Why does everyone want to visit “ISEKAI”?
The word “Isekai” is a Japanese word meaning “another world”. To be simple, Isekai is one of the category of anime genre. It is the story about a protagonist who got suddenly transported from their world into an unfamiliar fantasy world. The main task of this anime genre is to find the way back home or just survive in the current situation.
The 4 mutual plots in most “ISEKAI” anime
It is undeniable that Isekai anime use the same plot again and again for about a decade. However, the popularity of this anime genre still skyrocket which we can see from the top 10 anime chart of the year. There are always 2-3 Isekai stories appearing on the chart. Thus, we will represent you the main plot of every Isekai anime.
1.) The protagonist is always a man who live a relatively unsatisfied life. Some of them are bullying victims. For the worst case, they will be Hikikomori, the one who seeking for extreme degrees of social isolation. Moreover, most of them are game addiction. So, That is why they are familiar and do their job well in the fantasy world.
2.) To transport to the Isekai world, there are 2 main solutions. Firstly, the protagonist must die by an accident. Secondly, the mage from the another world summons him in order to save the that world. However, the memory in the past of protagonist will not be erased when they come to fantasy world.
3.) The protagonist in the Isekai world always posses an overpowered item or skill. On the other hand, Some anime give the main character new appearance to be handsome and perfect body. Normally, they don’t have to practice hard in order to gain power like other anime genre.
4.) The one thing that is necessity for Isekai anime is “harem”. We can recognised that most of beautiful girls in the story will get a crushed on protagonist.
Who is the targeted audiences?
Most of Isekai anime are categorised as “Seinen”. It is a Japanese comics aiming toward a demographic of young adult men between the age of 18 and 25. There are several nudity and violent scene appeared on Isekai anime genre.
Why is it so popular amongst young adult men?
From our point of view, there are 3 main reason why Isekai anime surge is surging in popularity amongst their targeted audience.
1.) The theme of fantasy world that is similar to RPG
The Isekai world that the protagonist visits is usually a fantasy world originated from RPG(Role Playing Game) which is one of the pop culture in Japan. The main theme of the fantasy world will contain magic power, monsters, and artifacts. Plus, the main character can develop themselves through the level system like what it has in RPG game. The main audiences who familiar with RPG will also easily understand what it happens in Isekai anime.
2) The origin of protagonist and his overpower ability
It can’t be deniable that men especially in Japan still get more expectation from family and society comparing to women. They are expected to be strong, smart, and capable for taking care their family. Nevertheless, some of them cannot deal with the high expectation and finally become the outcast of the society. The targeted audience also wishes that if they have second life to allow them to develop themselves and achieve their goals. The scene in the anime can illustrate what they wish. That is why the same plot of Isekai genre is not boring toward the targeted audience.
3.) Harem and nudity
Due to the fact that men are the targeted audience of the Isekai anime, the scene in anime will be gender power asymmetry which force it for the pleasure of the male viewer. It relates to the male gaze theory. Women in the anime mostly show as a sex object for the main protagonist and the viewers. There are many scene that women characters reveal skin and body parts more than it usually be. For example, the fighting scene in Isekai anime often show us the ripped female characters’ outfit and appear some part of body.
How it shapes society?
According to the theses paper(Lu, Curtis,2020), it noted that in form of certain themes, characters, and plots of Isekai genre “it contributes to social problems like suicide and shut-ins. Escapism is a central theme in many isekai works, and whole escapism is healthy to a certain extent, some take the concept too far, often getting lost in their own fantasies”. We agree with this statement in some extent because the Isekai plot keep stereotyping the picture of happy afterlife again and again. It create the illusion that if we die, we can restart their life and be special and important in another world. This might contribute some audiences who stuck with their problem decide to escape the reality instead of dealing with it. Russia is the first country trying to ban several Isekai Anime series in order to protect children from theme of reincarnation.
Spectacle/cultural commodity in Isekai Genre
Cartoon is considered one of the biggest industry in the world that becomes pop culture of cartoon and animation. Japan alone can make a profit of cartoon industry in Thailand around 5 Billion Bath. In market of Japanese animation industry, there are other commodities like figure,games, and excessive things apart from the printed manga and Tv series. In addition, those thing promote each other in the way that they create the false need in the society.
Isekai genre can fulfill the audience by creating the world that everything is possible. People can start a new life for a second chance to fix what they are lacking in the reality. As Guy Debord explains in the society of the spectacle, “the world we see is the world of the commodity”.
Cultural commodity itself expands by popularity and Isekai anime do the same as it becomes the main stream of anime genre in the past 10 years. The popularity in pop culture makes a cultural diffusion in the next step and we can see this anime genre outside Japan as well. Thanks to the internet that make it easier to create and share the story to others. It becomes a stimulus diffusion where the idea is changed based on the adapters. So, there’s many Isekai anime but there’s some anime in the same genre that stands out from others depends on the idea of the author to make the story interesting and fresh.
However, it can’t deny that this kind of cultural Commodity most likely disturbing the daily life of individual as it create illusion of semiotics that people can misconceive about the social world. In some country, Isekai genre is banned because it contrast the the religious believes, so it is banned in order to prevent suicidal that might happened from the Isekai concept.
Is Isekai genre related to postmodernism?
Hypereality in Isekai
In the world that reality is shifted by the signs and images, it distorts the truth in and replace with the represented reality. As Jean Baudrillard’s study of the hyper reality world, “the distinction between media and reality has collapsed, and we now live in a reality defined by images and representations”. It is a state of simulated reality where Isekai anime can fill the world with fantasy, medieval age, dragon, magic, super natural power, etc. It could say that it is an unlimited possibility in this simulated world provide and people seems to embrace them as it can fulfill what they can’t achieve in the real life. This cartoon genre uses the principles of the virtual world to make it easy for people to be fascinated. With the discouragement of the story, it allows the protagonist to start a new life in different places or at different times. It will reflect the truth very well in the minds of the audience as well as the social conditions that they face. And ready to escape in search of the world of cartoons that are fulfil the disappointments or the emotions of human beings as well.
The idea of Pastiche
As mentioned above, anime especially in different world genres, has begun to see a dramatic increase in productivity. Due to its popularity in a certain period of time, it can be observed from one of the Japanese website called Shousetsuka Ni Narou. This website allows casual writers to create their own stories on the webs site. The society on this site will share the instant recipes for beginners before adapt it by their way. Those novels or light novels will be a key factor in publishing marketplaces whether those writings are effective enough to be able to make manga or anime. The story that turned out to be a successful anime will serve as a role model for many writers. It could say that approaching in any market will be a lot of things to do before people start to pay attention to the work. For the hope of best response in a high competitive atmosphere. It’s easy to see the same plots and gags like the one that becomes meme “truck sang” around the corner. However, people want new and excitement so, there’s a chance to flip the table and working from a new angle.
Lu, Curtis, “The Darker Sides of the Isekai Genre: An Examination of the Power of Anime and Manga” (2020). Master’s Projects and Capstones. 1009. https://repository.usfca.edu/capstone/1009