Fantasy is escapism for a modern man stuck in a world of dreariness and drudgery. For Japan, this escapism manifests in the form of the isekai genre of anime, manga and light novels. Featuring a protagonist often unhappy with his life in contemporary times, the story acts as a form of meta-narrative wish fulfilment for the viewers as he is offered a second chance. This second chance often comes in the form of an accident that kills him and causes him to reincarnate in another fantastic world.
This world is populated by all manners of monsters, dragons, demons and every other form of weird and fantastical creature that the author’s pen might envision. While gaining a bad reputation for cliched and repetitive storytelling that often borders on wish fulfilment with a lack of consequences, these stories depict lands and worlds which ought to be explored in their own right, even beyond the scope of the narrative.
As such, this article takes a deep dive into some of the most creative isekai anime worlds in popular anime. The ranking is based on the author’s opinion and will include a ranked order as per how creative and interesting the world is. However, feel free to disagree in the comments and let us know your picks!
Digimon, Log Horizon, and three other isekai anime who have an incredible worldbuilding
5. Re: Zero: Starting Life in Another World
Initial impressions of the Re: Zero universe are favourable. Subaru arrives in the anime in the capital of Lugnica. The royal family’s home is in a lovely region. In the slums, where we first encounter Felt, it also has. Roswaal Mansion is located outside the capital city and is where the rest of the major cast is first introduced.
Suburu frequently travels to a little town near the mansion. However, there is a forest close by where kids are abducted, which is the first warning sign. The fact that the White Whale is roving the globe is the second warning sign. The White Whale forages around the earth, devouring everything in its path. Needless to say, the world envisioned in this anime and light novel is dangerous to its core.
Besides, characters like Betelgeuse populate this world with dark magic and witchcraft, affecting the lives of other characters. Demons walk among the regular population and ancient, powerful witches like Satella look for a chance to use mere mortals for their own agendas. This world ranks at five because despite it being an interesting world, only few aspects of it are explored.
4. No Game, No Life
No Game No Life‘s Disboard is arguably the best fantasy realm to enter. The land is built on a gaming board, which is the catch in this situation. There are simply games; there are no battles or wars. Playing games is what everyone does since it is a common way to resolve disputes, from minor quarrels to the division of territory.
In No Game No Life, Tet, a 6,000-year-old child who is not a member of any race, rules the earth. You must defeat him in a game of chess if you wish to succeed him as the next god of Disboard. Everything was based on one’s performance in different games, which created a remarkably cohesive class and power structure as well as a distinct division between the various races.
Everyone was curious as to how the conflict between the races would play out and what else this fascinating world had to offer. While brilliant and undoubtedly showcasing a brilliant concept, the fantastic land here is simply too utopic and often takes a break from reality. Hence, it occupies the fourth spot on this list.
3. Log Horizon
Whereas most isekai anime focuses on the fantastic and blood-racing aspects of the alternate world, very few delve into the mundane and the ordinary. However, worldbuilding focused around said mundaneness and the intricacies of the social and political system while not detracting from amazing action is what makes Log Horizon a masterpiece.
Yes, there are still a lot of fights and enjoyable slices of life, but politics makes up the majority of the show. Determining which guild would perform what tasks and who would hold what positions were all significant story moments in the show. The relationships between the isekai anime adventures and the previous NPCs just brought the entire plot to life as we got to observe how each choice affected the characters.
A lover of epic worldbuilding with intricately detailed socio-political systems is advised to watch it to immerse oneself in a complex universe where politics matter just as much as your position of power. Of course, there are cat-people, magic, and fantastic creatures for anyone who prefers to delve into that wacky aspect of the genre. However, the magical aspects are still too detached from anything in our world, which makes us move on to the last two instances on the list where isekai goes from magical to digital.
2. Sword Art Online
Sword Art Online can be credited for being one of the most significant pieces of media that helped popularize the entire genre of isekai anime. The best aspect about this anime series is that it is not a different world, not really, but a virtual reality game that transports readers to a different realm. This series gained traction and relevance with the increasing hubbub around VR.
In order to be clear, this is the world of Aincrad and not Alfheim Online. The floating castle in Sword Art Online is called Aincrad. On the land is a fortress with 100 floors of stacking. As you go up, the levels get smaller and smaller, and there is only one staircase that you can use to go from one floor to the next.
Villages, towns, and cities can be found on each floor. Aincrad is built vertically rather than horizontally, making accessing a new floor quite straightforward. A boss is the sole thing manning the stairs. This idea for a globe offers a distinctive way of living and exposes its inhabitants to exploration and adventure. However, the often repetitive nature of the conflict and world lends a point in its disfavor.
Yes, Digimon and especially Digimon Adventure is an isekai anime. The story features as an important part of many 2000 kids’ memories where seven (and later joined by one to make eight) kids are transported into a different world, where curious creatures populate the landscape. This world is made all the more unique as it is seemingly born of the digital and communication systems of the human world.
The kids explore this world while forming bonds with their Digimon, but the best part is that the seemingly isekai anime world is often closely intertwined with the human world, with the incidents in one affecting that of the other. As such, over different Digimon instalments, the children are forced to save both worlds with the help of their Digimon partners whom they help evolve.
The creatures in this world take the shape of various animals, plants, dinosaurs, angels, mythical creatures, robots, and eldritch abominations. They are made from data, and this is made believable by the fact that the overlord of this world is revealed to be a super computer. In one of the instalments, the world is even rebooted, leading to emotional consequences for the Digimon and their partners!