What Makes a Good Isekai?

Key points for A Discussion About Isekai plots:

  • A crucial aspect of a good isekai plot involves detailed world-building, exploring the uniqueness of the new world, its history, and the impact of the protagonist’s past life knowledge. Examples like Mushoku Tensei showcase exceptional world-building.
  • Another approach is self-awareness, where anime acknowledges and plays with common cliches and tropes in the genre. The Eminence in Shadow and KonoSuba excel in not taking themselves too seriously, making them entertaining by subverting expectations.
  • Isekai plots that stand out and remain memorable often excel in either world-building or self-awareness. Those that fall in the middle may not leave a lasting impact. To be truly remarkable, an isekai anime needs to excel in at least one of these two aspects.

Isekai is a popular anime genre that offers escapism. It’s common during every season, and we all like to indulge in it. This genre helps us escape from our complaints about the current world. It’s likely that the work in question also served as its author’s escape, and I respect that.

But what exactly separates a good isekai anime from a bad one? Especially when there are tons and tons of anime entries to this ever-growing genre every year. How do you tell what is good and what is….”cliche”?

Today, we will explore the plot elements of isekai anime. A good plot is essential for this genre to work. Good characters are important for every single anime. What I will be talking about only applies to this genre. So, we will mainly focus on the plot and use Mushoku Tensei and The Eminence in Shadow as examples. Let’s begin. There are 2 main ways to make a good plot in this genre:

World Building

World-building is the most important thing in an anime or the fantasy genre. What makes this new world different? How are things different? How will you use your knowledge of the previous world to influence this one? Also, I think that having the main character lose memories of their past life is kind of bad for this. Because it takes away a lot of potentially cool situations.

I brought up Mushoku Tensei because as you may know, it has some of the best world-building in this genre. A lot of the details are missing in the anime but, the schools of Sword, and Magic, the past of the world, the “heroes” responsible for said past, the origin of different races. etc. are well explored in this series, at times it is insane how much detail it packs. A few other isekai with great world-building include The Time I Got Reincarnated as Slime, Log Horizon, Ascendance of a Bookworm, Re: Zero, Faraway Paladin, etc.

Self-Awareness

Wait, how does Self-Awareness come into play when talking about anime? Well, when you don’t want to come up with a unique world for your anime or don’t want to delve too deep into world-building, you make your series “self-aware”. You look around, mark all the common cliches that exist in the genre and you make fun of them. You make fun of the ever-present common tropes while at the same time, leaning into them. If you can’t do it differently, then do it better than everybody else.

Two anime immediately come to mind when you think of this approach, The Eminence in Shadow and KonoSuba. Neither of those takes themselves too seriously. They have fun messing with our expectations and common tropes in the genre. That is what makes them entertaining. The recent Sasaki and Peeps also falls into this category.

Summing Up

While there are anime that fall somewhere in the middle of these two categories, they’re often not that memorable. For an isekai plot to be memorable in the long term, it needs to excel in at least one of these two ways, in my opinion. Let me know what you guys think in the comments. Again, these are just my opinions. With that said, I will take my leave here. See ya!!

Speaking of, check out my thoughts on Sasaki and Peeps here!

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