Taking a look at the top 9 isekai anime.

This is an idea I’d been thinking about writing for a while now, and with some bigger names from the genre getting new entries, I think it’s a good time to go over what I believe to be the top 9 isekai anime. Why 9? No reason.

Something that I’ve seen fellow blogger Dewbond bring up a few times now is the idea of a “big four” of isekai, and I have to admit that I’ve thought about that same topic before too, because for the most part isekai happens to overlap perfectly with my favourite genre: fantasy. Which in turn makes isekai a genre that I tend to really enjoy.

No game no life jibril

For my list, I’m not going to list the anime based on how much I enjoyed them, but instead I’m going to try to use a more metric based approach. Things like popularity, whether the anime has completely wrapped up (Ex. Tenkuu no Escaflowne) or is presumed dead (Ex. No Game No Life), total episode count, and maybe some other factors.

The point is I want to list isekai anime based on how “big” they are, and how much impact they have or had on the genre as a whole. While I don’t think I’ll miss any big names, as a disclaimer I’ll mention that it’s possible I miss something, especially if it’s an older anime as I haven’t watched too many older isekai.

So let’s get to the list, starting from the top!

#1. Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu

I’ve selected Re:Zero as the currently most influential isekai anime out there.
And I have several reasons for it.

First off is it’s popularity. An easy metric to look at. While MyAnimeList doesn’t represent everyone, and may not be an accurate gauge of it’s popularity in Japan, I’m still going to use these numbers because it’s convenient. And Re:Zero is one of the most popular isekai anime on MAL with 1,361,363 members (for season 1) as of right now.

Secondly, Re:Zero has a lot of content. It’s not just 12 episodes, and that’s all. It’s got a robust first season, a currently partly finished second season, a prequel movie, and who knows what else we’ll get from this series in the future. The fact is, it’s not dead, and it’s still making it’s mark with continued production.

Thirdly is due to Rem. I don’t have the stats to back this up, but I believe that Rem is one of the most merchandised anime characters of all time. Anecdotally I can say that when I visited some anime figure shops in Akihabara, Rem was everywhere. She’s incredibly popular, and you can basically find her with any pose, and any outfit. I saw entire display cases full of Rem figures, and I think because they’ve produced so many over the years, they weren’t too expensive either (6 inch tall figures for ~¥600).

The fact is, merchandise, such as posters, figures, blu-rays, et cetera, are a big part of what determines whether an anime will die, or live on. And Rem basically singlehandedly ensures that Re:Zero can continue on, as she’s become such a cash cow for the series. Which tells me that Re:Zero probably isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon.

#2. Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!

Next up on the list is KonoSuba.
I actually think that KonoSuba is not too far behind Re:Zero.

KonoSuba currently has 1,176,477 members on MAL, putting it very close to Re:Zero in regards to popularity. While it’s a completely different take on the isekai genre, as it’s a comedy anime, it’s still managed to become one of the most recognizable isekai anime out there I think. As well as one of the best comedies, in my opinion.

And in addition to popularity, KonoSuba has it’s wonderful characters to thank for what I believe to be strong merchandising. Just like Rem for Re:Zero, both Aqua and Megumin are incredibly popular, although I’m not sure if both of the combined quite reach Rem’s popularity when it comes to anime figures and the like. Again, I don’t have the stats for this, because I’m too lazy to look it up, but from what I know both of these characters are quite popular and as a result probably give the series some good merchandise sales.

Which is good for the series, and gives incentives for it to continue, which we’ve seen with the KonoSuba movie that came out last year. Unfortuantely, when it comes to content, KonoSuba doesn’t have as much as Re:Zero, with only the two seasons totaling 20 episodes and a movie. And that’s the main reason for why I put it at #2 instead of the top spot – less content.

Aside from the content though, KonoSuba is a very prominent isekai anime and definitely deserves the #2 spot. I have a good feeling we’ll get more from this series in time.

#3. Overlord

Next in line is Overlord, with 963,158 members on MAL. Overlord was an interesting case, I think, as it came on the scene in 2015 and then that was it for almost 3 years. I remember first watching it and loving it, but then wondering if we’d ever see anything more from it.

And then in 2018, Overlord came back with not one, but two seasons. And what was just another solid isekai anime in 2015 all of the sudden became one of the bigger titles in the genre in 2018. I certainly was surprised to see it, and pleased as well.

With 3 seasons totaling 39 episodes, Overlord has a good amount of content to sink your teeth into. That plus it’s popularity are the main reasons I give it the #3 spot on the list.

When it comes to merchandise, I really just don’t know how well it did / does. I imagine characters like Ainz, Albedo, and Shalltear have done OK, but I don’t really see much popularity on the character front like with the prior two titles.

