When to Isekai and when not to Isekai

For someone who claims to have no interest in the Isekai genre of anime, I feel like I spend more time talking about it than I probably should. Really though, it’s just my continuing amazement at just how many totally uninspired and super generic Isekai stories keep getting green-lit when there is so much actual potential for the genre on a conceptual level.

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Did Ascendance of a Bookworm just “Isekai Catfish” me?

Of the small batch of anime from this previous fall season, one of the shows that jumped out at me was Ascendance of a Bookworm. A genre of show I don’t normally find myself drawn to; an Isekai. Ascendance was atypical of the genre though, as most Isekai I stumble across tend to be power fantasies, this show was not. At least that’s how it started out.

As the series went on, I started to get suspicious of the main character’s “illness” and how the series might take a sharp turn and start to lean into the very aspects of the genre that traditionally turn me off them. It drew me into a series full of warmth, character and charm and then pulled the rug from under me with a good old bit of Pope-choking.

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3 Episode Rule – Ascendance of a Bookworm

As a rule, I’m not really that big a fan of the isekai genre. Bad luck me eh, considering that it’s the big thing right now, us getting more than a couple shows in the genre per season. I like a story about characters overcoming adversity, and growing in the process. Not just that, I also like shows with well defined and understandable power systems. Isekai often lacks both these in favour of putting a character into a position of ultimate power and then chronicling their inevitable rise to the top.

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