Are This Season’s Isekai Anime Any Good? – This Week in Anime

Lucas gets his first taste of the TWIA’s seasonal isekai sampler. Is there any spice this season, or is it all the same comfort food?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

All the anime series mentioned in this column are streaming on Crunchyroll.


Lucas, I hope you had a good night’s sleep because you’ll need every bit of energy you can to stay awake. Today, I want to welcome you to the most cherished of TWIA traditions: the isekai torture marathon. So throw back an energy drink or six, and join me in a world of pure imagination!


I’m running on two pots of coffee today, mostly because I watched more isekai in the days leading up to this column than I have in the past fourish years. I didn’t stay up late to watch them, but they haunted my dreams and left me with the complexation pictured below.

So that’s a neat situation. We here in the TWIA mines have been doing our seasonal Isekai Sampler Platter for a while now, and pretty much everyone was familiar with sitting through a half dozen shows with the same premise every three months. It is pretty exciting to have somebody fresh who’s not so jaded by it all! So tell me, Lucas, how did you enjoy your trip to another world?

So, I’d like to begin by standing before you, Nick, the good readers of TWIA and ANN, and whatever Gods we have yet to attack and dethrone, and formally apologize. I have been too critical of Sword Art Online over these past 12 years. Is it good? No! But the first half of that first season is pretty dang watchable, and I can only say that about maybe one of the isekai from this season; even then, I’m being pretty charitable.

Then again, we wouldn’t have an isekai glut every season for the past decade or so if SAO hadn’t become so unduly popular (Log Horizon was RIGHT THERE, people!) so maybe I can still be a lil mad at the video game tinged isekai that got the now Sisyphean boulder rolling.
All the hullabaloo about Kirito’s dual-wielding feels quaint with a decade-plus of hindsight. I even rather liked the Alternative movies they’ve made as a redo of that first arc! Yet there’s no denying Reki Kawahara has lathed a heaven with his success, and we’re left to suffer the consequences. Hell, this season, we even have a show that I’m pretty sure started as SAO fanfiction.

Okay, so I’ll be the first to admit that the premise of an isekai protag also getting stuck in what’s essentially a sequel to the first game he was trapped in is hilarious! However, this premise would work way better as a second season of an anime!

Because, as it stands, the show has done zero work in making me care about these characters or even explaining who the supporting cast is or how the world works!

Honestly, it doesn’t even sound that interesting. I keep seeing folks say the premise is sharp, but after years of seeing dudes who look exactly like that guy run around the same RPG world, it just strikes me as putting a hat on a hat. “Ha! You thought the game becoming real was cool? Well, what if it got EVEN REALER????” was the pitch, and then the author had no other ideas.

I suppose I did damn it with faint praise by saying that I could see a better-executed version of this premise working, but you’re right. Between the hollow writing and animation that switches between stiff and low-budget CG, I’ve already gone to bat for The New Gate too much.
What gets me is that even the stuff that could conceivably be unique ends up repeating stuff from other isekai stories. Like how Shin has still-living connections in the world from his first go-around and will presumably be catching up with them and everything that happened in his absence.

That’s a really interesting idea that was already used (and squandered) last year with Summoned to Another World for a Second Time. The whole damn thing is assembled from spare parts!

Wait, an ageless elf that’s lived a whole life now that the hero’s story is over and the great evil vanquished? That sounds like an excellent opportunity to explore ideas like the fleeting nature of peace, finding new meaning in life after loss, and delivering the best ideas of your predecessors to a new generation! I want to watch that ani—oh wait, that’s Frieren. Even the most appealing parts of this one have been done better elsewhere.

Let’s be fair; something even half that contemplative was never on the table. But I think The New Gate exemplifies how these stories often feel like regurgitation. Shin doesn’t have any defining features or even motivation. The world around him exists as a means for him to succeed in simple, uncomplicated ways to satisfy the audience in the most basic manner possible. And to occasionally stare at elf boobs.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: a lot of isekai are thinly veiled male power fantasies, and their ubiquity today gives both anime and video games a bad rap. Both these mediums have so much more to offer than wish fulfillment.

God, what I wouldn’t give for an isekai that was even a little bit critical of its protagonist/audience surrogate, like No More Heroes, which, now that I think about it, had a bunch of isekai stuff going on in the Travis Strikes Back game!
Hell, I’d be fine with wish fulfillment if those wishes were interesting. Or entertaining. But so many isekai shows posit that the greatest achievement one can attain is New Game+.

Ah yes, because you can unlock all of the waifus in that playthrough!

It’s just like, come on. Fiction is a world where you can do anything. You could make these new worlds whatever you want. Yet the conventions and trends of sites like Narou mean that even shows with better ideas and stakes still have to tack on inorganic video game logic.

