The Very First Isekai Story Didn’t Come From Japan

The isekai genre has become so common in anime that it seems there is at least one new isekai series every season. It has become one of those genres so synonymous with anime that it can be hard to imagine the concept outside of the medium. However, the idea of ​​taking a character into a different realm is by no means new outside of Japan.


In modern-day anime, the concept has been used in conjunction with the use of a variety of plot devices and themes, some more common than others. This wide range of stories has made the Isekai genre so prominent in anime that when asked, “What is the first Isekai?” Anime fans struggle to come to a proper consensus. Some fans have recognized the similarities in the books such as Alice in Wonderland And the Wizard of OzBut there is a western “isekai” that is not fully recognized.

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What makes an isekai?

In short, definition of smileI is a story in which the main character travels from one world to another. The concept has blown up into anime culture thanks to the success of series such as sword Art Online And That time I reincarnated as a slime, among others. As versatile as the genre is, it is mainly used within the fantasy genre. Manga and anime makers are trying to keep the genre fresh with new ideas, some fantastic, others quirky.

In Isekai, the protagonist often dies, although there are some series where the protagonist is transported to an alternate reality. Sometimes they are reincarnated as another person, species, or – believe it or not – an inanimate object, and in some intriguing cases, the hero becomes the villain. Since anime is known for its vast experimental ideas, the Isekai style fits perfectly into the anime culture.

In Japan, there is a story that has widely inspired Isekai over the past several generations. During the Muromachi period of Japan (1338-1573), Iskai story Urashima Taro Oral storytelling was passed on through practices. The story shares the adventures of a fisherman named Urashima Taro, who, after rescuing a misbehaving turtle, is rewarded for entering a wondrous underwater kingdom. There is much more to this medieval folktale, but it is the earliest version of a Japanese iskai, focusing on the main theme. That being said, a famous Italian poet outranked Japan’s storytellers with regards to this plot device.

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Isekai Origin in Italy

Before the word “isekai” was conceived, Italian poet Dante Alighieri was working on literature that would influence the entire culture of art and philosophy in the West. Combining his religious philosophy with particular inspiration from Aristotle, Dante wrote poems about morality, the human spirit, love, and truth, among other subjects. His most famous work of all time is divine Comedy, which tells the story of a pilgrim’s journey to the three worlds of the afterlife; Hell, Purgatory and Heaven.

it is argued that Dante’s inspiration For divine Comedy He had his own travels from Florence, Italy, after being exiled from the city in the early 1300s. Because of his strong beliefs in Catholicism, which includes the concept of the afterlife, many Catholic symbols and themes became an important part of what he created. divine Comedy, Since the afterlife is essentially another area, which makes divine Comedy An Iskai-like story. RELATED: Dorohedoro and the Dai Dark: Kyu Hayashida’s Uniquely Dark Take on Fantasy and Sci-Fidivine Comedy It was broadcast throughout Italy by 1314, which predates the Marumachi period when the story of Urashima Taro was being told. This “Aisekai” is the first collection of its kind to share the journey of the soul after death, as well as the adventures of one hero into another realm in thrilling detail. To be fair, it’s possible that other storytellers, regardless of their culture, have come up with similar ideas. It may very well be that the only reason their names do not appear in historical archives is that their otherworldly tales were either based on oral story that had been forgotten or they did not have the same supportive community as the ancient Or supports medieval folklore.

Being the first to archive his story, Dante is credited with inspiring the West. divine Comedy, It cannot be said that his work inspired the former to expand further on the concept of travel to other worlds, or perhaps that the idea just happened to gain traction around the same century. Modern-day composers in the West are inspired by the work of Dante, thus creating works of entertainment such as Se7en, the SandmanAnd over the garden wall, In Japan, however, the authors were most likely inspired by the stories of Urashima Tarothus leading to the creation of functions like spirited Away And twelve states,

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Universal plot devices must remain universal

at the core of divine Comedy is a basic storytelling concept that has been used for centuries, but today anime makers are marketing the dimensional travel plot device and giving it the special label of isekai. While the Japanese word translates to “another world”, making its connection clear, the fact that the genre and plot device are so closely tied to anime is a bit limiting.

The famous concept of isekai has made anime famous, or infamous, depending on the dialogue, partly due to the repetitive plot lines as well as the unhealthy anime tropes that are associated with these series. This overused origin story concept has been running its course on originality in anime, and by serializing stories from only one culture, this is specifically from Japanese anime, there is a limit to storytelling. RELATED: Why Disney+’s Exclusive Anime Is an Odd Fit for the CompanyGranted, being the first to write something or the most famous in entertainment doesn’t make much difference in the grand scheme. A good story is a good story, but to create these remarkable stories one needs to avoid the excessive emphasis and marketing strategy of the label. The creators of stories like the first Iskai were not thinking of following the trend like how Iskai is treated today. They were expressing themselves and the messages they wanted to share with the world and that is what makes their stories so deep.

Each storyteller draws inspiration from someone before him because he saw something special in that story, such as how Dante drew inspiration from philosophers and religious figures of his time and storytellers after him. The stories we love are not meant to trend or fluctuate, but to challenge beliefs, philosophies and most importantly, the imagination. Whether the idea has been done before or not, it is up to the creator to find the right inspiration. Hopefully, the latest batch of storytellers can capture that sense of purity and expressiveness in the near future and that Iskai’s novelty is used more carefully.

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