Imagine a new life in a parallel universe sprinkled with monsters and topped with a dollop of magic. Sound good to you? If so, you might be into isekai anime. Escapism in its purest form, isekai anime features a character transported to another world, be it an alternate reality or a virtual one. It makes sense that isekai literally means “a different world” in English.
In recent years, there has been a large influx of isekai anime, partly due to the worldwide popularity of Sword Art Online (SAO). However, this isekai anime list will not include SAO. Instead, we will focus on other fantasy anime that are, dare we say, better than SAO.
Here are five lesser-known titles that approach the isekai genre in unique and novel ways.
1. The Twelve Kingdoms
"The Twelve Kingdoms" is an anime that didn’t get much attention in English-speaking countries. However, it’s one of the best anime I’ve ever seen. While most action anime illustrate a clear distinction between good and evil, "The Twelve Kingdoms" shows that there are two sides to every coin. Whenever blood is shed, someone is always left to suffer the fallout.
This anime follows Yoko, an ordinary high school girl who only stands out due to her red hair, despite being born to 100% Japanese parents. Her world is turned upside down when a mysterious blonde-haired man appears at her school and tries to take her away. He claims that Yoko’s life is in danger and tells her she is the queen of his country in another world.
Despite being an older fantasy anime, first aired in Japan in 2002, "The Twelve Kingdoms" surpasses more recent anime in its unapologetic exploration of morality. The anime presents human struggles at every level of the social hierarchy. You get to watch Yoko evolve from the weakest, most annoying pampered girl you’ve ever met to a wise, powerful, and just ruler.
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