The History of Isekai

A reader called my attention to this, a history and discussion of the tropes typical of the slew of recent anime, following on the heels of Sword Art Online, that depict a gamer otaku getting thrown into another world that looks like a sword-and-sorcery RPG.

This is a bit outside this blog’s usual scope; I admit my knowledge of this particular genre is minimal, simply because my interests run more toward shoujo anime, whereas isekai typically has male protagonists and a male target audience. However, the video does link isekai to predecessors from the ’90s like Magic Knight Rayearth and Vision of Escaflowne, which typically featured schoolgirls getting thrown into fantasy settings. Not discussed, but probably also an important influence on the isekai genre are the RPG-inspired fantasies from yesteryear like Record of Lodoss War.

In the last third of the video, the narrator explains that many of the light novels that make up the sources of isekai fantasy got their starts as web publications, and after suggesting that the isekai genre is saturated, he argues that this is leading in turn to a rise of “pure” fantasy without inserted modern characters, of which he holds up Made in Abyss as a premier example.

For recent examples of “traditional” or “pure” fantasy, I would also point to the less hyped but respectable Chaika the Coffin Princess, which was a competently made, light novel-based anime series that was something like an old-school fantasy in the tradition of Discarded Princess (because it was in fact from the same author and the same studio).

I have to confess I still haven’t watched or read Made in Abyss, though it’s on my list.

Jon Del Arroz on Passive Anime Protagonists

On his blog, author Jon Del Arroz has some interesting comments on the passive, weak male protagonists who often star in anime high school rom-coms. Excuse me while I quote him at length:

I had an interesting discussion with a friend last night as we were digging far too deeply into anime. Almost every anime show (especially those set in a high school environment, which is the majority of them), have male protagonists that are your classic gamma male archetype. They are socially awkward, especially around women. When encountered with women they go into a crazed frenzy, female worship, nosebleeds, slapstick failings. We’re supposed to root for them to get the girl in spite of their failures. And sometimes we do, but we can’t help but wince every time they enter the scene with their female counterparts, who are usually far more composed and cooler than they are. Continue reading “Jon Del Arroz on Passive Anime Protagonists”

Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 3 (of 3)

Pumpkin, Spice, and Everything Nice! The magical girl Halloween showdown comes to its thrilling conclusion!

Featured image: “#PunkinDidNothingWrong” by Roffles Lowell

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Margherita stood by, biting her nails. Tears ran down her cheeks as she stared at all her boxes of ruined pizza. Her eyes flicked back between Jake and Magical Girl Punkin Spice.

“Please,” she pleaded. “Please, no more. Please don’t ruin any more food—”

In spite of the chilly night air, Jake felt sweat forming under his collar. He took another pull on his coffee, but then raised his hands and slowly backed away from Punkin. Her wand still pointed at his chest.

“Wait, hold on,” he said. “You don’t want me to get a taste for pumpkin spice—”

“Oh yes I do,” Punkin whispered. “I want everyone to know the joys of pumpkin spice!”

Jake chuckled nervously. “Look, I don’t know exactly how this kind of thing works, but I’m pretty sure pumpkin spice isn’t my thing. I mean, I’m a guy. I bet I’d have to have a lot more estrogen in my system before I could enjoy something like pumpkin spice—”

“I can take care of that,” Punkin hissed. Her wand trembled in her grasp. Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 3 (of 3)”

Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 2 (of 3)

It’s Halloween night, and a spicy new magical girl has her eye on Jake! Can he survive another magical battle? And can he survive the scourge of artificial pumpkin spice flavoring?

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Magical Girl Punkin Spice leapt lightly from her broomstick, which with a flash of light shrank into a small dust broom. she clipped it to her belt. Flipping her braided ponytail off her shoulder, she cocked her enormous pointed hat, and her bright blue eyes surveyed the scene. The other magical girls stood tense, and the normal humans slowly backed away. Over near the bubbling cauldron of cider, Pretty Dynamo rested a hand on the wand holstered at her side.

Jake shrugged and took another bite of his pizza. Margherita’s pizza was good when it was cold, too.

“You there!” Punkin at last shouted, jabbing a finger toward him. “What is this blasphemy?”

She marched his way. Jake merely raised an eyebrow and sucked up a wayward strand of mozzarella. “Excuse me?”

“Pizza?” Punkin Spice cried, shaking a fist. “You’re eating pizza on Halloween night?” Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 2 (of 3)”

Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 1 (of 3)

For the magical girls, it’s the most important night of the year, a night to renew their contracts with their familiars. But will a mysterious newcomer ruin their joyous celebrations?

Featured image”Magical Girl Punkin Spice” by Roffles Lowell.

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This night was unlike any other. A tension, a frisson of excitement hung in the air like that melancholy tingle of expectation before a thunderstorm. The entire city of Urbanopolis, that last refuge of beleaguered humanity, glowed with multicolored lights and resounded with music and chatter. On every stoop grinned a fiery Jack-o’-Lantern eerily flickering with candlelight. Children laughed and ran pell-mell down sidewalks, their boots or sandals slapping against the concrete. Or they gathered in timid clusters, clinging to the hands of longsuffering parents. They wore garish costumes, like fairy creatures arisen from some dark corner of a half-forgotten world: Here was a ghost, there a goblin, there a ballerina in pink lace. Hastily made outfits of cardboard and brown paper crackled and crinkled as their wearers clumsily walked. A few children shivered with cold. Others had, at the behest of nervous mothers, forced themselves into parkas before climbing into their costumes, so they were plump and round as pumpkins under their elaborate dress. The clear sky was black, a hint of frost clung to the air, and the last remaining leaves hung brown and blood red on the trees.

This was Halloween, the night of nights.

Continue reading “Jake and the Dynamo’s Epic Halloween Blowout Extravaganza, Part 1 (of 3)”