Exploring the relationship between Isekai anime and JRPGs

Exploring the relationship between Isekai anime and JRPGs

Isekai anime and JRPGs are two of the most popular content pillars in Otaku Culture. Isekai, the genre of anime where characters get transported to parallel fantasy worlds, has exploded in popularity in recent years. Interestingly, many isekai anime bear a strong resemblance to Japanese RPG video games (JRPGs).

Looking at the roots of isekai and its overlapping elements with JRPGs provides insight into why the two have become so intertwined. Let’s explore the relationship between Isekai anime and JRPGs

Isekai and JRPGs

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Sword Art Online | Image Courtesy via Crunchyroll

Isekai anime follow characters such as Sword Art Online’s Kirito who get whisked away to other worlds full of magic, monsters, and medieval European aesthetics. The virtual game worlds depicted in classics like .hack established many isekai tropes. But the genre’s current boom descends more directly from light novels and web novels in the 2000s.

  • These stories took inspiration from video games, mimicking game mechanics and crafting game-like environments.
  • RPGs like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy popularized medieval fantasy settings and gameplay focused on combat, magic, leveling up, completing quests, and defeating bosses.
  • Series like Sword Art Online deliberately structured their narratives to feel like a JRPG video game.
  • Protagonists start off weak but gain skills and become heroes reminiscent of video game player characters. The RPG concept of chanting magic incantations manifests in many isekai too.

Narrative Similarities

Stories in both RPGs and isekai anime lean toward wish fulfillment power fantasies. Ordinary characters get whisked to special worlds where they gain strength rapidly, acquire magical girls/harems, and get treated as heroes for their accomplishments.

  • The RPG system of measurable levels and stats translates neatly into isekai tales of rapid skill acquisition.
  • Settings in the two mediums share many similarities as well. Fantasy kingdoms, magical academies, RPG-inspired races like elves and beastmen, and monsters from folklore all appear frequently.
  • Locations are often modeled on medieval Europe. The overlaps extend to common character archetypes like knights, wizards, priests, warriors, and rogues.

Isekai anime and JRPGs: Mutual Influence

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Castlevania: Lament of Innocence – 2003 (Courtesy of Konami)

Recent phenomena demonstrate the continuing cross-pollination between the genres. Isekai stories are getting adapted into JRPG-style video games, while hit games like Final Fantasy XIV have added more anime-like narrative elements.

  • Many other JRPGs also feature character relationships and dynamics akin to how they are usually portrayed in Isekai anime.
  • Popular isekai anime like That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime has spawned their own JRPG-inspired mobile games.
  • This reciprocal exchange of concepts and tropes seems likely to continue fueling the isekai boom into the future.
  • While fans have varying opinions on the Isekai Genre overall, a niche set of enjoyers continue to support the genre’s growth.

Conclusion

Modern isekai anime owes a major debt to longstanding tropes and conventions from JRPG video games. The focus on ordinary characters gaining power in a fantasy world driven by measurable stats and mechanics bleeds directly from RPG systems.

Anime creators replicated these gaming narratives, while also inspiring new JRPG concepts in return. The lines separating the mediums have thus blurred substantially. But this reciprocal exchange appears poised to keep delighting fans of sword and sorcery adventures in both formats for the foreseeable future.

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