Are there any actually good isekai manga?

I’m starting to think that Isekai are inherently terrible because of the weird power fantasy EVERY SINGLE ONE I’ve tried to read create.

I’m just curious if it’s a genre that can even BE good or if there’s a core problem with the “being transported to another world”?

Are there any ACTUALLY GOOD isekai manga out there?

Read InuYasha, Rumiko Takahashi is a legend.

that is all.

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I don’t really enjoy Inuyasha but it DEFINITELY avoids a lot of the bull in modern manga FOR SURE

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in that case my two other reccs are Vision of Escaflowne and Magic Knight Rayearth for that mecha/isekai action.

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I’ll check them out!

leans in, taps mic

Dot hack.

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oooh. is there a specific one you recommend? I think there’s like a dozen of them.

I remember REALLY liking the ones that used to happen on cartoon network but because it was cable they episodes came out random and I couldn’t keep track of the story.

Here are some that i like:
Reborn as Slime is good because the main character just uses his power to set up a country and chill out mostly. There’s an anime.
“I’m a Spider, So What” is a girl getting reborn in a fantasy world as a spider monster, in a big super-dangerous labyrinth. good because she starts out extremely weak and becomes strong using her smarts and a lot of luck. The series also does interesting stuff with the nature of reincarnation but that’s probably spoilers. An anime was announced i think
“I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level” is basically a slice of life where a woman gets reborn as an immortal witch and just spends her time chilling out with her wife and daughters

There’s also the whole subgenre of Otome Isekais which are all “i was reborn as the villain from my favourite dating sim and now i need to avoid the bad ending for me” and they’re all fun. best ones are:
“My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!” aka Bakarina because her name is Katarina and she is extremely freakin baka. Girl reborn as villainess attempts to avoid bad endings through the dumbest means possible, despite having completely succeeded within like the first chapter. Getting an anime sometime.
“I’m a Villainous Daughter, so I’m going to keep the Last Boss as a Pet” where the villainess remembers her past life too late to avoid the bad end, so she decides to go completely off book by marrying the evil villain who is supposed to destroy the world in that ending.

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I haven’t read it, but From Far Away is a cult classic among fans of shoujo manga

edit: ah, also. it’s a novel/anime rather than manga, but 12 Kingdoms is some good shit

In Another World, I’m Called the Black Healer is about a girl who gets pulled from modern Japan into a fantasy world and puts her MMO knowledge and love of medical dramas to use as a healer. What makes this one great is how her healing magic isn’t just “sparkly healing magic done!” but her really looking at the step by step process of cleaning out an injury then making sure things heal without causing complications. The cast is great, the politics of people vying for her attention/control over her, and handling trauma/PTSD realistically make this great.

Kamitachi ni Hirowareta Otoko is about an office worker who ends up dying and is reincarnated in a new world with the directive of “please enjoy life and be happy” so he ends up taming a slime monster and becomes a slime breeder. Really cute and heartwarming.

Restaurant to Another World is kinda isekai adjacent since it’s about a door to a restaurant that opens every seven days, but the restaurant itself doesn’t move. It’s about good food and happy memories and very heartwarming. Has an anime that’s really relaxing.

So, honestly, most of it is very good! It’s a big multi-media project that spans anime, manga, games, etc. The one you mentioned that was on toonami back in the day is dot.hack//sign and is one of my favorite anime.

And the thing about dot hack is… there’s a lot of talking and the story is often more ominous thematically (some entries more than others). I remember it as being dreamlike in some ways. Sign especially ends up not being about what you think it would. It’s not at all focused on the power fantasy stuff more contemporary isekai shows are obsessed with.

The games are good too! They can be a bit hard to go back to and given that they are games there is a power curve that could feed into a player driven power fantasy but they’re still very much about exploring their themes instead.

Sign is on Hulu last I checked. It’s still the best place to start.

I second Bakarina - or, “Katarina Claes and her Ever Expanding Galaxy Brain: The Manga” - for sure. Both shocked and super pleased that it’s getting an anime.

You could always give some western Isekai a shot (though admittedly not manga, obviously). Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court is pretty good. I’ve also got a soft-spot for the old 80s Dungeons & Dragons: The Animated Series, which Kieron Gillen’s comic DIE is something of a deconstruction by way of spiritual sequel to (not that you have to watch the former to appreciate the latter).

Oh, also, Hastings/GuriHiru’s Unbelievable Gwenpool is a fantastic isekai, and I highly recommend it if you like Marvel stuff at all. You could also argue for it being manga adjacent since the artists are Japanese.

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I know you asked for manga, but I cannot recommend Log Horizon enough; it’s a light novel series that has been adapted into 2 seasons of an anime (IDK if the anime is continuing, but the LN series had its latest release in March of last year after 3 years of hiatus).

