Readers seemed to enjoy my post on the ten best and worst harem anime, as calculated by the My Anime List website, a large community of fans who record the anime series they’ve watched and rank each on a scale from 1-10. This leads to a Rotten Tomatoes-style aggregation of opinions that’s interesting to analyze, even though we might not always agree with the results. Keep reading to see what you think of the best isekai anime ranking!
This is a data-heavy post, so you might want to check to see if you’re on wifi before proceeding!
Why Do Fans Love Isekai Anime?
Although it’s not a new concept — the first shows were Super Dimension Century Orguss and Aura Battler Dunbine from the early 80s — the genre has certainly exploded over the past decade and a half, taking its place as one of the cornerstones of modern anime storytelling, alongside harem, idol, romantic comedy, slice-of-life, cute-girls-doing-cute-things, and so on.
Why are we attracted to isekai stories? One obvious answer is that they include characters living boring or mundane lives who are swept into exciting fantasy worlds where they become the heroes and/or are the center of attention. Often they possess special knowledge because they play video games, so they can attain a special status in that world. The characters are usually generic enough that we as viewers (or readers, in the case of light novels) can self-insert and experience the characters’ triumphs as our own. It’s a fun form of escapism, as is everything from novels to sports to video games, and I think isekai shows are a great way to pass the time.
What Is and Isn’t an Isekai Anime?
It’s important to define which shows we’ll be covering here. While the isekai genre invented by Mark Twin exists in many forms of media and with many variants, we’ll be looking at actually “transported to another world” themed series here. This means that “inside a virtual or video game world world” which isn’t a living, breathing place separate from this world aren’t included, so Sword Art Online, .hack and Bofuri aren’t on the list. SAO was so popular a lot of fantasy stories based on light novels appeared, but series like Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? aren’t part of the genre. I also didn’t include Isekai Quartet because it’s a meta isekai show.
How did I calculate the ranking? Since there’s no “isekai” category on MAL, I first searched every anime that had the term in its name and ranked the best series by their score. I then googled up a few blog post listing of best isekai anime ranking by fans to make sure I didn’t miss any of the major series on the first pass and went back to MAL to check their score.
So let’s get started with the 15 best isekai anime series, according to the MAL community!
The 15 Best Isekai Anime According to MAL
KONOSUBA -God’s blessing on this wonderful world!
The most popular isekai anime on MAL is the much-beloved Konosuba, the hit series about a boy named Kazama who travels to an alternate fantasy world with his useless goddess Aqua and has many hilarious adventures with the other characters he finds there.
Re:Zero – Starting Life in Another World
The 2nd most popular show was Re:Zero, the well-executed series about Subaru, who goes shopping in a convenience store and the next moment is walking around a fantasy world where he has the ability to reincarnate whenever he’s killed. Lucky guy! Is everyone enjoying season 2 of this great series?
No Game No Life
The third-ranked show on the list of best isekai anime series is No Game No Life, a great single-season-and-film series about a brother and sister NEETs who are great at playing all kinds of games, who end up in an alternate world where gaming is everything, allowing them to show off their skills and become gods.
That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
A show I thoroughly enjoyed, this follows a normal Japanese salaryman who is killed and gets reincarnated as a slime. For some reason, he’s basically on “God mode” during the whole series, able to attain any power and bring happiness to the land. More than any isekai series I can think of, this show asks us to ponder what we’d do if we had endless powers as Rimiru-sama does. It’s also the show that made us all want to visit an Elf hostess club.
The Saga of Tanya the Evil
What if you were a Japanese salaryman who was reincarnated into the body of a young girl, with superpowers that allowed you to bring victory on the battlefield of a WWI-esque conflict? That’s the concept of this hit series.
The Rising of the Shield Hero
The show that made us all want our very own raccoon girl to date, Shield Hero showed that you could have a rather generic story and still be a lot of fun. Some fans disliked the series because of the emotional lows the hero Naofumi experiences, but hopefully, they stuck with the show.
Another hit series about a video game player who becomes a dark lord in a fantasy world, this series had excellent writing and characters. And unlike so many of the series listed here, there are some pretty nice figures being released.
The Devil Is A Part-timer!
Another smash hit that really resonated with fans outside Japan, it’s an example of a “reverse isekai” in which characters from a fantasy world come to our boring world. A dark lord escaped into modern-day Japan where…he gets a job at a fast-food restaurant.
What if every great hero in every war found themselves walking down a long white hallway after death, where they were shunted off into another world where they had to organize armies and fight new battles? That’s the concept behind the outstanding Drifters, a show I missed when it was running but happily caught later. In a world of generic harem anime with beta-male main characters who can’t make up their mind which girl they love, this show will really put hair on your chest.
The first Rumiko Takahashi world to really hit big commercially, winning her rightful place as one of Japan’s top creators, Inuyasha follows the story of Kagome, who gets transported into Japan’s Warring States period, where she befriends a half-dog demon boy.
Gate: Thus the JSDF Fought There!
In modern Japanese storytelling, there’s a genre of a story called SDF-kei, which are stories with a military twist that appeal to fans of Japan’s modern military, the Self Defense Forces. One show that really delighted fans was Gate, about a mysterious gateway opening in the middle of Tokyo’s Ginza district, causing a conflict between Japan’s modern military and the fantasy armies on the other side of the gate. While I loved the show, some fans apparently hated it.
Another example of “reverse isekai” in which characters from other worlds — in this case, actual 2D characters from anime and light novels — enter our world, where they meet their own voice actors and writers and can ask their character designers, “Why didn’t you design me with larger breasts?” While it sounds amazing as a concept, I was not a fan of the meandering non-story and non-ending.
My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!
While I was afraid the girl-trapped-in-an-otome-game concept might not appeal to fans, happily I was wrong, and Hamefura won over a lot of fans. I just wish Fortune Lover was a real game that we could translate and sell on JAST USA.
Magical Knight Rarthearth
Apologies to Rayearth fans for missing this one in my initial ranking. I’ve added this outstanding show here. One of the most classic isekai stories ever, the story of Hikaru and Umi and Fuu, three girls who get teleported from Tokyo Tower (CLAMP always love working that into their stories) into a magical land where all the place names and character names are based on car names. There’s even a land named after the Chevrolet Geo Metro.
Isekai Shokudou: Restaurant to Another World
The world is a stressful enough place without anime to make us feel tense, which is why you should watch Isekai Shokudo, a relaxing food show about a magical restaurant that is visited by elves, dragons, and other fantasy creatures.
Boy, this show had it all. An otaku who’s called upon by his government to help entice the population of a newly-discovered fantasy world by using anime and manga. Lots of cute waifus, including a half-elf maid who’s super loyal to him.
Bonus! The Super Dimension Century Orguss
I decided to add one more: the classic anime Orguss, which was one of the first many early fans watched in Japanese. Cark Macek would have gotten a lot less shade from fans if he’d picked this series for the third chapter of Robotech, because at least Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross are part of the same loosely connected series, whereas Genesis Climber Mospeda was not.
The 1983 series can be thought of as the “first” isekai anime, telling the story of two friends who are sent to an alternate world after using a Space/Time Oscillation Bomb to defeat an enemy in their world. There the hero Kei befriends some traders and, in true isekai fashion, has adventures that explore the politics and culture of his new world, while being surrounded by cute females and, this being the 80s, piloting transforming mecha. Oh, and a kick-ass opening theme…
Well, this is the complete ranking of the best isekai anime series, according to the large body of active fans on the MAL website. Do you hate the list, or pretty much agree with it? Give your comments below, or ask us on Twitter!
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