Of all the premises to be perpetuated by the anime platform, it had to be the Isekai. Love ’em or hate ‘em, there’s no denying that anime has been oversaturated with Isekai stories. That’s not necessarily a bad thing and these kinds of stories have existed long before today.
The Isekai formula is easy to latch onto, embellish, and innovate to the point where it’s become its own genre. If you’re new to anime you may be asking,
WHAT’S AN ISEKAI ANIME ?
Here’s a basic run-down. In Japanese, the word Isekai can be roughly translated as “A Different World.”
In Isekai stories, the Main Protagonist(s) is somehow transported to another world, oftentimes either by summoning or reincarnation.
Here’s a basic run-down. In Japanese, the word Isekai can be roughly translated as “A Different World.”
In Isekai stories, the Main Protagonist(s) is somehow transported to another world, oftentimes either by summoning or reincarnation. That is the bare-bones setup, and there have been countless iterations and versions of that setup.
Recent anime series have explored almost every conceivable spin on the formula: “ Fantasy World, Video Game World, Multiple Protagonists, Reborn As Monster Or Object, Harem, Reverse Isekai, etc “. There is no shortage of Isekai Anime, and we’re here to give you the Top 25 Best Isekai. There will be a healthy mix of classic, modern, and hidden gems, so hopefully, you’ll find something to your liking.
SWORD ART ONLINE
Kirito, a lonely boy whose only real passion is gaming and virtual reality, gets trapped in the newest virtual reality MMORPG and must clear the 100th floor to escape.
The biggest obstacle is the new rule : If you’re HP reaches zero in the game, you die in real life. It’s up to Kirito to piece together the mysteries of this death game and make it out alive.
You can thank this little show for the recent Isekai trend in anime. It wasn’t the first to use a VR MMORPG as a different world setting, but it did gain mainstream popularity that carried it through its many sequels and spin-offs. As far as marketing and sales were concerned, it was a sign that people enjoyed this kind of story.
For the most part, it is a decent series, but you may end up more frustrated than anything. Kirito is not the most engaging main character, and the disservice done to the female leads is borderline criminal.
It does touch on darker storylines and themes and has solid world-building. What holds it back is lackluster storytelling and mishandled characters and it only makes this list because of its legacy.
PRINCESS CONNECT! RE:DIVE
The hero, Yuki, is reincarnated into a world he’s never seen before with no memories o where he came from. An omniscient deity tells him to live his life and befriend the girls he meets to fulfill some kind of destiny.
Accompanied by his attendant Kokorro, the gluttonous Pecorine, and the tsundere cat girl Karyl, they’ll found the Gourmet Guild and go on wacky adventures.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a typical Isekai, but if you spend the time to put the pieces together, there is an oddly engaging narrative going on.
It’s based on a mobile gacha game, so the primary focus is showing off all the cute girls. Most of the plotlines don’t go anywhere, but it makes up for the disjointed story with humor and impressive animation.
Like with most anime adaptations, this show exists to advertise the mobile game, so it has to make do with a limited story and characters. It’s still an enjoyable series with plenty of comedic energy and just a hint of creeping evil to keep you engaged.
RESTAURANT TO ANOTHER WORLD
Welcome to Western Restaurant Nekoya, a quaint little eatery featuring Japanese and Western-style dishes. Normally it’s open to the public, but every Saturday, it opens its doors to another world and welcomes the likes of wizards, heroes, beast-folk, and dragons, just to name a few.
These are the stories of the patrons of this restaurant to another world. This series would fall under the “ Reverse-Isekai ” sub-genre where beings from another world come to ours.
It’s a relaxed show that uses the restaurant setting to flesh out characters and world-building. A starving knight may stumble into the restaurant only to be reminded of his hometown after eating shrimp tempura
A shunned witch may come in, experience the deliciousness of a parfait, and be inspired to research magical refrigeration.
A dragon ma enters seeking out a bold dish to satisfy her hunger and walks out with a pot of curry. The possibilities are endless, and the show has a lot of fun applying a culinary spin on the Isekai formula.
MAGIC KNIGHT RAYEARTH
One day, while on a field trip to Tokyo Tower, three high school girls are summoned to another world. They are welcomed as heroes and must rescue a captured princess, or else the world may come to an end.
With their newly found powers, they will fight together, sacrifice much, and discover what it means to fulfill their destiny.
Brought to you by the manga artist group Clamp, this manga-turned-anime is a classic in terms of shoujo adventure and was released during the heyday of 90’s anime.
