou’s animation is beautiful and the dishes served are mouthwatering – if you’re a fan of other worlds and food, you’ll love this!
9. No Game No Life
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: April 2014 – June 2014
Brother and sister combo Sora and Shiro spend their days cooped up in their room playing games online. Offline, they are a pair of shut-ins; however, online they are Blank, an unbeatable entity in the world of online gaming. Whatever the game, they will win. Their confidence shows itself when they receive an anonymous challenge to a game of chess. After easily dispatching the challenger, Sora and Shiro find themselves transported to the world of Disboard, a parallel world where everything is dictated by the outcome of games. The individual who issued the challenge which saw them teleported to this place was none other than Tet, the God of Games and reigning deity of Disboard. Tired of their mundane lives in the normal world, Sora and Shiro embark on a quest to lead the human race in Disboard to conquering the fifteen other races which populate the land.
Adapted from a light novel of the same name, No Game No Life is an isekai anime that skyrocketed to popularity back in 2014 for the unique spin on the isekai trope that it displayed. Long story short, this anime is brilliant. From concept to execution, No Game No Life seems to effortlessly tick all the boxes that make an isekai anime great. Its characters are decent, the story allows for the creation of quite a vast amount of lore and the high-stakes nature of the games Sora and Shiro play makes No Game No Life the perfect edge-of-seat anime. Art and animation are beautiful, the music score is unforgettable and at the end of the 12-episode-long ride, you feel yourself pining for more… more that might never come.
8. Vision of Escaflowne
- Episodes: 26
- Aired: April 1996 – September 1996
Kanzaki Hitomi was just an ordinary girl with an interest in fortune telling when one night, a strange boy named Van Fanel suddenly appeared in the sky alongside a ferocious dragon. Thanks to a premonition Hitomi had, Van eventually slays the beast, but a pillar of light appears, engulfing them both. When the light dissipates, Hitomi finds herself trapped in the far off world of Gaea, with the Earth looming in the distance. Hitomi then realises that Van Fanel is a prince of the Kingdom of Fanelia, which later falls under attack by the evil Zaibach Empire. In an attempt to ward of the attackers, Van boards his family’s greatest treasure: a mechanized battle suit, or “guymelef”, called Escaflowne. Unfortunately, Fanelia is destroyed in the ensuing battle, leaving Van and Hitomi no choice but to flee. They then encounter the handsome Asturian knight Allen Schezar who looks just like Hitomi’s crush back on Earth. With new friends in tow, Van and Hitomi try their hand at fighting back against the evil Zaibach Empire.
A classic in its own right, Vision of Escaflowne is a mecha, shoujo isekai anime that finds itself on this list on grounds of its uniqueness. With stacks of action and combat, Escaflowne gives viewers just a little bit more on grounds of romance – everything unfolds from the perspective of a 15-year-old girl. Unlike most other isekai anime, Vision of Escaflowne gives its homesick protagonist a constant kick in the ribs as Hitomi can literally see the Earth decorating Gaea’s night sky, but she can only dream of being back on the rock she calls home, despite it being within eyesight.
7. Youjo Senki (Saga of Tanya the Evil)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: January 2017 – March 2017
Nine-year-old Tanya Degurechaff is a young soldier infamous for her ruthlessness and uncanny tactical aptitude, traits which saw her being dubbed the “Devil of the Rhine”. However, unbeknownst to her colleagues in the military, her tiny body hosts the soul of a man who challenged an entity known as Being X, the self-proclaimed God. This challenge saw the man being reincarnated as a little girl at the bottom of the food chain, in a world defined by magical warfare. With her personality, intelligence and ruthless ambition intact, Tanya aims to climb the country’s military ladder in hopes of one day recreating the peaceful world in which she once lived; however, Being X remains a great obstacle in her way.
2017 started out with quite a bang as Youjo Senki quickly became extremely popular for its intelligent plot, breakneck action and beautiful characters and animation. The rivalry formed between Tanya and Being X facilitates extremely profound thought on concepts of God, morality, ambition and strife, making this one of the more immersive isekai anime on this list for anime fans who like to analyse the social commentary posed in the anime they enjoy. Youjo Senki took the Isekai trope to a different realm – almost like the trope itself had wandered into unknown territory with a main character being reincarnated as a totally different individual in an unknown realm. The conditions force Tanya to adapt to her newer, harsher surroundings and the way in which she does so makes for an epic tale.
