4. Overpowered Main Character
The overpowered main character is a common isekai trope and one that helps the viewer grow attached to the hero of the story. Some viewers really enjoy seeing a protagonist who is able to do anything. With that in mind, Kirito being such a strong main character is one of the reasons why Sword Art Online is so popular. He has a lot of “plot armor” and sometimes that is just the way it should be, especially when you want to be impressed with the character’s capabilities.
Since he was in the SAO BETA test he goes into the game knowing way more than the average player. Of course, he quickly becomes popular throughout the world and is seen as a savior. His extraordinary abilities make all this possible, and the fans can usually guess how the fight is going to turn out. While many new isekai usually follow the weak-to-strong recipe, some still prefer to use overpowered main characters. Overlord, Mondaiji, and NGLG are good examples of shows with overpowered characters. In Mondaiji, the protagonist is so powerful, that he is one of the epitomes of being an overpowered MC. He effortlessly wins fights and always saves the day. Cautious Hero is another good example, but it takes the OP character trope and turns it into a parody.
On the other hand Re:Zero‘s Natsuki Subaru struggles to complete his mission. Although he has a very powerful ability of reincarnation he is still weak. However, the satisfaction of beating a powerful enemy is still very similar to what SAO offers, regardless of the means.
There is something especially satisfying about watching a character grow and develop new skills. In isekai that is often done through leveling-up, since many of them have game-like systems and SAO, which is fully set in a virtual world also follows this theme.
Benefits of Leveling Up
Seeing Kirito and Asuna have epic fights is probably one of the reasons fans enjoy the anime. Combine this with amazing animation and the satisfaction of seeing them grow and level and you get an interesting story. The two of them being such a powerful duo while still working together is what their relationship stronger as well.
That leveling up is a popular concept in anime is easy to prove with the sheer number of shows that contain the element. Some titles that adapt this principle include The Rising of the Shield Hero, Log Horizon, I’m Standing on a Million Lives, and more.
That said, the anime I’m Standing on a Million Lives is a really good example.
The protagonist, Yotsuya, gets a new skill after leveling up. The roulette will determine his new skill, and whenever he receives a new one, it’s always very good. The other perfect example is the anime The Rising of the Shield Hero, where the main character literally has a stat sheet.