At the time, The Isekai aspect was treated more as a plot device and hadn’t yet developed the clichés we now associate with the term. As such, this series puts much more emphasis on adventure and exploring how our leads navigate a new world.
It also sports a unique blend of fantasy, magical girl, and mecha, of all things. If you want a break from modern Isekai tropes and enjoy classic anime with strong female leads, give this one a try.
NO GAME NO LIFE
Sora and Shiro are legendary shut-in gamers and go by their team’s name Blank.
After defeating a god of another world in a game of chess, they are transported to Disboard, where all violence is outlawed, and disputes are resolved with games and gambling
With their pride as the ultimate gaming duo on the line, they set out to conquer the kingdoms of Disboard. With its undefeatable protagonists, harem tendencies, and gratuitous fan service, this show checks all the boxes of modern Isekai tropes.
While it gets points for the inventive spins on the games played and the wit displayed by the characters to essentially cheat, it definitely puts style before substance.
There’s not much to be said for Sora or Shiro in terms of character development or depth and most of the time, the other characters are just eye-candy. Admittedly, though, it is really good eye candy.
FAMILIAR OF ZERO
Having been called a failure of a magic-user her whole life, Louise finally gets a chance to summon a powerful familiar to aid her.
Unfortunately, she ends up summoning a completely ordinary Japanese boy named Saito. The two become master and familiar, and together they navigate the daily trials and tribulations while learning secrets about themselves they never thought possible.
This anime, and by extension the light novel, is one of the most popular series in Japan and helped popularize the Isekai genre. It sets itself apart by not only being one of the earliest modern Isekai but also by focusing on an underdog duo.
Neither Louise nor Saito are inherently overpowered. They have to work to prove themselves and earn their classmates’ respect.
That may not seem like a revolutionary idea now, but it lent itself to genuine character development to the point where romance blossomed. Good storytelling, an interesting world and magic system, plus one of the most iconic tsundere, and you’ve got a modern hit.
KNIGHTS & MAGIC
Tsubasa Kurata is a software engineer and mecha fanboy in modern-day Japan. One day he’s hit by a truck and reincarnated into the body of Ernesti Echavalier.
Much to his joy, He discovers that the medievalesque world he now lives in uses Silhouette Knights, giant mechanical exo-suits. With his magical prowess and vast knowledge of mechs and software.
He seeks out to create the ultimate mech, Now there are two genres you don’t see fused every day. Other than the overpowered main character trope, it’s a pretty solid mech-action series.
The show gives Ernesti a lot of conveniences when it comes to applying his technological knowledge to this world’s magical engineering. It’s easy to get sucked into his enthusiasm, though, and you end up just going along for the ride.
The main draw of the series are the mechs and the crazy designs and powers Ernesti bestows upon them. It’s a little slow at times, but the mech battles are a feast for the eyes. It’s a refreshing series for mech fans.
THE VISION OF ESCAFLOWNE
Hitomi is just your typical high school girl until she witnesses a boy named Zan fighting a dragon on her school’s track field.
Then, she’s suddenly whisked away to the far-off world of Gaea where she discovers powers inside her that are the key to awakening Escaflowne, a powerful mystical mech.
Now, She and Zan, along with a colorful cast of characters, must work together to put a stop to the Zaibach Empire’s plans for world domination. Another classic for the ages. Much like Magic Knight Rayearth, this series was very influential for 90’s anime.
Older fans may remember it more fondly, but there’s still plenty here for fantasy and shoujo fans alike. The characters are well-developed, the setting is interesting with a lot of world-building, and the action and mecha designs are spot on.
The story can feel rushed at times and some characters don’t amount to more than running gags, but for an early Isekai series, it holds up surprisingly well.
Shimazu Toyohisa is mortally wounded at the Battle of Sekigahara, but as he wanders waiting for death, a man in glasses sends him to another world.
There, Toyohisa meets other historical figures plucked from the time including a Japanese archer named Yoichi and none other than Oda Nobunaga himself. Embroiled in this world’s conflict, these “ Drifters ” must choose sides and discover what is worth fighting for.
From the mind of Kouta Hirano, comes a fierce, bloody, and unforgiving narrative about war and the people who fight it. Taking historical figures and making them fight each other is exactly the kind of childish entertainment this series evokes.
It knows not to take itself too seriously, but it’s not afraid to shove the horrors of war down your throat either. These larger-than-life characters are fun to watch play off each other, which is good because the anime doesn’t really cover that much story.
