5 Isekai Themes That Are Overdone (And 5 We Want More Of)

AbraxasNovember 5, 2021


Isekai isn’t a new genre. Even before its popularity massively exploded, shows like The Familiar of Zero delved into the concept of journeying into different worlds. Sword Art Online drove isekai to the top spot of the anime world for a good couple of years, with fans of the famous series eager for more similar adventures. Since then, countless isekai releases have led to market saturation. Authors have added their own spins to their individual stories, but some ideas remain the same.

RELATED: Ranked: The 15 Best Isekai Anime Ever Made

And yet, isekai is still as popular as ever. The excitement over Isekai may have diminished, but fans of the genre are still eager for more content. It’s not a bad thing, as isekai is nothing if not an endless well of potential. Still, there are some themes that are definitely overdone, whereas others could add new twists to the genre.


10 OVERDONE: The Overpowered Protagonist

If there’s one element present in the majority of isekai anime, it’s that of the overpowered protagonist. This isn’t a trope strictly used in isekai, as many shows – particularly shonen – choose this route. It is very satisfying to watch the main character defeat their opponent, so this makes sense.

RELATED: 15 Insanely Powerful Characters In Isekai Anime

But there comes a point when the constant repetition becomes an uncreative choice, rather than a creative one. The best example of this dilemma is Sword Art Online‘s protagonist Kirito. He has numerous fans, but he’s so overpowered that just as many people dislike him. There are other characters who are even worse and become very unlikeable because of their power.

9 WANT MORE OF: Protagonists With Unusual Talents Can Balance Things Out

How A Realist Hero Rebuilt The Kingdom

As much as it may be overdone, the overpowered protagonist trope is something fans do enjoy. To balance things out and keep things from getting boring, anime should include characters with more unusual talents. For example, in How A Realist Hero Rebuilt The Kingdom, Kazuya Souma is a clerk whose main area of expertise is administrative matters.

He receives the ability to use magic once he is summoned to the Kingdom of Elfrieden, but even his Living Poltergeist power is unusual. Amusingly enough, Kazuya uses it primarily for paperwork. It’s very different from the talents of other isekai heroes.

8 OVERDONE: The Broody Main Character Isn’t Fun Anymore

Subaru Enters Another Loop In Re Zero

Traveling to a different world may sound enjoyable, but for many anime protagonists, the experience is anything but fun. Isekai shows often place the protagonist in dangerous and deadly situations. An extreme case is Re: Zero‘s Subaru Natsuki. Unlike other isekai main characters, he isn’t overpowered by any means.

His ability Return by Death is more of a nightmare than a gift. The show depicts Subaru dying in various gruesome ways, and the situation gets so serious he understandably has several breakdowns. Re: Zero is an excellent addition to the isekai genre, but one cannot deny that it’s not always fun for the viewers either. Kirito is another example of this type of attitude in a protagonist, as is the solitary and selfish Yuusuke Yotsuya from I’m Standing on a Million Lives.

7 WANT MORE OF: Kind But Competent Protagonists Are A Breath Of Fresh Air

rimuru slime

As interesting as dark themes can be in any anime, things don’t always have to be about gloom and doom. Protagonists can preserve a level of optimism and look forward to accomplishing something real, for themselves and for others. This is particularly the case in isekai, where main characters are either dark and overpowered or incompetent and unprepared. The approach they take to their new life also matters.

In that sense, kind but competent protagonists are a breath of fresh air. The most well-known is That Time I Got Reincarnated As A Slime‘s Rimuru Tempest. While he is overpowered in every possible way, he is also a genuinely kind and generous soul, with good intentions and a warm, loving heart. The anime does have its dark twists, and Rimuru can be dangerous if crossed, but he’s a welcome change from the regular isekai protagonist.

