An Infamous Anime Genre Comes To English
March 30, 2024 10:02 AM   Subscribe

As part of their regular updates to the English lexicon, the Oxford English Dictionary has added a number of Japanese loan words, most notably the term for a notorious genre of anime and manga - isekai, or "portal fantasy".

Isekai isn't the only genre getting OED recognition, as tokusatsu - the genre encompassing Power Rangers - gets the OED primatur as well, alongside mangaka in acknowledgement of the term for manga creators. There's also a lot of food and food related terms in the list, like karaage, onigiri, and santoku. Crafting is also well represented with terms like kintsugi and washi tape.
posted by NoxAeternum (50 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Truck-kun's hard work has finally been recognized.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:14 AM on March 30 [19 favorites]

In Another World with My Smartphone Dictionary.

I actually like some modern isekai, though the good ones are few and far between. Also, some older ones, like Magic Knight Rayearth, have held up fairly well.
posted by May Kasahara at 10:22 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]

Not sure why we needed a loanword for "otherworld", but language does what it does I guess.

FYI these links are all 403 Forbidden for me, probably paywalled?
posted by Not A Thing at 10:22 AM on March 30 [4 favorites]

Yeah OED online requires a paid subscription--or if your university or local library has an online portal and subscribes to the OED, you can log in with your library card and access it that way by looking up the words.
posted by tzikeh at 10:44 AM on March 30

Does this mean Narnia and Alice's adventures are Isekais?
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 10:48 AM on March 30 [7 favorites]

For those of us who aren't conversant in these genres, what makes it infamous? I was expecting tentacle pr0n but that doesn't seem to be the issue...
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:54 AM on March 30 [9 favorites]

In roughly ascending order: atrocious writing, masturbatory power/revenge fantasy, and a weird fixation on the protagonists owning slaves.
posted by The Manwich Horror at 10:57 AM on March 30 [11 favorites]

Well, isn't that tentacular!
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 11:07 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]

I will agree that My Next Life As A Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom was great (season 1, at least). But what about That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime? The latter, Tensura, is about a fellow (reincarnated as a slime, the lowest monster on the creature pecking order) who just wants to live a comfortable life. Unfortunately, standing up for the rights of "monsters" upsets the human status quo, so conflict ensues.

Narnia, Alice's Wonderland and Dorothy's Oz are all isekai. For that matter, Burroughs' The Warlord of Mars and Wells' The Time Traveler are also otherworldly adventures.

Like anime itself, isekai is not a genre, but a method of storytelling.
posted by SPrintF at 11:09 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]

Does this mean Narnia and Alice's adventures are Isekais?

Yes and no. Narnia is real, while Wonderland and Looking-glass Land are dreams. The London part of The Magician's Nephew would be reverse-isekai.

1990s isekai was great - Escaflowne, Inuyasha, Twelve Kingdoms, Magic Knight Rayearth, Digimon, and fans of a certain age will remember Miaka screaming TAMAHOME for 50+ episodes.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:10 AM on March 30 [9 favorites]

I'm seeing a lot of mangas (or manwhas) lately that specifically put the protagonist into another world that's actually a video game. It may be realistic looking, but they can call up their own character status window, they get system messages, they level up, etc.

I theorize they are mimicking role-playing game tropes because their audience is familiar with games of that type, so its a familiar narrative. Plus, its a proven formula for addictive engagement.
posted by Ansible at 11:17 AM on March 30 [2 favorites]

Is there a way to see when a word (or specific meaning of a word) was added to the OED? okonomiyaki was apparently added in 2024. There's nothing visible on the page to indicate that although the "Cite" says "February 2024" which I guess could be the date I'm looking for. But then ordinary English words like "flower" also have a citation in 2024, so maybe that's the date of most recent entry update?

Speaking of okonomiyaki, I plan to make this simplified version for dinner tomorrow. Oishii!
posted by Nelson at 11:44 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]

Not sure why we needed a loanword for "otherworld"

Does the OED list that as a noun? I've only seen it as an adjective.

Regardless, it becomes handy when you start talking about things like reverse isekai (e.g. Re:Creators or The Devil is a Part-Timer.)
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:17 PM on March 30

Flashback to high school when me and my friends would play Marco Polo by screaming MIAKA and TAMAHOME. Good times.
posted by lepus at 12:18 PM on March 30 [9 favorites]

Kids want to read/watch fantastical stories about kids, but in order to have stories of kids having (dangerous) adventures, you have to separate them from their parents.

