Isekai is a part of the manga industry that started as a niche in the 90s with some of the weirdest concepts and ideas. But in today’s world, it looks like there is no escape from isekai stories in the fantasy genre.
Isekai is that genre in which the protagonist of the story is someone from a different world, most commonly it is the real world that we live in and then the protagonist either dies or is directly transported to another world.
Isekai in Anime and Light Novels
The anime landscape is riddled with the isekai genre, with every season having at least 5 to 6 anime that fit the reincarnation route. While there have been some of the most amazing anime airing in the last few years being isekai like Re: Zero and Mushoku Tensei, which we will talk about later, the genre has been corrupted by the mainstream.
And over in the light novel world, isekai or shoujo are the only two genres popular with those audiences. That leaves the manga aspect of the Japanese media. Thankfully only the best come to be published in the manga sphere and here are some of the best manga you can pick up and read.
What Makes a Good Isekai Story?
Isekai is genre-based specifically on its premise. The premise for a good story makes the whole isekai sell. If the story only revolves around the protagonist achieving something then it makes the isekai fall on its head.
Isekai fans crave the best of pitches to grab them and hold them with their teeth clenching for the next release whether it be anime or light novel or manga.
For a list centred on Isekai, it only feels appropriate to showcase these anime by the starting pitch that hooked audiences on the first read, whether it be transported as something not human or being born as a child in another world, these are some of the most amazing isekai journeys which will make you want more.
10. Gensou Gourmet
Did you love the shounen title, Shokugeki no Souma, or Food Wars, for the west and the concept of bringing life into the cooking world? Well, the high concept of experiencing the best of dishes is taken to its highest peaks in Gensou Gourmet, as it combines the delicious flavour of food and adds an isekai element to it.
If you’re looking for an action-packed affair with great dragons and magical fairies, this anime is not for you but it is for the people who are looking for a twist in the isekai genre.
Shinichirou, our protagonist slips into another world just like you would slip steps of stairs. But where he ends up turns out to be a magical affair.
In a world with no humans at all, the protagonist of our story scams people left and right to make ends meet until he meets the heir of one of the ruling families in this fantasy, Bart.
While his house is falling apart, both in wealth and fame, Bart finds Shinichirou on the streets and offers him food, shelter and clothing for some consultancy. And our hero uses his intelligence in business consultancy, which was his previous job to bring Bart back into power.
This earns him a great house and a beautiful maid, while she may be rude she does her work right. Now feeling relaxed in his job and house in this second life, Shinichirou is ready to explore his greatest passion, food.
While he might enjoy Earth’s greatest delicacies like venison, here he tastes something more fantastical, for example, a dragon’s finger steak. Yeah, that’s a real thing in this world and just a glimpse into what is an adventure that will completely satisfy you if you’re looking for something more of cuisine in your isekai manga.
9. Yakuza Reincarnation
Nowadays all the isekai stories have the same, the relatable recluse protagonist who has nothing in the real world to tie him to and seeks pleasure in video games and light novels. He dies because of some accident and goes into another world. There he becomes an overpowered hero and saves the world. The end.
Well, Yakuza Reincarnation is anything but that, with a premise out there with the best of isekai this is one of the most hilarious and action-packed series you’ll find in the manga business today.
The dragon of Shinjuku is an old man now with only his lady tattoo on the back signalling his golden days in the past. When one of his Yakuza family members betrays him by sending a bunch of young goons, the dragon can’t take them out like he used to.
But recalling the people he helped and who cherish him, he takes the punk with him when he decides to end the fight by jumping off the brush into the river. Here, a water goddess takes away his life by physically pushing his heart into the deep river.
And when he wakes up the punk gang has now changed into an army of wizards with a giant goblin trying to eat him alive. But nothing can stop him now as he has come to another world with a youth filled body of a young princess on the run.
This is his/her story of getting to know what happened to him and trying to get out of this magical fantasy world.
8. The Rising of the Shield Hero
This is a great dark fantasy with a message of connecting with other people and living life in a hopeful way. And to the contrary, the protagonist of our story is a man named Naofumi who gets summoned to a royal palace in a prophecy ritual that transports four different heroes.
