As our planet continues to tear itself apart, it’s no wonder that so many people dream of leaving this world behind. Fortunately, for those people, a certain type of anime has risen in popularity in the last decade, I am of course talking about the Isekai genre.
Translated as “Different World” Isekai anime traditionally centers around the protagonist(s) that either die and reincarnate or are teleported into another world, usually gaining spectacular abilities upon their arrival.
The genre itself is a very mixed bag when it comes to what shows are worth investing your time into, so that’s why today I’ll be taking a look at 5 Isekai series you should be watching.
1. The Rising Of The Shield Hero
Like a lot of Isekai series, The Rising of the Shield Hero started as a light novel, created by Aneko Yusagi in 2012. The series focuses on Naofumi Iwatani, AKA the Shield Hero, he and three other heroes are summoned to another world to defeat the waves of catastrophe that threaten mankind.
The charm of the series is that, unlike some Isekai where the protagonist has immense power and skill from the outset, Naofumi has to work his way up from level 1, with only his shield and later on his two faithful companions for aid. Shield Hero also deals with some heavy themes and it’s the emotional weight the series carries with it that makes it such a compelling watch.
The animation is fluid and beautiful, and you’ll be captivated with the amount of detail and effort that’s put into each scene. It also doesn’t hurt that both the Japanese and English voice actors give stand-out performances, especially Billy Kametz who voices Naofumi.
The soundtrack is also another highlight of the series, as it punctuates each scene perfectly and paired well with the show’s occasional time skip montages. All in all, it adds a lot of endearing charm to the series.
The first season of Shield Hero finished its run in 2019 and a second and third season and currently in the works, so now is the perfect time to catch up, so you can get hyped for the show’s return.
We’ve all wondered what it’d be like if we could become our favorite video game character at some point, and for a player that dream becomes a reality when he is transported inside of the DMMORPG Yggdrassil. Reborn as his in-game character, The Elder Lich Momonga, the player quickly established himself as the ruler of his home base of Nazarick and along with the NPCs created by his fellow guild members, set about learning all he could about this new world he has found himself in.
Overlord is a much darker and brutal setting than most other shows of the genre, indeed its the mature themes and overwhelming power difference between the main character and the rest of the cast which makes the show so appealing. We, as the audience, get to see both sides of an emerging conflict as the dark forces of Nazarick embark on their quest to subjugate the entire world.
As previously stated in this article, Isekai protagonists with unrivaled powers aren’t uncommon, so what makes Overlord special? Well, in a nutshell, it’s the supporting cast that makes the show what it is. The contrast between the human and undead forces is a theme that runs throughout the series, as each time a powerful human antagonist encounters an individual from Nazarick, they are overwhelmed by the sheer maddening power that they possess. This isn’t to say that this concept is always executed perfectly, however.
As the series has gone on, there hasn’t been any change to the status quo and while it’s always fun to see a god-like character go on a rampage, it somewhat loses it’s luster when there’s absolutely no hope of resistance from the other side.
Another element that some viewers may find uncomfortable is the fan service that’s woven throughout the show, as two of the female lead characters become infatuated with the main character, Momonga, and their use of dialogue becomes rather heated and lewd at times.
Overall Overlord is a very well produced show, however, the inclusion of 3D CGI in some of the scenes in the series is questionable and clashes with the traditional anime style.
Currently, Overlord has run for three series, each being dubbed in Japenese and English, there are currently no plans for a fourth series, but the team behind the anime hasn’t ruled out the possibility, so watch this space.
If you’re looking for a more mature take on your usual Isekai tropes, then I’d recommend giving Overlord a watch, and binge-watching the series is the preferred option given its overarching narrative.
3. That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime
2018 and 2019 were both jam-packed with Isekai series, so to stand out among the crowd, you need to have a unique premise and protagonist, thankfully That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime or Slime Isekai for short, delivers on both.