It mostly jumps from one conflict to the next, with a little exposition and setup thrown in so you’re not completely lost. Probably the bloodiest Isekai on this list, which is oddly refreshing
THE HERO IS OVERPOWERED BUT OVERLY CAUTIOUS
When the world is in danger from the rising Demon Lord, it’s up to the novice goddess Ristarte to summon a hero.
She chooses Seiya Ryuguin on account of his god-tier stats but soon realizes that he is overly cautious of everything. Can this unlikely duo work together to stop the Demon Lord?
Who cares, this show is funny as heck. It flips the script on the overpowered main character trope and gives us someone who is more than capable but overthinks everything.
It’s the perfect comedic foil to Ristarte who expects Seiya to solve all her problems so she can get all the credit. Not to mention how thirsty she gets for Seiya.
This show is wildly entertaining with situational comedy and great animation.
GRIMGAR OF FANTASY AND ASH
A group of people is transported to a fantasy world and are coerced into becoming volunteer soldiers. Those who drop out form an adventuring party and take on small jobs to make a living.
They’ll soon discover, though, that fighting monsters comes with very real risks and that death is an ever-present possibility.
At first, this seems like a pretty standard fantasy Isekai story with magic, monsters, and mechanics similar to a video game. It quickly sets itself apart by focusing more on the very real consequences of this kill-or-be-killed world.
The main cast is just normal kids and while they take to their roles and combat, it’s more about survival than enjoying this new world.
This anime takes a very real look at how normal people cope with death, as the killer and victims. It also has very crisp animation with water-color-style backgrounds. If nothing else, it looks great and does a good job of developing its characters.
THE DEVIL IS A PART-TIMER
The Demon Lord Satan seeks to conquer the world of Ente Isla, but he’s forced to retreat after the hero slays two of his generals.
Accompanied by another general, Alciel, Satan appears in the modern world where magic doesn’t exist. As such, the duo adapts with Alciel becoming the homemaker and Satan, now going by Sadao Mao, working at McDonald’s.
Another ” Reverse-Isekai “, this anime asks the question how does a demon lord survive in a world where magic doesn’t exist? By getting a part-time job of course.
It’s a hilarious twist made all the more comedic because of how seriously he takes it. He truly believes that this is the way to re-establish himself as the Demon Lord in this world.
Throw in some situational comedy and fish-out-of-water misunderstandings, and you’ve got a recipe for one of the funniest and surprisingly well-written Reverse-Isekai anime out there.
MY NEXT LIFE AS A VILLAINESS ALL ROUTES LEAD TO DOOM
A video game otaku dies in a traffic accident and gets reincarnated into her favorite Otome dating sim “ Fortune Lover ”.
Unfortunately, she inhabits the body of Catarina Claes, the antagonist of the game where all canonical happy endings end in her demise.
It’s up to the new Catarina to make sure that doesn’t happen. This is a refreshing twist on the modern formula. It gives us an endearing female lead, a unique otome video game setting, and a premise that is perfectly suited for comedy and drama.
What’s more, it introduces a lot of new and interesting ideas for the Isekai genre. What happens when the antagonist of the video game world doesn’t act like one?
What if the main character doesn’t know everything about the world? It’s a delightful twist carried by likable characters and a well-written story.
KONOSUBA GOD’S BLESSING ON THIS WONDERFUL WORLD
Kazuma is your typical teenage shut-in who struggles to even walk outside. One day he dies and meets
Aqua, a goddess who gives him the chance to reincarnate into a fantasy world but not before ridiculing his life and death.
He’s allowed to take one thing with him, but he’s so bitter and spiteful he forces Aqua to come with him into the new world.
They eventually meet Megumi, a mage who only casts explosion magic, and Darkness, a masochistic knight. Will this unlikely band of heroes defeat the demon lord’s forces? No. At least, not intentionally. This show does not take itself seriously at all. It is pure comedy poking fun at modern Isekai tropes with absolute disregard for a coherent story.
Instead, it occupies its run time by setting up bits and gags and situations for these four characters to blunder through.
It’s like a setup for a joke; an underpowered protagonist, a useless goddess, a chunnibyou mage, and a masochistic knight, walk into a guild hall together. That’s the setup and the punchline is that there is no punchline. Just watch chaos ensue.
THE SAINT’S MAGIC POWER IS OMNIPOTENT
Sei Takanashi is summoned to another world where the inhabitants seek a Saint to combat the dark forces threatening the kingdom.
Oddly enough, two people were summoned, and the crown prince chooses the other girl, leaving Sei to her own devices.
She takes to it very well and starts making a new life for herself. As time goes on, she discovers she may have more magical power than she thought. This is a very wholesome series. Nothing dark, no dramatic twists, no change to the formula.