6. GATE: Jietai Kanochi Nite, Kaku Tatakaeri (GATE: Thus the JSDF Fought There!)
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: July 2015 – September 2015
Off-duty Japan Self-Defense Forces officer Itami Youji is on his way to attend a doujinshi event in Ginza, Tokyo, when suddenly, a mysterious portal appears in the city. From this portal, or “gate”, emerge innumerable supernatural creatures and warriors which then wreak havoc across the city. With his quick thinking and decent combat ability, Itami is able to save several lives as the rest of the JSDF fend off the invasion. Three months later, Itami is selected to lead a recon team that will be sent to the world beyond the gate, in order to investigate the cause of the incident three years prior. This area, now called “the Special Region”, is one they must brave in order to learn more about the situation at hand. They must attempt to befriend the ruling empire in order to prevent catastrophes like the one in Ginza from happening again.
Taking a somewhat anomalous route from the various other isekai anime out there, GATE had the main character’s home world, which is based on reality, invaded by otherworldly beings. Now seeking to understand and reach some sort of diplomacy with the empire sitting at the apex of the invading realm, Itami’s home country of Japan begins its journey into the world beyond the gate. So GATE is a two-way Isekai anime as characters from both realms end up having experiences in foreign worlds. Since Itami Youji is an otaku, this isekai anime also finds several roots and references to anime culture in its characters and dialogue.
- Episodes: 12
- Aired: October 2016 – December 2016
At the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, Shimazu Toyohisa is rearguard for his retreating troops. Upon sustaining critical wounds, he finds himself in a gleaming white hallway. In this hallway, he finds himself face to face with a stoic man named Murasaki and hundreds of doors on both sides of this hallway. Suddenly, Toyohisa is dragged into the nearest door and thrown into a different world. This is a world of fantasy, where warriors of different eras from Toyohisa’s world have found themselves unfortunate enough to be in the same situation. These individuals, thought to be dead in Toyohisa’s world, have been summoned as “Drifters” in order to fight against the “Ends”, people responsible for the creation of the Orte Empire which has taken it upon itself to persecute elves and other demihumans. Now Toyohisa and the other Drifters must work together to protect the Empire’s subjects.
Stacked with heaps of action and adventure, Drifters is yet another banger from 2016 which employed the isekai trope. With a fantasy world that is beautiful and dangerous, Toyohisa’s serious personality alongside the other Drifters from his realm seems to stand out greatly from the fantastical land of elves and other creatures. The animation is beautiful and the plot is instantly gripping, Drifters is honestly an isekai anime that can be recommended to anyone keen to binge something heavy and exciting.
- Episodes: 22
- Aired: April 2017 – September 2017
Humans are responsible for the creation and design of countless worlds. To us, these worlds exist for entertainment, borne from the unique imagination of the creator. One such creator, Mizushino Souta, is a high schooler with ripe talents and aspirations of writing and illustrating his own light novel. One day while watching anime for inspiration, he finds himself momentarily transported into the fierce fight scene that was transpiring on TV. Soon after, he finds himself back in his room but something is off: the anime’s heroine, Selesia Upitiria has returned into the real world with him. Before long, many other main characters and villains find themselves inhabiting the real world, with all their quirks, personalities and powers intact. Alongside Selesia and Meteora Österreich, a librarian NPC, Souta works to uncover the reasons behind the recent course of events, as well as to identify the strange woman in full military regalia who seems to be at the centre of it all.
Re:Creators is a brilliant and unique take on the isekai trope. In the parallel worlds realms that humans unknowingly create themselves, this isekai anime manages to tackle several themes that are sandwiched into the entertaining plot. This isekai anime brings to question themes surrounding the morality of creation and creativity, and those with a keen eye for the finer details will notice how there is an underlying theme underlining religion and religious faith, especially where the sapience of deities is concerned. The fights are awesome and the art does the show justice with both character designs and animation. Overall, Re:Creators is highly recommended for those who wish to see an isekai anime break away from the mould.
3. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo! (KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World)
- Episodes: 10
- Aired: January 2016 – March 2016
A young shut in named Satou Kazuma decides to head outside for the first time in a long time in order to buy a new game. However, he never arrives at the store as he dies a pathetic and laughable death. As a result of his terrible death, he finds himself sitting in front of the beautiful and obnoxious goddess, Aqua. She gives Kazuma two options: continue to Heaven, or receive a second chance at life in a real fantasy realm! Kazuma chooses the latter option, which means that he gets to enter his new life with any item of his choosing to help him in his quest to slay a Demon King. He chooses the goddess Aqua herself, believing her to be of incredible worth. Boy, was he wrong! In addition to selecting a completely useless item, Kazuma’s life in this new fantasy realm is far from that which he sees in video games and before long, both he and Aqua have to work hard in order to pay for their living expenses. However, with the plethora of quirky characters and strange occurrences that seem to follow the duo, they haven’t quite experienced life just yet.
