Isekai is a Terrible Genre

Day 6 of the 12 Days of Anime is upon us, and today, as part of my commitment to resolve various thought threads i’ve been mulling over this year, i’d like to talk about something that I’ve seen EXTREMELY extensively lately. You can probably guess from the title, but i’m going to be talking about Isekai. Specifically, the constant hate that Isekai gets, and the reasons behind it all.

Isekai is an enormous genre within Anime, with at least one Isekai show almost guaranteed to be aired every single season. The popularity of this genre has created a conundrum, however, as many people in the anime community are beginning to revile Isekai. Comments like the ones seen below aren’t uncommon at all, and in fact i’ve seen much, much worse.

So why is it that Isekai has become almost universally reviled by the Anime community? I mean, it must still be popular in Japan, since so many Light Novels and Anime continue to release with this theme, right? Is Isekai truly such a bad genre that it deserves so much hate?

Well… my simple answer would be… no.

I think the reason Isekai has become almost a trigger word for people is mainly due to the sheer quantity of Isekai titles produced. As mentioned earlier, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one Isekai show is released every single season, but sometimes there are two, three, or even more. And this creates an interesting conundrum, because with such QUANTITY, there is undoubtedly a severe dichotomy when it comes to QUALITY.

What I mean is, with so many Isekai shows coming out every single year, a large majority of them are of, well… questionable quality, at best. Perhaps because the genre is so huge, studios like to pick up any adaptable work they can find and make an adaptation, mostly to cash in on some quick and easy revenue.

w88tJK5.jpg

Unfortunately, this creates a problem in that the biggest exposure people have to Isekai, is shows like Isekai Smartphone, or Knight’s and Magic. And when they consistently get shows like this, season after season, not only is their impression of the genre as a whole surely going to decline, but as they start to recognize and memorize the various tropes consistent in most Isekai works, they start to get bored. “When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”, they start to think. And even when a new show comes out that tries to break the norms, most often people just laugh at it, thinking how ridiculous this new concept has become.

So… how did Isekai become such a popular genre in the first place? Why do so many authors write Isekai stories? I have to think that part of it is a product of our generation. After all, Isekai stories generally revolve around an average, nondescript character, usually an otaku or gamer, being transported to a fantasy world where they receive unbelievable powers, gather a harem of adorable girls, and generally live a good life. It’s a very easy type of story to self-insert with, which makes it appealing to a younger audience who want to indulge themselves in a power or popularity fantasy.

But does this fact make the genre as a whole bad? I would have to say, no. After all, there are quite a few Isekai shows that I actually enjoy. Though it might say something about the genre as a whole that one of the best Isekai shows out there is Konosuba, a show that actively satirizes the genre.

_thumb_c14d3daf-2607-4d1d-ba11-bd2d771c9f44.jpg

I must admit, however, that I myself have indeed been getting a bit tired of Isekai shows, especially since so many of them have sloppy animation, bad plot direction, or both. If you’re not going to put in the effort to make a show as good as you possibly can, why even bother making a show in the first place? The use of Isekai as cheap filler content by many studios is a big piece of the puzzle that’s feeding the growing distaste for the genre as a whole.

Overall, I don’t mind Isekai. I do wish there was more effort put into the various adaptations, however, and that more shows would work to break the norm. However, I also wish that some of the Isekai shows on the seasonal rosters could be taken up by, say, an original high-fantasy story, or something like that.

But that’s all just my personal thoughts. What do you guys have to say about this? Is Isekai the pit of all Anime? Is the genre itself awful, or is it the repetitiveness and consistent lack of quality that makes it distasteful? I’d love to get a discussion started about this, since it’s really quite the issue nowadays.