A wardrobe portal, a tornado to Munchkin Land, a boarding school, kids living in a box car, going to stay with their lax great uncle, whatever. Mom and dad have to be out of the picture. Portals are one way you can do that.
posted by AlSweigart at 12:31 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]

Is there a way to see when a word (or specific meaning of a word) was added to the OED?

If you have a subscription, yes. Every full entry shows when the word was first published, and has a link to the entry's history. Hibachi, for example, was first published in its original sense (of a charcoal brazier for heating a room) in 1933, and was "last modified in February 2024" with its US-developed sense of a portable grill.

The entry history for okonomiyaki says "first published in March 2024".
posted by rory at 12:46 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]

Not sure why we needed a loanword for "otherworld"
Does the OED list that as a noun? I've only seen it as an adjective.

Yes, it does. As "other world" it's very old (as in, Old English old), in its original sense of "a world inhabited by spirits, esp. of the dead; ‘the next world’, ‘the world to come’; heaven and hell. Hence, more generally: the world of the supernatural". But there's also, from 1804 onwards:

2. A different, strange, or unfamiliar world; an imaginary or fantastic world, spec. (in fantasy fiction) a world existing alongside or in addition to the known world, typically inhabited by fairies or other supernatural creatures and having supernatural characteristics; cf. parallel world n. Now often as one word.
posted by rory at 12:49 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]

I'm seeing a lot of mangas (or manwhas) lately that specifically put the protagonist into another world that's actually a video game. It may be realistic looking, but they can call up their own character status window, they get system messages, they level up, etc.

This other factor element is called LitRPG. It's independent of isekai but they often go together and people tend to mush them together. For example, Dungeon Crawler Carl, where aliens blast the earth and turn it into a giant dungeon game show, with blatant real RPG mechanisms, is a LitRPG but not an isekai.
posted by fleacircus at 1:28 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]

Every full entry shows when the word was first published, and has a link to the entry's history.

Oh there it is, in upper left.

Now I can find what I really was looking for but too embarrassed to admit. If anyone else needs to know, "bukkake" was first added by OED in 2015. Their first citation for the term in English in a sexual context is from the Village Voice, the year 2000. Wikipedia dates the term back to the mid-80s with first English written usage in 1995 (a film title).
posted by Nelson at 1:47 PM on March 30

Mod note: Broken links noted, leaving post up. If someone has other links to the definitions that are valid, feel free to email and we'll sub them in. Would Wikipedia links be ok?
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 2:12 PM on March 30

I found last year's Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon rather droll. Most isekai are tedious, but one interesting aspect is the hyper specificity of the titles (you usually know exactly, what you are getting), perhaps due to the wish fulfilment aspect of the genre.

And speaking of anime, if you have not watched/read Sousou no Frieren, you are missing out. Easily the best I have seen in years. Close to Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou, even.
posted by bouvin at 2:23 PM on March 30 [8 favorites]

I mean, it's nice to have a short word to describe something that has been around since at least that time that Baron Munchausen went to the Moon, probably much much longer, but this is a great chance for people toi recommend things that are great, rather than terrible, versions of the genre. William Hope Hodgeson's The Nightland is chilling and weird, and The Worm Oroborous is a trip, although neither may be to the taste of modern readers.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:40 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]

Most isekai are tedious, but one interesting aspect is the hyper specificity of the titles (you usually know exactly, what you are getting), perhaps due to the wish fulfilment aspect of the genre.

The incredibly long titles are an artifact stemming from the fact that many of these series come from light novels, where these sorts of titles are expected as a part of the medium to advertise the exact content of the series.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:50 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]

The allegorical Christian Isekai “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”.
posted by Artw at 2:57 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]

I was once describing the overall story arc of _The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant_ to my partner and she went "Oh! It's an isekai book!".

And then, of course, we ended up talking about "Those Who Hunt Elves". ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by hanov3r at 3:14 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]

Missing from this conversation is scale: Isekai is a genre with thousands of webnovel series, at least several hundreds of multi-volume light novel series for the successful ones, hundreds of ongoing manga adaptations, and since I started watching anime again in 2018 between 6 and 12 new animated shows based on a manga / manwha every single quarterly season. There are somewhere between 25 and 50 animated shows with 12~13 episodes in this genre released every year for the last six to eight years.