I was talking about this with my buddy Georgia the other day. She just published a webcomic (everyone, go read Sun Princess on the MangaPlus Creators website!), and it became clear to me how ill-suited platforms like those are as anime adaptation farms. Popularity manipulation via bots is a huge issue on all of those platforms, and you see a lot of people chasing popular trends because there isn’t much money in those spaces unless a publisher sees your work at the top of the charts and offers the creator a book deal.

As for As a Reincarnated Aristocrat, I’ll Use My Appraisal Skill to Rise in the World, his outfit reminds me of the Merchant job from Bravely Default, and that’s about the nicest thing I can say about that anime.

Having been in this racket long enough, I can at least spot nuances between these shows, even if they do blend at a distance. Aristocrat has its faults, but it clears the bar of having characters with likable personalities who aren’t the protagonists. Furthermore, Ars’ power to see other people’s stats is incredibly dull, but it means his role is to find and manage strong people rather than having all the superpowers to himself. That is genuinely a step up from the average for this subgenre.

Ars squaring up throughout the season would be more interesting than a same-face protag-kun Gary Stuing his way through a video game. The show seems to be headed in the right direction with its politics around class and race, but too many isekai have fumbled that bag for me to give the show credit before the credits on the season finale roll.

Also “heading in the right direction” is more like, Ars doesn’t buy a slave, rather than having anything cogent to say beyond “poor people can have good stats too.” This is where my problem comes in. If this were just Ars recruiting people because he’s observant or has faith in people society dismisses, it’d be a lot more meaningful than him noticing Rietz has an A+ in Horses.

As a resident Tactics game sicko, I see the appeal in an anime about building an empire out of the resources and workforce available to Ars. Still, I’m skeptical of this series digging into the nuances and politics that would go into organizing a military campaign or creating a stable economy in conquered lands.

I bounced off the manga early on because of the art style, but I remember hearing that The Elusive Samurai is supposed to scratch that itch pretty well. The protagonist is too weak to fight most battles on his own, so he has to form allyships and agreements with other self-motivated people to reclaim his stolen nobility.
That’s…certainly part of it. But mostly, the appeal of that series is seeing Yūsei Matsui turn famous historical figures into the weirdest sonsabitches you’ve ever seen. One guy drinks a horse’s brain to make it run faster, and it’s not even the craziest thing that happens in that chapter.

Though on top of your point, it’s striking that even in Shonen Jump, a magazine often seen as homogenous to the point of self-parody, it still has more variety than Narou. I’ve seen a lot of stories about young boys wanting to be The Best at something, but they differ in their particulars. Meanwhile, this season marks at least the third time I have seen a person reincarnated as a monster and getting video game powers by eating stuff.

Aw man, speaking of anime that, for some reason, have WEIRD politics around slavery, Re:Monster sure seems like it’s poised to lord over some edges!

I have heard plenty of not-great things about where this show will go, but thankfully(?) the first episode was just boring and rote. Kinda depressing that we’re at that point already, huh?

I cannot believe this anime has an English dub! Remember when anime distributors would only do dubs for anime that they were confident would be popular or have broad audience appeal? It used to be a kind of signifier of quality when anime streaming platforms were first getting big, and now it’s going to anime that feels like “What if Goblin Slayer, but the opposite?!”
To be fair, these shows pull in consistent enough numbers that they often get big Collector/Special Edition home video releases. This mystifies me because Re:Monster was terminally dull. It’s a day-by-day account of a goblin hunting, eating, and shitting in the woods, and the power fantasy is that he’s got an adult human brain and is smarter than all these simple green creatures. The ultimate power fantasy is just being smarter than literal newborns.

Forgive me for taking TWIA to a horny place, but the monster designs in Re:Monster are way too human! I saw the trailer, and I know the fanservice is coming, but there is so much wasted monster kink potential by making most of the characters look like regular hot people but with slightly green skin and sometimes an excess of muscles and tattoos. If an isekai is going to pander to its audience, it should at least go all out to a niche audience, damn it!
My well-known anti-Monster Girl stance means I must spritz you with a spray bottle. But I agree that boring designs are another recurring issue with this trend. So many of these shows get pumped out by workmanlike production teams to fill out a quarterly report that it’s rare for any of them to have a memorable aesthetic. This is not helped by so many protagonists looking exactly like this.

Ah The Banished Former Hero Lives as He Pleases. Now that’s an anime that…exists? I’ll be honest: I remember nothing about this episode and forgot it existed until you shared this picture of the lead. Even then, I had to dig through my notes to remember what show he was from.
This one technically isn’t an isekai since The Artist Formerly Known as Hero up there technically gets reincarnated into the same world, but it’s an Isekai In All But Name if you ask me. It’s got the overpowered protagonist, the reincarnation, the instantly appearing group of girls for him to save in succession, the video game stats, and skills. Just because our protagonist doesn’t know what Dragon Quest is doesn’t keep it from looking and quacking like an otherworldly duck.