While all the other heroes have knowledge about a world like this and great weapons to start their journey, not to mention people who are willing to follow them to help them in their journey into another world, our hero has nothing.
Equipped with a shield as his main weapon, and knowing nothing about MMORPG games, because he is a reading nerd, not a gaming one. He has no companions in the beginning but one woman steps up pities him and gets along with him.
But as luck would have it, though she is nice to him during the early days, as soon as he goes to sleep, the woman Mien accuses him of assault which not only strips him of his hero fund but his missed is announced throughout the kingdom so that no one would be able to help him.
While he was optimistic about his journey, in the beginning, he resents fighting to save the lives of the citizens of this another world.
The story revolves around Naofumi’s journey of saving these people from their impending doom while learning to appreciate and love the people around him.
7. That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime
Turned into one of the biggest isekai anime of all time, That Time I was Reincarnated as a Slime is a fun ride from start to finish.
The story starts with Minami Satoru, a college graduate working in a construction company, he had his life sorted. But the one thing that bugged him was his younger brother. Having taken all the family’s fortune his younger brother was cooler and fashionable, he even had a fiance while our hero Satoru was a virgin.
One fine day, as his younger brother was showing off his fiance to his senpai, a man can run down the street holding a kitchen knife in his hand. Satoru pushed his younger brother to the side and took the blow. As he was dying because of the loss of blood he only had one wish, to destroy his computer after he was dead.
While he is dying, Satoru introspects his situation, while a computer program in his head keeps recording the conversation and turning it into skills.
When he comes to consciousness he realizes he has been transported into another world and reborn as a slime. Now, with a chatty dragon and one of the hardest dungeons in the world in front of him, Rimuru is trying to survive in this world living his new life as a slime.
If you are looking for a back to basics manga that explores all the nuances of an MMORPG gamer then Overlord is the story for you.
Yggdrasil was a game that ran for 10 years but in its last minutes, the greatest guild’s members all came online for one final time.
But as all the other players were taking their leave, the player Momonga decided to stay till the servers were going to go down, to respect the game that he spent a lot of time cherishing all the perfect features of the game.
But at the last second, as it seemed like the server was down, Momonga opened his eyes. His hands turned to skeletal hands, his NPC butler tending to all his needs, a beautiful consort at his command and a 10 level deep dungeon, his new life is perfect.
On top of all that he has an overpowered staff in his hands and a kingdom to rule. But that’s not all, as the fun in Overlord begins when you come to know that Momonga has created not just Ainz but a cast of characters he can take control of at any time, and all of them have their journeys to reach their maximum potential.
Overlord takes the concept of an overpowered protagonist and bumps up the entertainment to another level.
5. Ascendance of a Bookworm
This is one of the best worldbuilding that anime has ever achieved. Any fan of fantasy will feel right at home in this world.
The premise for this one guarantees a pretty good time for people who like their fantasies to be slow and detailed, pointing out the way children are brought up, the values inbuilt in different people depending on the jobs that they do in this world.
Our protagonist is a young woman who has just acquired her lifelong dream of being a librarian but in a twist ending, she does when a high pile of books collapse on her. As she is about it dies she asks for one final wish, to be reborn in a world where she can read books.
But in an ironic twist, she wakes up in a body of a 5-year-old, and in a world where the printing press isn’t a thing and books are expensive because they have to be written by hand and paper and ink are valuable things, making books a real luxury.
And lo and behold our protagonist has been born into a family who is so poor that there is a constant need to worry about food and shelter.
So our girl goes on a mission to make her book, for which she needs to make her papers and ink which is a long but valuable journey, teaching us valuable lessons about things that we take for granted in a digital world.
4. Re: Zero
This is one of the darkest mangas that I’ve ever read in my life. While the premise might sound basic in the beginning, the execution of the concept is taken to the highest peak.
Our protagonist, Subaru is a recluse who plays video games in his apartment and only comes out to replenish his food needs. And once he came out of his hole to buy some chips and as he is getting out of the supermarket he finds himself in a crowded market full of people in bright sunlight day.