Regardless, even if it did have an iconic character like the previous two isekai, I still think Overlord would remain here at the #3 spot due to being less popular overall, but still a big name when it comes to isekai.

#4. Log Horizon

While the previous 3 isekai were an easy pick, this #4 spot is a little contested. In particular, I think that there is one other anime that could end up taking this spot in the future. I also believe that Log Horizon could end up taking the #3 spot in the future too, but for now, I’m putting it here at #4.

Log Horizon is a quite popular series, with 822,775 members. All things considered, it’s not all that far behind Overlord. I’ll be honest, I was surprised it was this popular, but there’s a reason for that – it’s been 5 years since it’s last aired!

In fact, I wouldn’t have considered Log Horizon at all if it weren’t for one detail – a new season is airing in Winter 2021. Which means that this great isekai series that seemed to have been on its deathbed is coming back to life.

And since Log Horizon is getting some new content injected into it, it more than makes sense that it takes the #4 spot. The first 2 seasons, sitting at a whopping 25 episodes each, give us a total of 50 episodes! It’s already a quite robust series, and with some new content on the way, that’s only going to increase, which is why I think there may be a good argument for Log Horizon to move up a spot in the “Big Four” in the future, should Overlord not keep up!

#5. Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari

Otherwise known as The Rising of Shield Hero.

This is the up and coming isekai anime that I could see taking the #4 spot in the top 4 at some point in the future. At the moment, it’s already got 804,688 members despite only being one year old.

It’s first season, like Log Horizon, was a solid 25 episodes, giving it a strong entry into the genre. In addition, we’ve got 2 more seasons that have been announced and that are in the works, with the second season projected to air in 2021. This alone gives Shield Hero the potential for some serious content, depending on how many episodes these new seasons give us.

In addition, Shield Hero has something that I don’t think both Overlord and Log Horizon have: a popular, merchandise-friendly character. In Shield Hero’s case, Raphtalia is a character that seemed to do very well and get quite a bit of attention online. Again, I don’t have any stats to back this up, but if her online popularity is any indicator, she’s likely doing fairly well when it comes to selling merchandise for the series.

So when you put all of that together, I believe that Shield Hero has the potential to push it’s way into the top 4 of isekai anime, possibly moving up to the #3 spot, even. We’ll have to see how it goes, and how the other isekai anime go as well. But at this moment, with only a single season, I decided that it’s not quite in the top 4 just yet.

#6. No Game No Life

No isekai list is complete without No Game No Life. The anime that I’d like to say is isekai’s “sweetheart”, some people may complain about the fan service but I think almost everyone agrees that this series needs a sequel!

No Game No Life is actually the MOST popular isekai on MAL, with 1,629,585 members! At the moment, it’s the 10th most popular anime on the website.

As we all know, No Game No Life could easily make it higher on the list except for one thing – it only has a single 12 episode season, and a prequel movie. While the prequel movie was a good sign for another season, the fact is that we have yet to see anything so far. It’s been 6 years since No Game No Life aired, and it’s hard to say if anything more will come of it.

I don’t want to call it dead, because Log Horizon just got another season after 5 years, and you never know, but at the moment, No Game No Life is teetering on the edge of death.

But even if it never gets another season, it’ll always be isekai’s “sweetheart” I think, and the anime that always makes the lists of “anime that need another season”.

#7. Tensei shitara Slime Datta Ken

As much as I personally didn’t enjoy it, I can’t deny that the slime anime has become a fairly prominent isekai anime.

It currently sits at 648,392 members on MAL, with it’s 24 episode first season finished. In addition, there is a 2-part second season on the way, which I imagine will total another 24 episodes after all is said and done.

Plus, I think the slime anime has a very cute and colourful cast that I have to imagine does and will do pretty well when it comes to merchandise. No stats, but that’s my hunch.

So overall, I pretty much have to give the slime anime a mention here!

Slime Anime Rimuru Tempest

#8. Youjo Senki

Otherwise known as The Saga of Tanya the Evil.

While in a completely different vein from all of the previous entries, Youjo Senki is indeed an isekai anime and as such earns a spot on this list. It’s sitting at 559,131 members at the moment, and is a fairly well known anime.

I think the biggest drawbacks for Youjo Senki, aside from being less popular than previous entries on the list, is just the lack of content, as we only have a single 12 episode first season and a single movie. That said, the movie did just air in 2019 so it’s still way too soon to call this series over and done with. We could easily get more content in the future.

As for Tanya, I actually have no clue how well she has done in regards to merchandise. I feel like she got a little attention when the series first came out, but after that I can’t really say, I don’t know.

#9. Gate: Jieitai Kanochi nite, Kaku Tatakaeri

*Edit – After thinking about it, I’m not so sure Gate is even an isekai, considering there is a… gate, and the characters can move freely back and worth. I guess it’s sort of an isekai… just like SAO is sort of an isekai, which would mean it shouldn’t be on the list I think. No semi-isekai on this list!