The pitch is fairly standard, all the players playing an MMO at the time of an update get stuck in the game world, but rather than skewing towards a power fantasy, the series is interested in what this means for the players, the world, and the rules for both. The author has a history of playing MMOs and I’ve heard from folks that have played more MMOs than I have that those parts of it are very accurate. Also the anime’s opening goes hard (low quality, sorry).

E: I forgot to say, another reason it stands out for me is that the players are less concerned with finding out how to get out (because they have nothing to go on, it’s an MMO world), instead they focus on building a foundation on which they can live their new lives, because as far as they know they’re stuck here forever.

I haven’t seen Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash mentioned. I’ve read through a bunch of the light novels. Eventually it gets tedious we the painfully slow pace of character development, but it definitely doesn’t have issues with OP characters. The major issue is it ends very prematurely. The light novel series extends much further.

I have weird feelings about the genre. I want to like it less than I do. Some of it is shallow, but gratifying. I want to like it more than I do. Some of it explores interesting territory with depth, but the burnout can be quick, especially with super OP characters, even if it serves a use as a plot device.

There is a lot I can put up with in manga if it’s light-hearted reading. I don’t like it when characters start out OP for what feels like wish-fulfillment rather than as a plot device, but sometimes I’m fine with it. The one thing which really has become the deciding line to drop a story these days is the slave-girl thing. It’s the supreme contrivance where the MC is nearly forced to accept having a cute slave girl who forms a rapid emotional subservience and dependence on him because he’s the first person to not horrible abuse her in ages. It gets increasingly problematic that the MC often treats her in a secondary fashion without giving much regards to her deeper feelings and needs as an individual. The idea that he sees her as a sister or would never dream of seeing her sexually given the power dynamic comes off as sensible and admirable at first, but as it develops into a bizarre scenario where she is one-sidedly in love with him, yet he’s completely oblivious or just ignores it, it comes across as super unhealthy and abusive. If it were a one-off, I wouldn’t care, but it’s a trope in itself. You read it too many times without sufficient variation, and the whole ‘“good guy” preserving and benefitting off of unhealthy emotional relationships based off of dependence and low self-worth’ gets more and more f’d up the more you see it. Because it’s not just a quirk of that relationship in that one story in that one world. It feels too reflective of something not so awesome in our world.

I wouldn’t be more happy if the gender arrangement were different. I’d be fine with it if it came across as more of a consensual dom/sub sort of thing.

To be honest, I’d rather leave the slavery thing out altogether most of the time. It’s often not exploring some deep social commentary in a plot line full of real existential considerations. Some things shouldn’t be treated frivolously. It’s not that I want to sanitize the genre. It’s just slavery isn’t a gag, prop, or world builder.

Wait, what was the question?

Grimgar was one of the few Isekai I really enjoyed, the monster fights felt consequential and the focus on slow character development and slice-of-life meant that I connected to the cast a lot more except for Ranta. There was also the disturbing implication that people were being brought into Grimgar as fodder for an nation that was slowly expanding into monster occupied territory, which was a cool inversion of the chosen hero narrative.

I’m invading this topic with my webcomic heresy to spread the good word of KILL SIX BILLION DEMONS.

KILL. SIX. BILLION. DEMONS.

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Seconding Die! It’s super cool, though very dark.

The best isekais are probably the ones from before isekai was really a common term.
Personally I really want to rep Strange Dawn, which involved two high school girls being transported to a world where the local inhabitants are about two feet tall and also believe them to have some kind of mystical powers. There’s plenty of politics and fighting amongst the locals, but the main girls just want to go home and don’t have any special powers beyond being incredibly tall by comparison.

Here’s a list of shows you might want to look into, many of which were designed more for female audiences:
Fushigi Yugi, The Twelve Kingdoms, Magic Knight Rayearth, Kyo Kara Maoh, Escaflowne, and Now and Then, Here and There.
(That last one is very intense and contains many very distressing themes without making light of them. I think it’s the best show that I absolutely never want to watch again.)

I don’t read much manga but I can recommend some anime: .hack//SIGN is like 26 episodes of a group of friends in a chatroom in an MMO, only one is stuck there forever. Gets really philosophical and a lot of group politics. Has some LGBT and trans themes that I think are well-done but it isn’t my place to say. .hack//SIGN also has the single best soundtrack to any anime ever in my opinion. That’s half the reason to watch it.

Also the other one I’ll pick is Now and Then, Here and There, which is like a fantasy Isekai but you landed in a GRRM universe. So it’s really really dark, the hero can’t solve everything immediately, and it only gets worse for most of the run. (Warning, there is rape in this.) It seems out to subvert most Isekai tropes, but isn’t exploitative or dark for darkness’s own sake.

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