In some respects isekai can be seen as a desperate bid by Japan’s young adult-oriented media to claw back attention from fantasy MMOs. Which is why many, many isekai give their characters videogame-style abilities and even sometimes magical floating interface menus. This is also why many of the protagonists are utterly blank slates or generic social outcasts who get showered with overpowered abilities, generalized wish fulfillment social validation and, of course, the attention of dozens of girls (“women” would be insulting and entirely incorrect) with sub-ChatGPT levels of personality.

The basic setup is: protagonist gets hit by a truck or otherwise killed one day, and either wakes up in a fantasy world to discover they have overpowered magic abilities or (equally frequently) has a conversation with a goddess of reincarnation who needs them to be reincarnated mind-intact in the fantasy world for whatever soul-bookkeeping reason and is willing to negotiate which specific abilities / stats (yes, stats as in videogame stats) they receive.

What follows is the protagonist discovering a brand new fantasy world, with usually terrible but occasionally absolutely brilliant world-building (Re:Zero and That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime are both pretty good here), learning how to (ab)use their powers and overcoming the initially hostile medieval society until they are, nearly always, literally swimming in wealth, social validation, and girls.

Additional tropes are bringing back one key item from the modern world, the ~40% pedophilia factor that pervades basically all popular Japanese media, and: Slavery.

Yes, actual capital-S Slavery. Sometimes in the form of “I got sold into slavery and must break out of it,” but usually in the form of “who am I to judge society?” shrugging and just… buying slaves. Including sex slaves. This is a very minor percentage of all isekai (less than 5% at a guess) but, worryingly, it’s a growing one due to the success of Rising of the Shield Hero’s anime and A Harem in the Fantasy World Dungeon’s manga (the latter’s anime was, mercifully, a massive failure).

The pedophilia factor (usually underage girls referred to as lolis and the pedophiles as lolicons, very occasionally the gender reverse shota / shotacon) isn’t formally 40% or anything - but if you’re a western reader/viewer of a over a hundred series with absolutely zero tolerance for that shit then 40% is about how often you’re going to be metaphorically throwing chapter 3 of a promising new series across the room while shouting “goddamnit, Japan!”

Some tentpole isekai, aka Shouting “Goddamnit, Japan” In Another World:

In terms of good tentpole isekai I’d have to give Re: Zero the nod. Yes that ability’s a little overpowered (repeatedly returning to life at a specific point in time he has no control over) but it brings the protagonist absolutely nothing but the worst psychological horror. You’ll walk away from the series convinced that save file immortality is the worst curse someone could possibly have. It’s vastly less problematic than other tentpole isekais and Subaru’s a thick little shit sometimes but after the revisiting Earth arc you’ll never wonder why. The character makes sense, is fully three-dimensional and continues to grow and slowly become a less broken person over time. The harem factor is played down until very late in the series, and it manages to narrowly skirt the worst of the tropes. An early and well-deserved major success of the genre.

There are guilty pleasures I’m still split on. Overlord is grimdark “I was the last active member of a massive endgame level 99 edgelord MMO fantasy guild, and it was transported to a fresh new real fantasy world.” 17 volumes of Ainz-sama trying and failing to keep the evil-aligned NPCs of the guild from bulldozing a sprawling virginal fantasy world straight into a mass grave, while his mind is slowly eaten from the inside out by the lich body he inhabits. It’s simultaneously hilarious (he’s a glorified shoe salesman in perpetual panic over his own ineptitude being forced to play genius evil emperor), moral atrocity horror, and psychological horror (in the novels it’s clear the lich body’s mental overrides are slowly destroying him). Still: if you’ve ever idly wondered what it would be like to be the Big Bad in your favorite video game brought to life, Overlord has you covered.

As an anime fan I want to watch Mushoku Tensei because every clip I’ve seen has off-the-charts production values but “redemption of a pedophile” is just a hard no. That and AnimeFeminist mentioned the series presents a very casual attitude towards rape. It’s a tentpole, one you’ll hear about frequently, and it has god-tier visuals, but: no.

Sword Art Online is technically not isekai (it’s set in a VR videogame) but is usually grouped in the genre along with the other hundred or so “full-dive MMO” series and was an early massive success. Straight wish fulfillment trash of the worst sort. It’s something of a fandom trope that everyone loves to shit on SAO, and …I’m right there with them. I gather that the woman-protagonist spinoff Gun Gale SAO is actually quite good? But I wouldn’t touch SAO-anything with a ten foot pole.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime or Slime Isekai is a more recent success that starts off as a charming and whimsical little series - lonely dude gets stabbed, reincarnates as a slime monster, and proceeds to start hoovering up every magic plant and crystal in the cave he inhabits. Eventually breaks out and uses the accumulated powers from the cave to begin building a utopian fantasy kingdom. The bulk of the series is basically watching someone play Civilization in a fantasy world, but as the series drags on (and it most definitely begins to drag), it increasingly veers into both problematic tropes and Overlord-style shoveling-fantasy-kingdoms-into-mass-graves territory.