30 thoughts on “Isekai is a Terrible Genre

  1. The main problem is just over saturation. It’s like American super hero type movies a few years back, there were just soooo many that a many folks were getting tired of them. It doesn’t help that Isekai stories aren’t always the best, to put it nicely. Like any genre, there are good and bad, but the public eye has been more on the bad than the good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. The sheer number of Isekai shows that are made on a seasonal/yearly basis, combined with the frequent poor quality of said shows, is driving a sort of “gag reflex” within the anime community. Unfortunately, I don’t see it stopping anytime soon…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like isekai – or at least the concept of it. It’s very much light fantasy and easy to get into because the world is being explored by someone from our world so asks the right questions for us to learn more about how things work. There’s definitely a lot of terrible isekai anime out there, but then there are also some quite entertaining ones. And the same can be said of action anime, romance anime, cute girls doing cute things, or any anime genre that gets at least one title a season.
    Then again, I see hate of isekai very similar to hate of pure fantasy that was fairly pervasive even during the 90’s. Fantasy films were for kids or were trash, people who read fantasy books or played fantasy games were just trying to escape reality. The genre was looked down upon by the mainstream just for existing. With Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings gaining mass popularity, the distaste has shifted to more niche genres within fantasy, but fantasy remains something that has to work twice as hard to gain acceptance by the mainstream (where as a substandard rom-com can do what it likes and people just nod and go with it).
    Okay, I might be a little defensive about fantasy because I’ve been told my whole life that I shouldn’t rot my brain with so much rubbish.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, i’m personally a bit of a fan of Isekai as well, though I do find myself struggling more and more to enjoy new Isekai shows that come out lately, mostly sue to poor quality or an over-reliance on tropes that i’ve seen so many times already.

      That said, there are still a few rays of hope, and i’m looking forward to Shield Hero next year, as well. Like i mentioned, I wish more studios would put a lot of time and effort into each show they produce to make them as good as possible rather than just trying to get as many out in as fast a timeframe as possible, leading to lower quality and oversaturation. If every Isekai show showed as much love as, for instance, Slime does this season, even if it’s not breaking much in the way of new ideas, it’s still of a very high standard of quality, which makes it fun and interesting to watch.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It’s not just fantasy. It’s superheroes and science fiction and probably a number of others as well. Heck, cartoons and anime overall, too. All of these have been heavily looked down on, and we, the people who liked them, were outcasts in some way. It’s why my motto, when looking at what other people enjoy, is, simply: if it doesn’t hurt anyone, then to each their own.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Agreed. I don’t expect everyone to like what I like (particularly my taste in cheesy horror movies) but I think there’s a lot of snobbery toward certain genres (or rather it becomes fairly popular to look down your nose at them). As you said, to each their own provided no one gets hurt.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s like any genre, there’s going to be good and bad, but to condemn them all is nonsense and I’ve long stopped listening to generic opinions. It’s no different than saying all girls are weak, or boys don’t cry. Both are inherently stupid statements.

    I love Isekai and always check out the new shows. After all who doesn’t want to visit a new world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah it always bugs me when people condemn an entire genre as bad because they don’t like one particular show, or even many. Just because it doesn’t suit a personal taste doesn’t make it inherently bad.

      The numerous bad examples of Isekai don’t really help the case, either, though there are plenty of good ones as well.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. This is true, although you can probably find numerous bad examples of any genre if you tried. Agreed there have been some particularly bad ones lately, but also some excellent ones too.

        It was a good post. I was ready to come in fighting for Isekai when I read your title… lol!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I typically don’t do clickbaity titles… but the opportunity was there 😛

        I like Isekai a lot, but the continuous flak it gets has been bugging me a lot, so I just had to write down my thoughts.

        I do try to take a generally neutral stance and look at both sides of an issue when I talk about things, though.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Isekai is popular cause in my mind, it’s a blank cheque for writers to go nuts with ideas.

    Yes, the genre has landed more misses than homers, but it when it does hit a home run, it is fucking solid. Isekai Slime, Demon Lord, Overlord are all good examples of the trope. Hell, even Isekai Smartphone was pretty decent for what it was.

    Really it comes down to bitter fans going. “It’s popular, so therefore it’s shit.” Which isn’t an opinion.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You can also probably write a lot of it down to the rise and fall of SAO, or some of the other more popular Isekai that have grown to be hated. Because if one is bad, they’re all bound to be bad, right?

