The word isekai means another world. There’s been a huge growth in isekai manga over the past few years and most of them are many chapters in. As a result, some already have enough material for an anime adaptation. Here’s my favorite 10 isekai anime that came out before 2018.
10. Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They?
Three psychically gifted teenagers who are bored with their current mundane life are summoned to a new world and given the opportunity to win in dangerous games using their abilities.
Problem Children Are Coming from Another World, Aren’t They? caters to those that love escapist anime, especially one with an overpowered main character. Everything about this isekai anime is over the top, in a good way; fights often feature gigantic enemies, story is extremely fast pace, and characters all have their unique personalities. However, most of the fights are one sided and the overall story/world-building isn’t too deep. Nevertheless, Problem Children is a fun action isekai anime that offers an enjoyable ride all the way to the end.
9. The Vision of Escaflowne
Hitomi, a highschool girl with an ability of accurate fortune telling, gets transported to a mysterious world where both the moon and the earth can be seen from the sky. In this new world, Hitomi meets the prince of Fanelia and gets engulfed in their war of political and power struggle.
Aired in 1996, The Vision of Escaflowne is one of the oldest isekai anime and one of the only isekai to feature mechs. And while some of the art may look dated, the mech fights are quite enjoyable to watch as the animation and choreography still hold up to this day. It’s a highly produced isekai fantasy with an engaging story and expansive world-building. The only problem is some pacing issues in the latter half of the anime, but the 26 episode series manages to wrap up well in the end. It’s got great character progression, detailed fight scenes that are ahead of its time, and an amazing soundtrack. The Vision of Escaflowne is an anime that was ahead of its time.
8. The Devil is a Part-Timer!
In The Devil is a Part-Timer!, the main character, Sadao Maou, is previously Demon Lord Satan of a different world. During his conquest of that world he is stopped by the hero, Emilia, and forced to retreat into a new world using a dimensional portal. However, the portal takes him to modern day Tokyo and he is stripped of almost all his powers. He assumes the guise of a human named Sadao Maou and starts working at a local fast food restaurant called MgRonald. Unsatisfied with his current position, he vows to climb the corporate ladder and take over the earth, one satisfied customer at a time.
Some people wouldn’t consider The Devil is a Part-Timer! to be an isekai anime because it’s basically a reversed one, but it’s got all the right aspects of a great isekai comedy. It’s enjoyable watching the main character adapt to a new setting and experiencing the different character interactions that arise from it. The two main characters, Sadao and Emilia are polar opposites; they have opposing goals, ideals, and personalities, which makes the character interactions between them really fun and comedic. However, this anime is not just comedy, there’s also hints of romance and some great action scenes. The Devil is a Part-Timer! is not really about character progression, deep storylines, or even romance, so don’t go in and expect too much. Though if you love comedy, this isekai anime is outrageously funny and enjoyable to watch.
7. Now and Then, Here and There
Alternate Names: Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku
Genres: Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Military, Sci-Fi
Where to Watch: DVD
On a fated day, the main character, Shu, finds a mysterious blue-haired girl named Lala-Ru on top of a smokestack. He tries to talk with her, but suddenly futuristic machines teleport next to them and kidnaps the girl. Shu jumps in to save her, but fails and gets transported to a new dystopian desert world.
Now and Then, Here and There is a very old isekai anime from 1999. The animation may be a little dated, but the story is solid and the music is amazing. Most of the story is quite dark and the anime brings up some disturbing themes. It can be difficult to watch at times, but don’t let that discourage you. It’s an emotional rollercoaster watching all the characters experience escalating danger and deeper misery. This anime is not for the lighthearted, the world is depressing, the story is tragic, and overall it’s just a heavy anime to watch. However, this anime does appeal to emotions and at the end of the day, Now and Then, Here and There is a great solemn anime that makes you contemplate for a while after completing.
Overlord is an enjoyable action packed, fantasy adventure isekai featuring a thought out MMO system and an overpowered main character. Overlord follows a familiar isekai plot where the main character becomes stuck in a video game. However, unlike most of the other stuck in a video game isekai anime, Overlord features an overpowered lawful evil/true neutral main character called Momonga. This adds another layer to the story, whereas a normal isekai main character will do things like a standard protagonist, Momonga will do things his way due to loose morals and overwhelming power. Overlord is also full of action and references to MMO mechanics so it’s definitely a fun time if you are into isekai and MMORPGs.
