These literary classics show the origins of the Isekai genre

World-hopping stories may be associated with today’s Japanese anime and light novels, but these books shed light on the origins of the trope.

There is no denying that isekai as a genre has only developed as much as it has thanks to its huge success in Japanese pop fiction. After all, the vast majority of works that use stories in which a protagonist is dragged to a new land come from light novels and anime.

However, while many critics of the device dismiss it as otaku power fantasies, they often fail to acknowledge that the idea was inspired by various works of Western literature. Demonstrating the origins of this fantasy subgroup is a collection of isekai stories in English that have stood the test of time and proven their influence on the modern state of their Japanese successors.

RELATED: Wikipedia’s April Fool’s Gag Involves Isekai Anime’s Most Common Trope

Peter Pan – The boy who didn’t want to grow up

With its emphasis on the idyllic, carefree nature of childhood, Peter Pan creates a whole world around the idea of ​​playing pretend. JM Barrie created one of the most iconic isekai in western literature, filled with mermaids, wild children and pirates, to be visited by Wendy Darling and her brothers John and Michael. While his plot may serve as a coming-of-age story, highlighting the importance of growing up at some point, his legacy has solidified him as the poster child for escapism.

At its core, the dreamlike atmosphere of this story is not unlike the wish-fulfillment distractions that fill modern isekai anime. As well as series like The rising of the shield hero and That time I got reincarnated as a slime they base their realities on the sigils and mechanics of fantasy RPGs, logic, and the inhabitants of Neverland are governed by a kind of childish fantasy. Both work in a similar way for their fans, providing a welcome respite from the harsh realities of society.

The Chronicles of Narnia – The Land of the Great Lion

Originating from the classic novel. The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeCS Lewis’ the Chronicles of Narnia is another beloved isekai series from the British Isles. Following the friends and members of the Pevensie family, each entry transports a group of teenagers to the magical kingdom of Narnia to thwart some malicious threat. This world is inhabited by numerous fantastical races such as centaurs and nymphs, along with humans and talking animals, the greatest of which is the Great Lion Aslan, the true ruler of them all.

Although the various child protagonists of the series ended up in Narnia through accidental circumstances, the books imply that Narnia called each of them specifically because they could help in its hour of need. In a way, this could be seen as an early precursor to anime like The rising of the shield hero or How a royalist hero rebuilt the kingdom where heroes are summoned to save the world from an evil that is coming. Indeed, with its sprawling geography and interconnected political workings, Narnia has all the key components of a fully-fledged high-fantasy isekai.

RELATED: How Gundam Creator Yoshiyuki Tomino’s “Aura Battler Dunbine” Influenced Isekai

The Wizard of Oz – Follow the Yellow Brick Road

One of the first American isekai to enjoy critical acclaim and wide publication, L. Frank Baum’s The wonderful wizard of Oz is one of the most important pieces of fiction in history. Dorothy Gale’s journey through Oz spawned a myriad of iconic characters and has inspired countless adaptations and versions. In addition to acting as a muse for many subsequent works, the film version of her marked a massive change in the film and television industry.

Although later books in the series would prolong the escapades of Dorothy and her acquaintances, the original novel focused heavily on the idea that she was just trying to get back into her own world. This treatment of the fantasy adventure as secondary to the goal of returning home is something that was implemented by many old school isekai, such as digimon adventure, Escaflowne’s Vision and fushigi yuugi. Still, like the Oz The books ultimately had Dorothy move permanently to Oz, today’s isekai tend to leave their protagonists in another world indefinitely, either through reincarnation or simply leaving them stranded there with no means of return.

Alice in Wonderland – We’re All Mad Here

Perhaps the most famous example of journeys to other worlds in fiction is that of Lewis Carrol. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderlandas well as its sequel through the looking glass. This piece of British literature is often considered the first work to formally use displacement in a parallel world as its central premise. As such, his introduction of the idea makes him the common ancestor of all isekai.

For its surreal aesthetic, Alice in Wonderland It may not have much in common thematically with the more plot-driven stories that came later. However, his influence on countless anime is impossible to ignore. This can be seen in isekai titles like Magic Knight Rayearthwith her white rabbit-like Mokona, and inuyasha, where its protagonist literally falls through a hole into another reality. Even the gritty isekai death game alice on the border borrows from the symbolism of the playing cards, showing how deep the love for Carrol’s masterpiece runs among isekai writers.

READ MORE: Reverse Isekai is better than Standard Isekai. here’s why

Deku and Aoyama in My Hero Academia

MHA: UA traitor’s most selfless moment hinted at in his tragic backstory

About the Author