6 OVERDONE: Harems Often Distort Good Plotlines

Ainz Ool Gown and Albedo in Overlord

Not every romantic relationship has to be monogamous, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The harem angle appears in a lot of anime as a form of wish fulfillment. It’s a theme many audiences enjoy, but it becomes very repetitive when combined with another specific theme like isekai. Even Rimuru, who starts out the story as a gelatinous and likely asexual slime, isn’t immune to this.

The same thing goes for Overlord‘s Ainz, who despite being unable to feel any kind of carnal urges, has characters like Albedo and Shalltear Bloodfallen fighting over him. Pursuing a harem can distort good plotlines and characters, turning individual releases with promise into just another isekai that follows the recipe.

5 WANT MORE OF: Meaningful Relationships Can Add A Lot To The Story

Anos is unfazed during battle

While the harem element is overdone, the solitary hero is just as much of a cliche. It’s far more endearing to see characters with a wide variety of connections, with family, friends, and even pets. Wise Man’s Grandchild centers on the overpowered protagonist Shin and lacks creativity in most fields. But the relationships between the main character and his adoptive family adds depth to characters who would have otherwise been bland and lackluster.

In The Misfit of Demon King Academy, the deepest relationship the protagonist Anos Voldigoad has is with his former enemy, the hero Kanon. When Kanon is reincarnated as Lay, the two become genuine friends, and Kanon’s desire to protect Anos goes so far that he is willing to sacrifice his own life. Anos’s bond with his new parents is also very endearing.

4 OVERDONE: Swords And Sorcery Have Been Done To Death

Saito and Louise from Familiar of Zero

By its nature, isekai involves worlds that are very different from that of a normal human. This often leads to the storyline taking place in magical worlds with a medieval vibe. In Familiar of Zero, Louise de la Valliere is a witch who summons the protagonist Saito Hiraga as her familiar. While this particular setting has charm and immense potential, there’s only so much creators can do with swords and sorcery before it becomes stale and repetitive.

3 WANT MORE OF: Other Genres Haven’t Been Explored Nearly As Much

Tanya Engages In A Skirmish

If fantasy is a genre that has been overly explored, other genres have been swept aside. Reverse isekai like The Devil Is A Part-Timer! provide a change, bringing the fantasy into our world instead of the other way around. But some themes are still left unexplored.

There isn’t a lot of sci fi isekai. Sword Art Online‘s Gun Gale arc introduces a more futuristic game, and the variety makes things interesting. The Saga of Tanya the Evil is more historical in nature than fantasy, combining magic with modern warfare. More series should look into the potential of the concept.

2 OVERDONE: Most Isekai Protagonists Die In Car Accidents Or Participate In Death Games

This is the visual poster for I'm Standing on a Million Lives.

By and large, car accidents are one of the most prevalent causes of death in the real world. It stands to reason that they would show up in anime, too, but isekai has taken it a step further, to the point that death by car accident has become a meme. It’s not even a random car, but always a truck. ‘Truck-Kun’ is now the most dangerous being in all anime. As much as fans appreciate this force of nature, maybe it would be time for a change.

RELATED: 10 Unique Ways To Be Isekai’d (That Aren’t Truck-Kun)

Another popular way of ending up in a isekai world is by playing a game. From Sword Art Online, to Overlord, I’m Standing on a Million Lives and Log Horizon, the concept is included in more and more shows. Death games are interesting, but with so many shows on the market, the element has lost much of its charm.

1 WANT MORE OF: Anime Should Include More Original Methods Of Traveling To Different Worlds

Kyo Kara Maoh Demon King Yuri Shibuya

One of the earlier and more underrated isekai animes, Kyou Kara Maou! displays the protagonist being absorbed into a different world through a toilet. It’s a unique and memorable element, keeping the series very present in the minds of its viewers years after its release. More recent isekai releases aren’t even making the attempt to be original anymore. Including more interesting methods of traveling to different worlds would be something many fans would welcome.

NEXT: 10 Weirdest Isekai Manga You Have To Read


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