#9. Zero no Tsukaima

Otherwise known as The Familiar of Zero.

It’s been a long time since I watched this one, I got through it once but in the second attempt Louise was too abusive for me to want to follow through. Anyways, Zero no Tsukaima is actually a good pick for the #9 slot. The first season sits at 631,020 members, making it pretty popular. It’s fairly old (2006), although it feels odd to say that considering 2006 to me feels more recent. Then again, I’m in the camp that still feels like the 90’s were just a decade ago.

Zero no Tsukaima has a great deal of content, too. It definitely was popular back in the day, to get 4 seasons, totaling 49 episodes. Overall, I think it’s a fitting anime to cap off the list.

And that’s the list of what I believe to be the top 9 isekai anime at the moment.
Not in terms of enjoyment, but purely in terms of popularity and influence in the isekai genre. (That said, popular and influential anime tend to be enjoyable, hence their popularity…)

I could be off with my assumptions when it comes to merchandise for some of the anime, but I’m pretty certain I’m right about the top 2, and the rest I feel like belong in their respective positions regardless at the moment.

Some of you may be wondering why I made no mention of Sword Art Online, as it shares many qualities with isekai anime. The thing is, Sword Art Online is technically not an isekai and we can see this based on how many different worlds the anime bounces around to throughout the entire series. If the entire series had Kirito trapped in a single world, I think there’d be an argument, but that’s just not the case in the actual series.

Anyways, what did you all think of the list?
Agree? Disagree? Are there any isekai anime I missed that you think are worth mentioning here? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

Until next time,
Thanks for reading.

7 thoughts on “Taking a look at the top 9 isekai anime.

  1. In terms of the current pantheon, this is probably pretty accurate. Gate is the only one I might dispute, but it was at the bottom of your list anyway and I don’t know what else to replace it with if you don’t want to include SAO (which does count in my book, but I don’t want to rehash that old argument again).

    It is kind of interesting to compare with the popular isekai of past decades, though.

    1980s: Aura Battler Dunbine, Mashin Hero Wataru. Both isekai mecha anime. Dunbine is generally considered both the first isekai TV anime and the first fantasy/mecha hybrid series.

    1990s: El Hazard, Fushigi Yugi, Escaflowne, Magic Knight Rayearth. InuYasha sometimes gets lumped in with isekai though I disagree with that label, but toss that on the pile too if you want. Some of these carry over the mecha elements from 80s isekai, but the major evolution seems to be the increased emphasis on romance, which is central to all of the above stories except El Hazard.

    2000s: Spirited Away, Familiar of Zero, .hack//, Digimon Adventure, 12 Kingdoms. Starting to see more diverse offerings here, with pure fantasy adventures, the origins of the “trapped in a digital world” subgenre, and FoZ bringing the harem comedy to isekai.

    2010s: Your list, basically. SAO (whether you count it as an isekai itself or not) inspired an explosion of isekai in general and “digital world” isekai in particular. I’d argue the major innovation of this decade are the stories that change the transported hero into something recognizably non-human, like “Slime.” That was something I don’t ever remember seeing until just a few years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I actually thought about that when I woke up. I don’t really think Gate is an isekai, at least in the same vein as what I’m covering here. I’ve taken away it’s spot and instead given it to Zero no Tsukaima, which seems fitting considering the popularity and 4 seasons it has.

      I also find it really interesting how the genre has shifted from mecha / fantasy into it’s current pure fantasy / video game fantasy style. I guess the idea of isekai in general just mimics what’s popular in society. The idea at its core is just escaping modern society for some fantastical world, so it makes sense that the fantasy side would change with the trends.

      Can you think of any other anime that follow the “non-human” idea? The Slime anime in itself isn’t even a good example I think, as the slime form is abandoned for a human one halfway through the season and they basically never look back from there except for the odd moment.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rimuru is still biologically a slime, though, even if he can shapeshift into human form. Otherwise if it was just a matter of appearance then we could put Overlord in that group, too, even though Ainz is an avatar form rather than a reincarnation.

        Anyway, can’t think of other anime that are out right now, but “So I’m a Spider, So What?” is airing in January – it was supposed to come out this year until Covid – and that’s one where I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about the books for a couple of years now. But there are a decent number of LN/manga out there that could at least theoretically get anime in the future, for instance “Re:Monster,” “Reincarnated as a Dragon’s Egg,” “Reborn as a Vending Machine I Wander the Dungeon,” “Reborn as a Polar Bear Forest Guardian,” “Reincarnated as a Sword,” and “Isekai Onsen” are some that I’ve at least heard of, though I haven’t read any of them so I can’t vouch for the quality.

        Liked by 1 person

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