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I Told Myself I’d Never Watch an Isekai Anime Only to Realize That I’ve Been Watching Isekai My Whole Life!

After Retiring From Basketball Bugs Bunny Asked Me to Come and Slam!

Isekai movies

Every season of anime seems to provide us with a new take on the “I stumbled into a parallel universe please help” genre, otherwise known as isekai. These are the kinds of stories where the main character exists in our world only to end up in a fantasy realm, a video game, or any kind of universe that makes them go, “HUH?!”

Sometimes, the protagonist knows exactly how the other world works because they’re well-versed in level grinding and dungeon crawling. Sometimes, the protagonist is seen as a god because they have something called a cellular phone. And sometimes it’s all a complete mess, leading to maximum hijinks where the protagonist doesn’t realize that slapping someone is, somehow, a marriage proposal – I see you Kyo Kara Maoh! and your “picking up a knife starts a duel” customs.

That being said, I’ve always told myself that it wasn’t a genre I was into. There are a couple of exceptions, of course, and I am forever amused when we get a series with a longwinded title that tells you exactly what the plot is, but “I Was Trying to Clean the Ball Pit at McDonald’s and Tripped Into a New World” isn’t what immediately grabs my attention.

At least.

That’s what I thought.

Until I realized, wow, this style of storytelling has been in my life for decades – and I’ve LOVED it.

When I look at some of the media I enjoyed while I was growing up I can’t help but notice that a lot of it has the same beats as the isekai genre. I thought it’d be fun to list a couple of examples and give them an overdramatic name in true isekai fashion.

  • Movie: The Wizard of Oz

Isekai Title: I Accidentally Killed a Witch When My House Was Caught in a Tornado, Now I Have to Follow a Yellow Brick Road?!

Type of Isekai: Natural disaster transports the protagonist to a new world and they really just wanna go home.

  • Movie: A Kid in King Arthur’s Court

Isekai Title: King Arthur Thinks I’m a Savior, but I’m Just a Kid Who Wants to Play Baseball!

Type of Isekai: Cowardly protagonist is an accidental wizard because of having advanced technology.

  • Movie: Alice in Wonderland

Isekai Title: This Tardy Rabbit Is a Lot More Interesting Than My Sister’s History Lesson.

Type of Isekai: Bored protagonist sees a most peculiar sight and follows after it.

  • Movie: Cool World

Isekai Title: What?! The Comic Series I Drew While Locked in Prison Is Actually Real?!

Type of Isekai: The protagonist has been creating a world that’s been real the whole time and discovers the truth when his illustration drags him in.

  • Movie: Neverending Story

Isekai Title: Help! These Bullies Chased Me Into a Bookstore and Now the Fate of an Entire World Depends on Me?!

Type of Isekai: The protagonist finds out the book he’s reading is real and he’s the hero of the story.

  • Movie: Labyrinth

Isekai Title: My Baby Brother Was Being Annoying So I Wished for Him to Be Taken Away by Goblins, and the Goblins Actually Listened?!

Type of Isekai: Frustrated protagonist doesn’t realize the power of a wish and has to deal with the consequences of her actions.

  • Movie: Rock-a-Doodle

Isekai Title: Meow! The Family Rooster Has Become an Elvis Impersonator and I’m a Kitten!

Type of Isekai: The effects of the fairytale have been affecting the real world and a young boy sets off to make things right – after being turned into a cat, because sure, why not!

  • Series: Captain N: The Game Master

Isekai Title: Who Knew That Playing Nintendo Could Pull You Into a Parallel Universe!

Type of Isekai: Gamer gets sucked into the game world.

  • Movie: Pagemaster

Isekai Title: I Was Trying to Take Shelter During a Thunderstorm but Became a Cartoon After Going Unconscious in a Library!

Type of Isekai: Young protagonist in need of adventure gets it through the storybooks he knows and loves.

  • Movie: Space Jam

Isekai Title: After Retiring From Basketball Bugs Bunny Asked Me to Come and Slam!

Type of Isekai: The animated world the protagonist knows and loves is real and the characters need help – twice (though the protagonist also needs help the second time around)

What are some of your favorite forms of media where the protagonist gets whisked away into another world—whether they mean to or not?

(Image: Warner Bros./MGM)

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Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)