July 5, 2020

Otakujin

Anime, JRPGs, and everything otaku!

The problem with isekai anime

The plot of a person traveling to a distant unknown world is a concept that dates back centuries and thus, it was no surprise when anime began to adopt the plotline and adding certain elements to create the isekai genre.

Isekai wa Smartphone to tomo ni
Started out okay, but completely threw its strong points away half-way in.

The history of isekai anime

The earliest anime that carried the traits of a traditional isekai was that Seisenshi Dunbine released in 1983 the anime saw a young boy from Tokyo be transported to a distant world filled with dragons, knights, and mecha.

Seisenshi Dunbine displayed some of the tropes that have become a staple of modern isekai anime including having the protagonist be summoned to another world to save it from certain doom alongside the cliché of him having abilities far greater than a normal person would have.

Fast-forward almost 40 years and surprisingly not much has changed, most isekai rely on the same base plot formula that Seisenshi Dunbine used, having a character be summoned or transported into another world to defeat some great evil to find their way home and that is one of the main problems with isekai anime and the lack of originality present in most modern-day isekai.

The plot problems of isekai anime

The most recurring plotline of any isekai sees a person being transported to another world for some vital purpose most, one such purpose being that they are summoned as a hero to fight evil and are usually promised a way to return home once that evil is defeated, yet the end goal of returning to their world is something that is rarely even touched upon after the first few episodes of a series.

Series like that of Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari or Death March Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku both start off with the protagonist stating their intent to find a way back home, but by the end of their respective seasons, the protagonists seem content with their new lives and do not display any sign of even wanting to return back home.

Death March Kara Hajimaru Isekai Kyousoukyoku image
Yet another isekai anime that STARTED out great

In reality, the concept of having a hero fight their way back home has the potential to be a great basis for an isekai but has yet to be fully embraced by many of the most of the popular isekai.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu, Overlord and many other popular isekai provide the main character to return back home but lack the initiative to make it a focal point of the story. The lack of an end goal is something that has plagued multiple series and has held them back from fully utilizing the great characters and worlds they have.

Overlord has had a total of 3 seasons but the protagonist Ainz has done very little in the way of finding a way back to the real world which renders the premise of the show moot as it finds itself becoming more and more like a fantasy anime instead of an isekai.

The concept of a person trying to return to their own world is a premise that has continued to be used again and again only to be ignored after a while, which has led to the creation of many isekai anime that completely ignore that plotline entirely instead choosing to just focus on the adventures of the protagonist in a foreign land with no real end goal for the series.

The problem with isekai anime settings

The setting of an isekai is without a doubt the most important aspect of the story as it can make or break a series since all the other aspects of the story are based on where it is located.

The most popular setting for an isekai is that of a fantasy land filled with wonder, yet in reality, that setting has been severely overused to the point that it does not have the same impact it once had.

A common trope that has emerged in the isekai realm is that of the setting of the story taking place within a world based on a video game that the protagonist already has experience with.

Image of Ains from Overlord
What exactly was the objective meant to be, again?

The aspect of having a character that knows all the ins and outs of a certain world from the get-go is a creative way of getting rid of the redundant world explanation that is often found within some isekai but often robs the viewer of a true world-building experience.

The overall lack of world-building leads to an isekai that is devoid of what truly makes it different than any other fantasy anime, the audience is supposed to join in on the protagonist’s journey and grow with them exploring a new world, but when that’s taken away all we are left with is an adventure story with no real purpose or exploration, this can be seen within Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!.

Konosuba is a series where the main character literally made the starting town their home forgoing any real exploration making the series feel stagnant as we do not get to explore the fantasy world to its fullest.