From elsewhere in this thread: Villainess starts good but drags quickly after season one, Reborn as a Vending Machine is, amazingly, 100% consistent B+ for 150 chapters of Light Novel (yes, I read it). The author somehow managed to switch up the plot just frequently enough that it remains the single most consistent (note: not best) series I have ever encountered. It’s kind of amazing, actually.

Think I’ve gone on long enough. Re: Zero is worth your time but the rest range from heavily qualified recommendations to “avoid at all costs.”
posted by Ryvar at 3:43 PM on March 30 [10 favorites]

I found last year's Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon rather droll.

Yeah, that one was pretty good! A manga/light novel reviewer I follow found it better than he had expected, and the same turned out to be true for the anime. One aspect of it that I particularly liked is that the main character is a grown-ass adult who just happened to be a vending machine otaku before Truck-kun sends him to the other world. His emotional maturity stays with him when he becomes a vending machine, and most of the characters he meets in the other world aren't bog-standard anime teens, either.
posted by May Kasahara at 3:52 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]

Oh, while only technically isekai (barely factors in), I think most MeFites would enjoy both Ascendance of a Bookworm and The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent. Both tend to drag on towards the end, but there’s a lot to love in the first season.

If you’re just looking for unqualified excellent anime not set in the modern world: Frieren At the Funeral (autistic-coded elf contends with the reality of outliving everyone she cares about) and The Apothecary Diaries (palace courtesan drama in imperial China with a dash of Sherlock Holmes) both finished airing last week and are among the best anime of all time.

All four shows in this comment have women protagonists and that has a lot to do with why I can recommend them.
posted by Ryvar at 4:02 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]

If you want something like SAO without, you know, all the SAO-ness, I would recommend Shangri-La Frontier as a series that actually gets the whole "game" aspect right,and gets into why people play games.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:18 PM on March 30 [1 favorite]

Also, if you're curious about Frieren, I've been doing episode recaps over on FanFare, alternating with recaps on Delicious in Dungeon, another standout non-isekai fantasy series from this season. I'm also thinking of doing episode recaps of The Apothecary Diaries as well, since that's another series I've been enjoying.
posted by NoxAeternum at 4:26 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]

SLF has been great, and there are so many places it could have veered off into problematic and then just didn’t. It’s all a bit …god, what’s the Japanese term for embarrassing levels of tryhard immaturity? It’s a cousin term to chuunibyou but distinct from that, which temporarily escapes me. Argh. Anyways, SLF has that but it’s all good fun and only drags a little later on in the content not covered by the two-cour (double season) anime.
posted by Ryvar at 4:29 PM on March 30

Because you'll hear arguments about it: in Japanese any other world is 'isekai.' Set on another planet? Isekai. Set in a fantasy world (ala Frieren?) Isekai.

Portal-to-another-world fantasy (as per the OED definition cited above) is 'isekai ten'i.' Reincarnation in another world is 'isekai tensei'.

The English usage of 'isekai' implies travel to the other world, so just the latter two. The verdict is out--but hotly contested--about whether immersive video game worlds count.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 5:27 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]

Not A Thing: as noted in the OP (and by the OED), isekai (in English) doesn't mean "otherworld" -- it means "portal fantasy". The emphasis is on the discontinuity. (There are even arguments that isekai doesn't have to happen in "another world" at all. I've seen people tongue-in-cheek arguing that, for example, Back to the Future is an isekai.)

Do we need a loanword for portal fantasy? I mean, not necessarily, because we do have "portal fantasy", but it's often considered a fairly academic term.
posted by adrienneleigh at 6:15 PM on March 30

TBH I think the real reason most full-dive VRMMO stories (“full-dive” here = total sensory immersion ala The Matrix) get lumped in with isekai is that almost inevitably the anime is yet another Kodakawa basement-tier production.

I've seen people tongue-in-cheek arguing that, for example, Back to the Future is an isekai.

Alia-as-fetus asking Paul questions via Jessica means that, technically, Dune 2 is a mecha.
posted by Ryvar at 6:38 PM on March 30 [5 favorites]

isekai is soooo big it confuses me.. i know a few ppl irl (all borderline hikikomori ) who are into this genre of web-fiction called "litrpgs".. basically, it takes all those hyper-specific isekai conventions about being transported to the world of an mmo and formalises them even more so the stories are all about like. grinding mobs to level up skills. the characters' main motiv8ion is always to level up further, to get more powerful, attain skills etc. its weird but i find it fascinating how popular they are.. i tried reading some of the more highly reccommended ones a while back bc im always excited about the possibilities of online fiction and wanted to have something to talk abt with my shut-in friends and.. being harsh here but no litrpgs are good, theyre so boring it made me depressed. and theres an entire like.. side of the internet thats just these stories about ppl playing mmos but its their entire life! my old flatmate actually made a living writing them! i wanna do an fpp abt this sometime actually lol
posted by _earwig_ at 8:27 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]

like theres definitely some sort of big Point you could make here about the narrowing scope of escapist fantasy for people who live their literal entire lives on the internet. i dont know if thats too judgy i just wish i could make my friends leave the house sometimes and stop telling me about FFXIV
posted by _earwig_ at 8:43 PM on March 30 [3 favorites]

LitRPG is a thing that I can't understand. No one cares about the stat blocks, why are you writing thousands upon thousands of words of statblocks that don't effect the story in the slightest!
posted by pan at 10:18 PM on March 30

It definitely was a trip that my first encounter with the tropes of this modern codified genre (as opposed to the concept - A Yankee in King Arthur's Court, anyone?) was Scum Villain's Self Saving System. In which the usual reincarnation happens but it's the world of a wish fulfillment web novel our protagonist hate-reads, he's now the Act One main villain, and the videogame mechanic gives him points for fixing the plot. Delightfully meta and id, but man it took me a long time to suss that aspect of the story.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:18 PM on March 30

I read some of So I"m a Spider, So What? -- a reincarnation isekai and LitRPG where a class of high school kids get isekai'd and reborn into other bodies. The main character is reborn as a spider and goes about surviving and leveling up from the moment she hatches.

Most of the other characters are reincarnated "normally" as human babies. Their minds etc are intact, there's no magic quick-maturing. The book skips ahead to when they're teenagers, and only touches upon the million questions I had. What's it like to be a baby again, a child? Do you have no motor skills, no ability to speak? Do you grow to love your parents? Will your parents love you? (Could they? Should they?) What would you owe them for taking care of you while you spend years helpless? How do you deal with having sibilings? Will you get killed as a demon baby? How much will you have to hide your sentience? How difficult will it be to learn a new language? And this will go on for years and years.. When you hit 18 again, and you're mentally 36, what will you still even think/remember of Earth?

I think most litrpgs and/or isekais are fantasy of ego and agency. It's interesting to think of that crashing up against like the messiest mushiest area of human experience.
posted by fleacircus at 10:29 PM on March 30 [2 favorites]

I'd agree that most LitRPG stories are pretty awful, but there are a few that are absolutely worth a read. Try Super Supportive on Royal Road.
posted by shipstone at 5:20 AM on March 31

Mod note: Note: regarding the paywalled OED linked words, those came directly from the article, which used embedded urls to link straight from OED, so you can click on those words in the original article and see them at the OED site that way. (Also one comment removed: hateful, dismissive, advocating violence. Please just find a thread with a topic you'd like to discuss. 🙄)
posted by taz (staff) at 11:18 PM on March 31

I have long been a proponent of not using this as a loanword - we already have several English words for the general idea of protagonists from a recognisable world being drawn into another world, 'portal' fantasy. We don't need another word for this - 'isekai' is just the Japanese word for 'otherworld', and the people using it don't know that a word already exists to describe a genre that's existed in English for hundreds of years.

However, I concede that the specific genre of stories coming out of Japan are much more rigid in their genre than portal fantasies, and would readily describe them as an isekai subgenre in English.
posted by Merus at 4:25 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

no litrpgs are good, theyre so boring it made me depressed

I've read one litrpg, and found it pleasantly boring, if that makes sense. (lol my goodreads review it called it "soothingly boring (complimentary)") I read it on a day when I wasn't feeling well and wasn't up to reading anything too demanding, and I had a day or two left on a Kindle Unlimited trial, and in that context, Aaron Sofaer's Quill and Still was a perfectly cromulent way to pass an afternoon. No idea how representative of the genre it is; there's no fighting, for one thing. But it was at least interesting to try out a new-to-me genre.

I get the appeal, in theory: often serialized, familiar genre conventions, similar to MMOs that readers already know/'s not really my thing, but I'm not mad about having given it a try, and might even read the sequel if I'm in the mood for something else soothingly boring, or another example of the genre if it's highly recced. All of which is to say, boring might be in the eyes of the beholder and/or a virtue here. I think any given genre can easily be considered boring when you're an outsider to it, especially genres that have fairly strict genre requirements.
posted by yasaman at 11:56 AM on April 1 [2 favorites]

I have been on the “WE ALREADY HAVE THE TERM PORTAL FANTASY!” train for years but I also paid money to take only the lecture portion of a summer class on Landscape in British Children’s Fantasy Literature that was basically a flimsy excuse to travel to Europe for the summer (I was in a wheelchair at the time, so the travel part wasn’t happening, but I wanted the syllabus and group presentations dammit). So not really your average datapoint. But in my defense my degree is not anywhere near a literature degree so it can’t be that obscure a term.
posted by brook horse at 3:56 PM on April 1 [1 favorite]

Having now read TFA the OED specifically defined it as the Japanese genre of [insert description here], so everyone telling me we can now call Narnia an isekai is still WRONG AND INCORRECT.

Thank you.
posted by brook horse at 4:00 PM on April 1

The OED definition excludes the hard work of truck-kun, and specifically equate isekai with portal fantasy. Even by common (for certain degrees of common) English usage, that's incomplete.

I can recommend "Uncle from Another World" (Isekai Ojisan). It plays with a lot of anime/manga tropes, so might be better suited for people already familiar with them.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 7:19 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]

Heh. Rereading the link I posted, I just realized Truck-kun has his own Wikipedia page.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:32 PM on April 1 [2 favorites]

The current isekai boom was unlucky enough not to intersect with my 100-tabs-of-tvtropes days, so for most of that time I was content to just increment a counter every time someone mentioned the term in connection with "overt fanservice", "excessively long titles", or "boringly overpowered despicable protagonists".
My initial route into serialised anime in the 2010s was to ignore all the genre-defining franchises whose names I saw everywhere, and only start when I heard about something that specifically matched my interests (Princess Tutu). The same approach worked here; Isekai Yakkyoku/Parallel World Pharmacy is a gem.
Ideally I'd have taken an excessively long title over the fanservice, but the key things here are:
* The boringly overpowered protagonist is not a despicable misogynist creep (partly due to being put in a body with no sex drive, mostly due to being a decent person to begin with)
* The situation he's thrown precisely implanted into is one which, even with his powers, I (and anyone else without years of study and experience in pharmacology and public health policy) would struggle to stay afloat in, much less fix nonviolently.

Anyway, as much as I think everyone should watch it (together with a lot of the emerging villainess subgenre), I'm just going to reiterate: search out the badly-publicised media that match your interests, because those are the ones that will stay with you.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 12:59 AM on April 2

Potentially of interest: the Russian equivalent of isekai is popadantsy (Попаданцы), and a lot of it is to do with young men travelling back in time and winning historic wars with their awesome modern knowledge.

This guy seems to be condemning the whole genre based on some unsavoury neo-Stalinist/neo-Nazi stuff within it, but to me that feels like scaremongering; I'm guessing that that's probably just one wing of the genre rather than the whole thing. Still, the Russian government and army has embraced a certain sort of isekai as a propaganda tool in a way that's worth keeping an eye on.

(which is a little weird since certain isekai anime titles were banned in Russia as of 2021; I don't know if the censorship has since relaxed.)

Meanwhile, back at home: I read a lot of webcomics, some of which are isekais. Of those I liked, a few have ended and paywalled their archive, but many fun ones remain. I tend to gravitate towards comedy, or at least those with a sense of fun somewhere in the mix.

The Greatest Estate Developer - Civil engineering student Suho Kim wakes up in a sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel setting. To his horror, he is now in the body of a character who's a drunken wastrel destined to die in debt. Watch as he turns his fortunes around through civil engineering skills, capitalism and generally being a terrible person (whose actions somehow always end up making people happy!? What's up with that?).

Surviving A Harem - male champion boxer dies in a car accident after a bad breakup, gets reincarnated as a schoolgirl in a dating sim. Can she win the hearts of her suitors and another chance at life using only her wits and her fists? Hell yeah she can!

A Martial Master Wakes Up As A Concubine
- a notorious martial arts master is poisoned by her lover and wakes up in the body of a concubine at the Imperial court. Fish-out-of-water comedy, nicely drawn and a fun, witty translation.
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:49 AM on April 2

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