Summer 2021 anime season has just ended and among the shows that aired during the season, a whopping nine of them were isekais. In case you didn’t know, isekai is a type of anime where the main character starts a new life in a completely different world. Most of the stories in this genre begin with the death of the protagonist, after which they get reincarnated in another world, but summoning and teleportation are also common. It’s quite obvious that isekai has been one of the most popular genres over the past decade, and one of the reasons is the fact that isekai genre shares many different successful elements from other genres and series.
One such series is Sword Art Online, whose fans, in particular, have come to love this genre over the past decade. You will often see SAO among isekai recommendations, and while the story isn’t isekai in its true sense it does share many similarities. Let’s take a look at some of the series SAO fans have come to love, as well as the reasons why.
Isekai truly soared in popularity over the past 10 years. Even though some older titles can be classed as isekai (Spirited Away, Fushigi Yuugi) it wasn’t until the 2010s that the genre truly got its place in the spotlight. Sword Art Online season 1 finished broadcasting in 2012, and perhaps the fans were looking for something new but similar. In 2013, Mondaiji and Log Horizon aired, and both of them revolve around a game so these two easily be compared to SAO. The characters in Mondaiji possess special abilities, with an overpowered and smart MC, while also having a hint of a harem. In Log Horizon, the characters must start a new life, after somehow being sucked into a game. All of these story aspects can also be found in SAO, which is probably why these two are also fairly loved by the fans.
Brief History of SAO-Like Isekai
No Game No Life (2014) and Overlord (2015) are also two series often recommended alongside SAO. Overpowered main characters and fantasy setting are some of the things they share with SAO. After 2015 it seems that the isekai genre significantly increased in popularity and became very common. Isekai Quartet project is a very good example of that. The slice of life spin-off is derived from 4 isekais: KonoSuba, Re:Zero, Tanya the Evil, and Overlord. In the second season, the anime The Rising of the Shield Hero also joins the lineup.
Over time other shows with noticeably fewer similarities to SAO appeared, such as Re:Zero, Grimgar, Knights and Magic, Isekai Cheat Magician, Hamefura, Mushoku Tensei, and more. However, what they all share is that they are based on light novels and there are still some common elements. Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash for example also touches upon the idea of a loss. But, SAO stands out because it has truly overpowered characters, while some of these adopt the weak-to-strong theme.
So, Why Have SAO Fans Come to Love Isekai?
Reasons for this are many. From common themes to loveable characters who share personality traits, it’s not very easy to summarize them. But, let’s try and take a look at the 5 commonly shared traits that can be found in both SAO and isekai.