Our story begins with Satoru Mikami, your average 37-year-old office worker. After meeting his friend and colleague who’s also after some marriage advice, he’s unfortunately stabbed to death by a passing thug. After accidentally making some requests with his dying mind, he finds himself reincarnated in another world as a slime, the lowest form of a creature in this new world.
Fortunately for Satoru, he has a unique skill that allows him to eat pretty much anything and gain skills and abilities from whatever he consumes.
Slime Isekai focuses on Satoru, now called Rimuru in this new world, and his adventures in making new friends and family in a fantasy world. What makes this anime special is the laidback and down-to-earth tone that runs through the show, despite the less-than-down-to-earth concept. There are, of course, moments of conflict where this peaceful atmosphere is interrupted, but the animation and style featured during these battles only add to the emotions you’ll feel by the end of the first season.
As with the other series on this list, it’s the side characters that make this anime shine among the rougher Isekai out there, and Slime Isekai sure has a lot of them. The fact that the anime manages to make the main cast of characters so large and yet so likable is one of the reasons that you’ll stick with it, because as time progresses you get to see the growth and potential that each character has.
If you’re looking for a show to relax to, then That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime should serve you well, much like The Rising of the Shield Hero it has a great soundtrack and a great roster of VAs in both sub and dub, so you can even throw it up on your second monitor while you’re doing something else, if that’s your thing.
Get ready, because we’re about to discuss perhaps the most emotional anime on this list. Re:Zero features Natsuki Subaru, a confessed NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training) and gamer who, while walking to the local convenience store one night, suddenly finds himself dropped right into the middle of a bustling fantasy city. Taking his current situation in stride, Subaru heads down a back alley to catch his breath, when he’s confronted by the kind of low-level thugs you’d expect to see in an RPG. Unfortunately for Subaru, he quickly gets his ass handed to him, but before his assailants can finish him off, a beautiful white-haired girl comes to his rescue. Subaru immediately offers to help the girl, who calls herself Satella, and the two head to the slums in search of the girl’s missing trinket.
However, in trying to recover Satella’s lost item and repay his debt, Subaru is cut down and bleeds out on the floor, only to find himself back where he started. Thus begins Subaru’s adventure in another world, as he comes to the terms with this strange new ability he possesses and tries to win the hand of his rescuer.
The key thing that you should know about Re:Zero is that it is a hectic rollercoaster of love, trauma, joy, and perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. When you first set eyes upon Subaru, you’ll find him annoying, arrogant, and idiotic and you might even be tempted to stop watching the show. But really, it’s the journey here that counts, and the payoff is well worth it.
Being one of the older anime’s on this list, there are more than a few pacing issues and some of the dub voice acting is a little over the top, but Re:Zero is to this day, still one of the best Isekai shows out there, so it’s worth the benefit of the doubt.
The last entry in our list is the charming and hilarious Konosuba, a more comedic take on the Isekai genre than you’ll find elsewhere.
Konosuba like most good Isekai, starts with the protagonist Kazuma Sato, another NEET, walking home after procuring a brand-new video game. Kazuma is in high spirits until he notices a truck bearing down a young girl crossing the road. Acting selflessly, Kazuma pushes her out of the way, only to get run over in the process (or so he thinks). Whisked away to the afterlife, he encounters the water goddess, Aqua, and learns he can be reincarnated into another world, with the option of choosing one thing to take into the world with him.
After being insulted by Aqua, Kazuma hatches a plan and just as he’s ascending to his new world, he chooses to bring her along, leading the goddess to break down in tears.
Kazuma and Aqua arrive in their new home but find that becoming adventurers is a lot harder than they initially thought. Along the way to becoming adventurers, the two pick up the one-shot wizard Megumin and the masochistic crusader Darkness, rounding out their party.
Konosuba is an incredibly light-hearted show, compared to some of the other shows on this list, and it’s a good palette cleanser for when you’ve watched an anime that’s heavy on your emotions. The show itself has a loose continuity and never takes itself too seriously, something that’s made it popular with a lot of longtime anime fans.
Both the sub and dub are excellently cast and you’ve even got a movie to look forward to watching whenever it comes to digital storefronts.