      Of course, mob mentality, or just attention seeking may also play a role…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. SAO got too popular, too fast, without having to try too much so therefore the internet must destroy it.

        That’s it really. I mean I don’t care much for SAO, but that’s because I’ve already been watching anime for almost twenty years (off and on) I had my SAO moment with Dragon Ball Z. This is just the next generation of that, and old fans don’t like it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a good point. DBZ was my go-to shonen kick for a lot of my younger years as well, so it ended up being the show i kinda idolized for a long while. I’ve never really looked at the SAO revolution quite like that before.

        Like

      3. If the internet and social media had existed during the golden age of anime in the west (When DBZ as on Toonami, etc) then it would have gotten just as much shit as SAO did.

        That’s why I don’t care. I love that the next generation adore SAO as much as we adored DBZ.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. While I would personally disagree about Konosuba, the key word there is “personally.” What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. I really hate when people blithely dismiss anything in its entirety, and I actively strive to avoid doing that. I mean, I’m not exactly a fan of rom-coms, as they tend to make me feel like something is scarring my brain, but even I’ve found one or two that I enjoy. I also don’t enjoy sports like my nephew or football like my sister, but it would be rude, if nothing else, if I were to turn my nose up at it, and them, as if my tastes were somehow superior to theirs. We’re all human, with our own tastes. Like and let like, I say. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I can agree that the “isekai” part is overused, but I love fantasy anime so much that I just overlook it. My big issue with isekai anime is when the anime would have been just as good had the main character(s) just started out in the fantasy world to begin with. Half the time it doesn’t even seem necessary to teleport the character(s), because so little time is spent on them before they teleport…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think the reason isekai gets so much hate is because it’s one of those “this is our current trend” things, like moe, and so it becomes ubiquitous and, in this particular case, becomes more and more absurd in order to prove it still has enough to catch a consumer’s eye (while still having enough quality/popularity to be published). Once there’s a bunch of new source materials of that group that sell well, production teams go, “Let’s adapt this, rather than something else”.

    Personally, I’m crossing my fingers otome game isekais become a big thing after My Next Life as a Villainess…because although I have no experience with the source material of that series, I have more experience with otome games than I do with MMORPGs or D & D-style games.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My Next Life as a Villainess is hilarious; i’ve been reading both the Manga and the Light Novel! One that I really hope gets an adaptation, however, is another one along the same vein: Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter. I’ve been really enjoying it so far, but unfortunately the Manga only gets updated like once a month ;-;

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Anime Blog Posts That Caught My Eye This Week (December 21, 2018) | Lesley's Anime and Manga Corner

  9. That was an interesting post. Even though I only got back into anime just a couple of years ago, I still laugh how Isekai became an actual genre as if that plot concept was invented this decade. One anime series I enjoyed watching despite how depressing it was is Now and Then, Here and There. It was animated in 1999, and it involved a character being transported to a possible timeline millions of years in the future in a hardcore dystopian environment with war, limited water, and horrible exploitation going on. I’m sure if that show came out this year or even a few years ago, EVERYBODY would call it a dark deconstruction/subversion of Isekai and herald it as the Evangelion or Madoka of that genre. SMH.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s kind of crazy how things like that come and go, isn’t it? it seems like such a disposable medium, where things that once were normal are forgotten, and would be considered crazy or groundbreaking within less than 20 years.

      I do wish that more series nowadays were trying their best to stand out, though. Even if they end up as a flop, it’s better than the constant samey-sames, in my opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, very much so. I feel like there are so many anime series and movies that were way ahead of their time, but they never get enough credit.

        I do agree with that despite not being too familiar with the newer or current popular stuff out there. In this climate of rampant sequels, prequels, and remakes, it would be a breath of fresh air if people did more original screenplays. What you said reminded me of that one Michael Jackson quote: “It’s better to fail at originality than to succeed in imitation.” In all seriousness, these creators need to try harder at making more original and innovative content instead of making safe bets all the time.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: 12 Days Wrap-up – The Zodiac Room

  11. Pingback: 3 Days 3 Quotes #1 – The Animanga Spellbook

~Leave a Comment, Join the Discussion!~

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s