5. Saga of Tanya the Evil
Alternate Names: Youjo Senki, The Military Chronicles of a Little Girl
Genres: Military, Magic
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll,
When an atheist Japanese salaryman was pushed into an oncoming train, time stops and a being who claims to be god shows up to question his religious beliefs. Unsatisfied with the main character’s answers, the supposed god sends him to a new war-torn world as a baby girl, punishment for not believing in him as god. With a plot like this, it was quite a surprise to find how enjoyable the anime turned out to be. The main character, Tanya, isn’t exactly main character material. She thinks and acts in order to better herself without much ethical obligations. However, she does progress as a character and her actions do change, a little. The anime is set in a gritty World War II type world, but a key difference is the use of magic in warfare. The fights are mostly in military formations and drama is usually political. Don’t let the weird plot dissuade you from this great isekai anime.
4. Log Horizon
The main character, Shiroe, along with thousands of others are teleported to an MMORPG called Elder Tales, right after the game’s latest update. As a veteran of the game, Shiroe immediately sets out to explore this familiar yet very different setting. Unable to logout, Shiroe must learn to live, fight, and even lead others in this fantasy MMORPG world.
There are so many stuck in video game anime out, but Log Horizon manages to top that list with its well thought out mmo mechanics, competent main character, and varied economic/political undertones. There’s a lot of callbacks to MMORPG mechanics such as everyone’s formation in a party and their respective roles as healers, dps, or tanks. That’s just one example of many where this anime references a MMO game really well. If you love MMORPG or isekai then this anime is a treat to watch.
3. No Game No Life
In No Game No Life, two siblings, Sora and Shiro, get summoned to a new world where playing high stake games become the deciding factor to all conflicts. In this world governed by games, the two main characters use their wits to try and defeat all sixteen different races/factions of Disboard in order to challenge its current god, Tet, to a final game.
No Game No Life is a fun show that focuses on the contrasting personalities of the two siblings and their grand overarching story where the two will eventually challenge a god. It’s an underdog story, but the underdog always wins. If you are into that and fanservice then check out No Game No Life and its movie.
2. KonoSuba: God’s Blessing on This Wonderful World!
Alternate Names: Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!, Konosuba
Genres: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Magic
Where to Watch: Crunchyroll
After an embarrassing death, the main character Kazuma Satou was given a choice of either going to heaven or starting life anew in a different world. Kazuma chooses the latter then gets transported to game-like fantasy world and given the task of defeating the demon king.
The characters of KonoSuba are all extreme individuals in some respect and KonoSuba is a comedy that excels in fun ridiculousness through these exaggerated characters. There’s not much world building, but the adventures that Kazuma goes on are still extremely enjoyable, mainly because of the different character interactions we get from them. It’s basically like watching a dysfunctional party in a RPG trying to get work done. I highly recommend this if you are into comedy.
1. Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-
Re:Zero took the internet by storm in 2016 and for a good reason too. It’s got memorable characters, a dark storyline, terrifying antagonists, and everything’s presented through amazing animation.
After buying groceries, the main character, Subaru Natsuki, gets suddenly transported to a new fantasy world. In this world, he gets sent back to a checkpoint everytime he dies. Although it sounds great to have the ability to respawn, Subaru is constantly dying over and over again trying to save the one he loves, Emilia. As he finds out more about the world he’s in and the people he’s around, every death becomes a more gruesome ending and every life a more morbid twist. Re:Zero is great if you love the idea of a physiological drama in a fantasy world. There are light hearted moments between characters, but some parts of the the story are pretty dark and it can be hard to watch at times.
Worthwhile Mentions: I know this is a top 10 list, but I just want to mention an isekai anime called The Twelve Kingdoms. It has excellent music, great story, and amazing worldbuilding. It’s actually one of my favorite isekai, but unfortunately it had an abrupt ending and there are some loose ends. Definitely check it out if you love a good fantasy isekai that focuses on adventure and worldbuilding.