Just a young woman trying to make a living in this new world. That may seem boring, but that’s exactly what sets it apart. Sei is a very likable character, and her earnest demeanor naturally draws in everyone around her.
There’s also the ongoing narrative of what her overwhelming magical power means for herself and the other girl. It’s a very laid-back series, with a hint of a romantic subplot, and an overall pure vibe.
Kagome Higurashi, a modern-day Japanese high school girl, falls into a well on the grounds of her family’s shrine. She finds herself in a parallel world set in Japan’s Sengoku era, where she meets Inuyasha, a half-dog demon boy.
Suddenly, a powerful demon artifact called the Shikon Jewel emerges from Kagome’s body and shatters to pieces.
It’s up to Kagome and Inuyasha to recover the shards before the forces of evil can. This is arguably the most famous Isekai anime. Its legacy can still be felt today with many fans pointing to this series as their first anime. Its long runtime means it adopts a very formulaic throughline early on, like a monster-of-the-week structure.
Once you get into the meat of the series, though, you realize there’s so much more going on. And the main ensemble of characters is at the heart of it.
It’s a story of love, destiny, and overcoming fate with fully fleshed-out characters that are enjoyable to watch and root for. Plus, you can’t tell me there’s a more iconic couple than Kagome and Inuyasha.
ASCENDANCE OF A BOOKWORM
One day, Urano Mototsu, a self-professed bookworm, is killed in an earthquake. She is reincarnated into the frail body of 5-year-old Myne. She soon discovers that in this new world, her beloved books are either nonexistent or inaccessible to her.
Through her knowledge and wit, and a little magical power, she takes the necessary steps to reclaim her love for reading.
For some, this anime will feel like a slow burn. That’s because the story moves along at a very organic pace, giving enough time to explore this new world and come to terms with living in a completely different environment. This show does a wonderful job of world-building, making every facet of this place feel alive.
Different customs, the class system, religion, societal norms and taboos, trade, and economics are all explored with surprising depth. It also addresses how out of place the new Myne is, given her extensive modern knowledge.
The characters are just as fascinating and feel very real and developed. There’s plenty to keep you entertained whether it be the characters, the world, or the story.
THE RISING OF THE SHIELD HERO
Naofumi Iwatani is summoned to another world, along with three other young men, to become the Cardinal Heroes and combat hordes of monsters called the Waves.
Naofumi is designated the Shield Hero, but his life takes a turn for the worse when he’s convicted of a crime he didn’t commit.
With little more than the clothes on his back, his shield, and a thirst for vengeance, he sets out on his own. This show hits hard in the first episode, setting the darker tone and giving us a protagonist forced to fend for himself.
He didn’t commit the crime, but the monarchy and society at large force him to adopt a very harsh demeanor where he can’t trust anyone but himself.
It’s a very different main character than what we’re used to seeing, but it does pay off as he finds allies and become the most powerful hero. This anime puts an edgier spin on the Isekai genre but still has enough of what we’ve come to expect.
The popular full dive MMORPG “ Yggdrasil ” is shutting down its servers after 12 years. Momonga, the guild leader of Ainz Ooal Gown, wants to wait out the last few minutes of in-game reminiscing.
The shutdown time arrives, but he’s not logged out. Instead, he’s embodied his character avatar and has been transported to a world exactly like “Yggdrasil.”
Now he must make use of his end-game abilities to figure out why he’s here while keeping up the visage of an all-knowing tyrannical ruler. Yet another video game setting, but this anime stands out because of how Momonga chooses to interact with it. On the inside, he’s an insecure video game nerd, but he has to maintain an air of power and sophistication to satisfy the expectations of the now-sentient NPCs.
He wants to know what happened and why he’s here, and the only way he can justify his actions to his subordinates is with world domination. He grows into the role very well, commanding armies, reacting to threats, and expanding his influence.
The supporting cast is huge, and the world feels truly alive. For those wanting to scratch that world domination itch, this show is for you.
With the most recent update to the MMORPG “ Elder Tale ”, comes a big surprise, as thirty thousand Japanese players are trapped in the game as their avatars.
With no idea why or how it happened and panic and anarchy quickly taking hold, three players, Naotsugu, Akatsuki, and Shiroe band together to make life livable in this game.
Here’s a series that goes hard with its video game mechanics. Anyone who has ever played an MMORPG will immediately recognize how to navigate this world.