KonoSuba is the kind of isekai anime that you pick up on a whim and fall completely in love with for the simple fact that it is hilarious. With seriously eccentric characters and a plot line unlike any other Isekai anime out, this isekai anime seems to be both a parody and a staunch follower of this trope. Somehow, it is comparable to Re:Zero, yet another 2016 isekai anime; however, the direction KonoSuba has taken sees it drop into the top 3 of our list. The characters have great chemistry, getting up to some of the funniest antics of any isekai anime on this list. The show’s brilliance comes in the form of anti-climactic humour, as well as the focus on the mundanity of Satou Kazuma’s life in a realm that was meant to be anything but mundane.
2. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World)
- Episodes: 25
- Aired: April 2016 – September 2016
A shut-in named Natsuki Subaru decides to head out to the nearby convenience store to get something to eat; however, as he leaves the store, he is instantly transported to a strange fantasy world. Not long after his arrival, the unfortunate teenager is attacked by a group of thugs. Luckily for him, a white-haired beauty named Satella appears at the scene and saves him. Upon hearing that she is looking for the one who stole her insignia, a thankful Subaru offers his help in her search and later that night, they find what they’re looking for. Minutes later, Satella and Subaru are brutally murdered. However, Subaru reawakens to a similar scene – he finds himself standing in front of the same stall, attacked by the same thugs and his confusion and bewilderment increases as he inexplicably finds himself re-experiencing the same events…
Out of all the isekai anime on this list, Re:Zero is by far the most gripping and dramatic. With Subaru’s unexplained transportation to the strange realm and his ability to experience death and respawn at a particular point in time much like checkpoints in a video game, this show allows the viewer to experience the main character’s emotional and psychological journey through another realm like none other. Like most other characters in his predicament, Subaru salivates at the chance to live in a world that is not unlike the games he’s played. However, his constant and brutal deaths does not leave him emotionally unscathed and we see his character grow and regress several times throughout the show. Re:Zero’s characters are intricate, and the Return By Death plot device allows for the anime to explore its characters with a freedom unlike any other Isekai show. Trust us when we say Re:Zero is one hell of a ride.
1. Hataraku Maou-sama! (The Devil is a Part-Timer!)
- Episodes: 13
- Aired: April 2013 – June 2013
With ambitions of conquest, the Demon Lord Satan and his vast armies strike fear into the hearts of many; however, the hero Emelia appears to thwart his plans to conquer the land of Ente Isla. Driven into a corner by the hero’s efforts, Satan attempts to quickly retreat through a dimensional portal but this portal ends up sending him tumbling into the streets of modern-day Japan. Alongside his loyal underling Alsiel, Satan sees himself assuming a powerless human form and subsequently becoming “Maou Sadao”, an enthusiastic employee at the local MgRonald’s, a fast food joint. Seemingly enjoying human life, Satan’s plan to conquer Ente Isla falls to the wayside as he switches to wanting to climb the corporate ladder!
A fresh take on the exiled demon trope and a breath of fresh air in the isekai trope, Hataraku Maou-sama is the brilliant depiction of the mundane aspects of everyday human life – as experienced by a character that is anything but human. The brilliance of this isekai comes in its approach with the main character, Satan. Finding himself stranded in the human realm completely changes his personality, ambitions and goals. It is an entertaining take on anime’s tendency to romanticise the demons which are commonly vilified and a mere change of scenery sees Ente Isla’s villain become Earth’s hero on a few occasions, as well as the hero receiving customers’ orders!
The isekai trope is a well-used device in anime and it has brought forth a multitude of amazing shows. The aforementioned titles are some of the most memorable, as well as some of the most creative and entertaining instances of this trope. However, one must also give props to isekai anime like the .hack\\: franchise as well as Overlord, two isekai anime titles which propagate the “trapped in a videogame” trope but also count as isekai anime in their own right. Are there any Isekai anime that you really enjoyed that aren’t on this list? Drop a comment below and allow us to travel to more beautiful realms!