But hey, our hero is SECRETLY overpowered, surely that’s an original idea that hasn’t been done in this same season by anothe- oh gooseberries.

As someone who just did a TWIA last week that got SUPER semantical about the genre, I could care less if Former Hero fits the newly minted Oxford definition of the genre. It’s drawing from the usual sources of inspiration for isekai anime.

We’ll call it Spiritually Isekai.

Also, we did it! We’ve gotten to my favorite (read: least hated) isekai of the season! I don’t think I’d recommend Chillin’ in Another World With Level 2 Super Cheat Powers to anyone, but at least it’s leaning into the fact that it’s a horny male power fantasy, and I can at least respect that it knows what it is and who its fore.
It’s probably the premiere that made me the least sad of all of these, but it’s still not much to write home about. There’s only so much mileage you can get out of “Dude with bad hair doesn’t realize he’s ungodly powerful,” and Chillin’ broke its odometer midway through ep one.

At least Chillin’ seems like it’s written by a person who plays video games and makes jokes out of the idiosyncrasies in that community and medium. I got a chuckle out of Banaza clearing out an area he was under-leveled for and then got spammed with a ridiculous number of level-up screens.

And the gag where he changes his character model to the fem settings is also playing around with video game mechanics and makes me hopeful that the harem elements of this isekai won’t be as painfully vanilla and heteronormative as most of its contemporaries.

I have doubts about that. My major impression of this show is that it has such a weird half-measure gimmick. Instead of being teleported from our world, Banaza starts in a different medieval fantasy world that is only slightly different from the one he ends up in. It’s like if you or I woke up tomorrow in a world where red and yellow traffic lights were switched, but everything else was the same. That’s the damn point?

Oh yeah, I’m not holding my breath for Chillin’ to be the level of genre refresh as last year’s 100 Girlfriends was for harem anime, but it is at the top of the heap this season for me.

That is probably accurate, yeah, which highlights how dire this season’s isekai slate is. I’ve been to these sampler platters many times, and there have definitely been some good shows, even standouts! But this season is just a dearth of original or interesting ideas.

I mean, that’s par for the course, considering episode one had this:

Frankly, I think it’s pretty brave for a show to let women be sex criminals instead of just the Mushoku Tensei protagonist. Truly, we’re blazing new trails in tepid anime fanservice.

Feminism means supporting women’s rights and women’s wrongs!!!

Editor’s note: No.

Seriously though, I can’t bring myself to be upset about that character design because it’s so ugly it’s kinda sad. Like, oh, they just slapped together as many Sexy Costume Ideas as they could and trotted it out like the horny Frankenstein monstrosity it is.

As someone who noped out of Jobless Reincarnation for normalizing sex crimes, I got the ick from 7th Prince immediately. I’m not looking forward to the new round of discourse from surprisingly prominent folks in the anime space saying, “I mean, if you can overlook the pedophilia, this one’s pretty good! The world-building’s fantastic!”

What would you even call this art style? It’s like chibi but edgy and captures none of the charm from either discipline.

All I know is that besides the uncomfortable slime of overly shiny child thighs, 7th Prince is just as dull as its pseudo-isekai brethren. It’s just louder and has some decent animation. Otherwise, it’s the same power fantasy of being born special and unrivaled across the universe.

As I said, past seasons have given at least a few interesting gimmicks or some genuinely inspired twists on the formula. Spring has offered the same plate of unseasoned egg whites with moderately different garnishes.
Yeah~ even a somewhat novel art direction isn’t enough to make up for 7th Prince‘s sins or make it feel like more than another jaunt down a well-worn trail you’re treading on balding bedrock.

Though, I guess in a season where Jobless Reincarnation, KONOSUBA, and Reincarnated as a Slime are all coming back, it makes sense that the premiereing isekai would all be second stringers at best. Even with its size today, the isekai market can still cannibalize itself.

Eh, even in sequel-heavy seasons, we’ve gotten good shows before. What it feels like to me is that we are scraping the barrel for stories to adapt. Isekai and all the various circumstances that have led to its proliferation in the past decade feel like a pig being repeatedly fed its poop, struggling to wring nutrients from its increasingly recycled list of tropes until it starves to death. There is still room for creative things within the trend, but they feel increasingly anomalous.

But if these isekai aren’t made, then diehard fans won’t be able to buy the figures and official merch of all the new waifus! And executives won’t make as much money if people who spend too much time reading power fantasy stories don’t buy merchandise! Are you telling me that you’d rather have less derivative and cynically produced anime in a given season, even if it means a group of anonymous people who already have more money than sense will have to take a pay cut???

I want interesting stories, and when a minimum of 10% of every season is dedicated to stuff thrown together to fill a quarterly report, it can get a little demoralizing. At the bare minimum, please, everyone involved, find a better story premise than this: