The Meaning of Isekai: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever been curious about the definition of isekai? This guide will provide you with all of the information you need on the Japanese Word isekai, including its definition, etymology, usage, and more!

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What does the word isekai mean?

According to NYPL, Urban Dictionary, Definitions, Linguaholic, and Epic Stream, isekai is a subgenre of the fantasy genre in which a character is transported to a new world or another dimension. This is a common trope in a lot of Japanese anime and manga series. This genre has existed for a long time even in the west, like in Alice in Wonderland or The Wizard of Oz. It is no wonder that the same type of genre remains popular in Japanese anime, manga, and light novels. In these types of media, the main character is usually transported to a different dimension via some summoning, reincarnation, or by the help of a God. There is often medieval fantasy, swords, and magic. Isekai stories feature a distinct separation between real life and the fantasy world. This could also be the case in manga and video games that feature people who transport into a virtual world or virtual reality. Isekai that are a subgenre of fantasy most often feature medieval subject matter, like swords and dragons, whereas isekai that are a part of the science fiction subgenre might feature alternate dimensions or portan fantasy. 

In a fantasy literature piece, what is known as a “portal fantasy” would be equivalent to isekai anime and manga according to critic Farah Mendlesohn. In this category of fiction, a clueless character is transported into another world that they know little to nothing about. For example, in The Wizard of Oz, a young girl named Dorothy is transported from her farm life in Kansas to the mystical land of Oz, where she meets talking lions, tin men, witches, flying monkeys, and more. The popular Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll also features portal fantasy. Young Alice falls down the rabbit hole from her oring life to mystical lang field with a Cheshire Cat, a silly tea party, a White Rabbit, and an evil queen. 

In Japanese works, these are often categorized ino with Isekai Ten’i, which features a character’s physical transportation to another world, or Isekai Tensei, in which a character may die or be reincarnated and their spirit is the one that is reborn or transported into another world. Popular films and anime in the isekai genre include Spirited Away which was directed by Hayao Miyazaki and released in the year 2001. In this film, a young girl accidentally transports herself into another world. 

What are examples of isekai anime series?

There are many different anime and manga that utilize isekai. In recent years, there has been a boom of isekai anime. Many people enjoy watching fantasy in which someone is disconnected from their reality. Fantasy has been a popular genre for a long time, and as the popularization of anime has grown in the west, so has the popularization of fantasy genre anime. This list of popular isekai anime is provided by My Anime Shop Online.

  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
  • Sword Art Online (SAO)
  • RE: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu
  • Overlord
  • Log Horizon
  • No Game No Life
  • Gate Jieitai Kano Chi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero
  • Isekai wa Smartphone To Mo Ni
  • Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest
  • Knights and Magic
  • Hai To Gensou no Grimgar
  • KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on this Wonderful World!
  • Death March to the Parallel World Rhapsody
  • Isekai Maou to Shoukan Shoujo no Dorei Majutsu
  • Mondaiji-Tachi Ga Isekai Kara Kuru Sō Desu yo?
  • Youjo Senki: The Saga of Tanya the Evil
  • Hack//Sign
  • Fushigi Yuugi
  • Digimon Adventures
  • Zero no Tsukaima: The Familiar of Zero
  • Hyakuren No Haou To Seryaku No Valkyria
  • Drifters
  • Caligula
  • Isekai Cheat Magician

Where does the term isekai come from?

The term isekai comes from the Japanese word 異世界, which translate to the phrase “different world.” This can sometimes be translated as parallel universe, another world, or other world. While people do not usually use this term in everyday life in Japan, it is frequently used to describe a lot of anime, manga, or light novels. These forms of media might have science fiction or fantasy elements, and may feature a lot of medieval content. There also might be some science fiction isekai anime and manga that involve parallel universes. 

The term isekai is made up of technically three different kanji. The first kanji is 異, which means different or unusual The second and third kanji are used as one to mean “the world.” This element of the phrase is fairly common. This combination of kanji can also be used to mean some society or grouping of people. This genre of anime and manga began to cebome popular in the 80s and 90s, and then video games began to utilize the isekai genre in the mid 2000s and early 2010s. 

Overall, the term isekai refers to a subgenre of anime and manga in which a character is transported into another world. This is cond=sidered part of either the fantasy or science fiction genre, and is commonly associated with medieval settings or other elements of fantasy and science fiction. There are many anime, manga, and videogames that feature isekai, as well as many western works like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and The Wizard of Oz in which the main character is transported from the real world into a fantasy world. Isekai stories feature common tropes.

Sources:

  1. https://www.myanimeshoponline.com/top-20-isekai-animes/
  2. https://www.nypl.org/blog/2019/07/15/beginners-guide-isekai-manga#:~:text=Isekai%20is%20a%20subgenre%20of,a%20new%20or%20unfamiliar%20one.
  3. https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=isekai
  4. https://www.definitions.net/definition/isekai
  5. https://linguaholic.com/linguablog/isekai-meaning/
  6. https://epicstream.com/news/MadalenaDaleziou/What-Is-Isekai-Anime-Manga-and-Meaning-in-Japanese-What-Is-the-Genre-About-Heres-Everything-to-Know