Skills, buffs, cooldowns, party tactics, aggro, guilds, and strategy take the forefront of the action. Even the world and NPCs mirror how a player would interact with an MMO.
the series introduces more surprises as time goes on. This series knows its target demographic and it fully delivers on multiple levels.
Chihiro is not happy about having to move to a new home. On the way, she and her parents stop by a seemingly abandoned village.
As night falls, though, creatures appear and begin to inhabit the empty buildings and Chihiro’s parents turn into pigs.
Chihiro is led to a bathhouse by a boy named Haku and is told to seek help there. More awaits her in this spiritual bathhouse than scrubbing floors. You can’t go wrong with Studio Ghibli, and their talent is on full display.
This is a classic by many standards, and it really only aligns with an Isekai in the loosest way. This film does feature a character who gets transported to another world.
But it doesn’t have any of the trappings of modern Isekai stories. It’s just a fantastical journey with plenty of strange and enchanting creatures. What more do I need to say?
RE : ZERO – STARTING LIFE IN ANOTHER WORLD
One day, shut-in Natsuki Subaru is transported to another world, with no explanation. He’s quick to recognize it as an Isekai and proceeds to treat it as such, looking for special powers, trying to trigger events, and having the time of his life.
He soon realizes this world is not all fun and games. Death isn’t even the end for him. It’s a reset.
This otherwise standard by-the-books Isekai introduces one new idea and runs with it. Whenever Subaru dies, he’s sent back to a specific point in the past.
He basically has a built-in save point, but he has no control over when or where that point is. This one new idea introduces an entirely new way to interact with the world.
The characters are put through the most brutal realities and the mystery at the heart of Subaru’s power keeps viewers invested. It’s a huge sweeping narrative and isn’t afraid to get dark and violent.
MUSHOKU TENSEI: JOBLESS REINCARNATION
A middle-aged shut-in has the worst luck and harbors disdain for the world. In an attempt to give some meaning to his life he saves a group of school kids from a speeding truck.
He dies and is reincarnated into the body of a baby, Rudeus Greyrat. He makes a vow to live this new life of swords and sorcery to the fullest.
This anime has quickly become a modern classic. Not only does it have gorgeous animation, not only is it the progenitor of modern Isekai, not only does it pander to the power fantasy the genre is known for, but it also highlights the regret, trauma, and mental seclusion Rudeus felt in his previous life.
Rudeus ends up being one of the most relatable characters and his journey to rectify his previous life choices is inspiring to say the least.
He’s still an overpowered protagonist surrounded by attractive girls, but his depth of character can’t be ignored. It’s a very engaging story driven by character growth and development.
THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME
In the modern world, Satoru Minami is a content corporate worker. One day, he saves his subordinate from a random stabbing but dies in the process.
A voice named the Great Sage asks him what he wants out of his second life and gives him the form it believes best suits his desires; a slime.
With a new body, a new world, and an incredible ability, this humble slime reaches impossible heights. This series is pure fun. The idea that a low-tier monster could grow into one of the most powerful beings in the world is a great through-line, made better by their genuinely caring demeanor.
There are some video game elements, such as skills and monster evolution, but the main draw of this series is the world and how Rimuru, the slime, builds a new civilization from the ground up.
It also has some very touching moments that make it feel like more than just a power fantasy narrative. It’s a fully fleshed-out world and at the center is a humble slime.
RE : CREATORS
Sota Mizushino is a young boy with dreams of creating his own light novel series. Suddenly, while watching his favorite anime, the main character is drawn from her fictional world into his real world.
Sota is then dragged into a sprawling conflict between characters from various forms of media battling it out in the real world.
In my opinion, this anime stands above the rest in the Isekai genre. It’s technically a Reverse-Isekai, where other characters are transported to our world, but instead of relying on Isekai tropes, it takes the concept of fictional characters coming to life to explore what it means to create something.
How do those characters feel about meeting their creators? Does this mean their stories have no meaning outside entertainment? How does their source material affect their existence?
What about the consumers of those stories, does their perception of the characters play a role? This show puts the creative process front and center in a very self-referential way. There’s nothing quite like it and it’s a shining example of what anime is
Phew, that was a lot. Those were the 25 Best Isekai. Has there ever been one genre that has dominated anime as much as Isekai? I’m not sure, but it seems like every season has featured at least one new Isekai. And it doesn’t seem like it’s slowing down.
- So which Isekai is your favorite?
- Any entries on this list you disagree with?
Let us know in the comments below. While you’re here, take a look at some of our other articles. We post Top 10’s, news pieces, and other topics for every kind of fan. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.
As always, have fun, stay safe, and get your WEEB ON!