Otaku USA Magazine
Isekai Anime, Wish Fulfillment, and You

Isekai anime like Ascendance of a Bookworm have their own brand of wish fulfillment

The isekai genre is going to be with us for quite a while longer. With more isekai anime being made every season, and light novels and manga coming out full force, it’s pretty much everywhere. It’s been around for some time, but how we think of it has a distinct 21st century style. Rather than just jumping to a new world, our heroes tend to take on a brand new role. They may be reincarnated, taking on the role of a game character, or stepping into a prophecy. Either way, there’s a place for them.

Now more than ever, isekai is a genre of wish fulfillment. It isn’t just about going somewhere new and being a hero. It’s a second chance, often as a completely new person. But what our heroes do with that second chance makes all the difference. Because while some heroes have a bone to pick, others want something far simpler.


Reinventing Yourself

How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord

Whether via reincarnation or game mechanics, a lot of isekai anime heroes arrive in a new persona. This could be a buffed up video game character, a noblewoman, or a random commoner. The majority of them are students, salarymen, lonely otaku… in other words, people who would relish a chance at a more exciting second life.

Shows like Arifureta, How NOT to Summon a Demon Lord, and The Rising of the Shield Hero put our protagonist in a seat of power — or, if nothing else, gives them the chance to obtain powers they’d only ever dreamed of before. As for what they do with those powers? It varies. Maybe they build cities. Maybe they get a bunch of girlfriends and wives. Maybe they enact revenge or take out pent-up aggression. Whatever form it takes, it’s a chance to unleash power in a place where real-world rules don’t apply.

For lonely fans who feel powerful in their own lives, that’s a totally understandable wish fulfillment fantasy… but so is the other kind we see.

I don’t ask for much.

Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

Sometimes, “wish fulfillment” is as simple as good food and cute clothes. More and more, isekai anime is dipping its toe into simple pleasures.

Shows like My Next Life as a Villainess, Ascendance of a Bookworm, and Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! do contain typical isekai issues. But the upshot tends to be a lot simpler than establishing a kingdom and overthrowing a demon ruler. Some interdimensional travelers just want a friend, after all.

Isekai anime for every type

Rising of the Shield Hero

As exciting as it can be to see a hero unleash full power, it’s good to know there’s isekai anime out there for the rest of us. That we can live vicariously through someone just looking for a friend, a muffin, and some nice shampoo.

With the medium full of interdimensional adventures, these subgenres will be what makes or breaks it for the foreseeable future. When there’s unique wish fulfillment for everyone, isekai becomes less a guilty pleasure and more… well, just a pleasure.

What’s your favorite flavor of isekai? Is there anything you’ve yet to see in the genre that would hit home for you?

Kara Dennison

Kara Dennison is a writer, editor, and presenter with bylines at Crunchyroll, Sci-Fi Magazine, Sartorial Geek, and many others. She is a contributor to the celebrated Black Archive line, with many other books, short stories, and critical works to her name.