While he wonders for a minute about what happened to everything around him and his home, he feels great about this sudden shift in atmosphere and has an optimistic look into the world around him.
In the first few chapters, we see Subaru exploring the world around him. But the twist in the story comes when Subaru dies after spending a day with a girl that he likes. Here we get to know that Subaru has been revived right to the spot where he first enters this world.
This sets off an adventure where Subaru finds out the reason that he has this power and gets caught up in the royal crowning of the kingdom.
The story explores the deep and torturing lengths that we as human beings are ready to go for someone that we love. But the one disclaimer that anyone wanting to watch this show should know about the trigger warnings because this certainly is not the show for people who are struggling with their own lives.
3. No Game No Life
This is one for the gamers, with a lot of references to board games, old console games and even mobile gacha games.
The series has been one of the most requested by fans to be adapted into an anime, though the first season is out, there have been no updates on the situation of the second season.
The story follows a pair of siblings, a brother and a sister, who are recluses who play video games all day long. The first page takes us to an MMORPG where an army of 1200 players is challenged by just 8 players.
And in the next panel, all of the 1200 players have been defeated. The manga makes references to Urban Legends being one of the most boring things, as many rumours are generated to explain them but the truth is the plainest one.
The people controlling all the 8 players were just a pair of siblings, Sora and Shiro. While we see the absurdity of their lifestyle, they receive a message from an unknown source, who gives them a link and asks them about their misplacement in the world.
And once they beat him at chess, they are transported to a world of board games, where all they have to do is win the game.
This sets off a journey that sees our protagonists develop with the games that they play, learn about the outer world, and become responsible people through the simplicity of gaming.
2. Moonled Journey Across Another World
This is the funniest reincarnation story on this list. It all starts with Misumi Makoto, who is a child of people from another world. So one day when he is just going to sleep, he drifts to a plane where he meets the god of the moon, Tsukuyomi.
The god informs Makoto of his parents being from another world and that as their tax they decided to give something precious from the real world, as a result, Makoto was in this situation.
When asked further he finds out that if he refused to go, one of his younger sisters would be forced to go to this other world. Despite being reluctant, he agrees to make the journey following his parent’s wishes.
In their conversation, the god asks Makoto if he would like to talk to his parents, but instead, he just leaves two letters for them.
But when Makoto is about to ask for a favour, and the god immediately knows what it is, followed up by him telling Makoto that all of his books and hard drive have been erased, got a huge laugh out of me.
Well, after that Makoto meets the other goddess, who clearly states that she has already chosen her hero and doesn’t have any need for Makoto.
In addition to this, the goddess berates Makoto telling him that he is the ugliest human she has seen in her existence.
As a joke, she gives him the power to converse with all of the monsters but none of the humans. This leads to a story that is full of laughter, turning isekai and fantasy on their heads and just feels a great time.
1. Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation
This is our pick for the best isekai manga that you should read right now if you wanna explore a place where all your fantasy dreams could be true.
This is the story of a 34-year old NEET, turning over a new leaf as he gets a new life in a fantasy world. We start the story with the NEET, on his computer even when his father’s funeral had just been over.
As their father wasn’t around anymore his siblings decided that keeping him in the house was a waste as he wasn’t contributing to anything. While being kicked out, the only thing on his mind is that he would love to redo his life and become someone great if he ever got the chance.
As he is wandering through the streets, he sees a small boy about to be hit by a truck, but he pushes him aside and gets killed in an accident.
Lucky for him, as soon as he opens his eyes he finds himself in the arms of a beautiful woman. As he tries to reach out to her with his hands, he finds that he has small hands like that of a small toddler.
In a few pages, he becomes a small boy observing the world around him. This story unfoldes with Rudy being a small boy with a mind of a 34-year old video game nerd who understands everything about the magic and systems of the world, trying to become the greatest person in this world.
Isekai is a fascinating genre of fantasy that is a real rabbit hole in the Japanese market. We hope that at least one of these recommendations made you want to check them out and explore another side of manga and anime.