Hack//Sign, Sword Art Online, Re: Zero: Life in Another World, Overlord, Log Horizon, Death March of Rhapsody, Konosuba: God’s Blessing On This Wonderful World, No Game No Life, Problem Children Are Coming From Another World, Accel World, Btooom! Fate: Grand Order, The Devil Is A Part Timer, Zero No Tsukaima, Escaflowne, Angel Beats, Digimon Adventure and GATE are just some examples of the ‘Another World’ trope that seems to be flooding the Anime and Manga (and Light Novel) scene these days. But is this a huge problem? And why are they so popular?
It’s pretty safe to say that if you’ve been into Anime or Manga you’ll have likely come across at least one of these series at some point. The idea of being transported away from the ‘real’ world to another is becoming more and more commonplace. This is due to several factors.
The most logical factor is popularity. In recent years both Sword Art Online and Re: Zero have sold exceptionally well in terms of not only Anime sales but the Light Novel and Merchandising sales, Rem alone is now a hotter property than One Piece’s Ace or Tony-Tony Chopper. Sword Art itself has managed to garner multiple sequels, spin-offs and a movie.
Anything that is popular is almost instantly going to have similar titles appear and create more of the same thing. Speaking on a personal level I am actually enjoying seeing a lot of what is coming out of this boom with some absolutely fantastic series that may not have gotten the attention they deserved if it wasn’t for the popularity of the bigger series. The boom is also allowing up and coming authors to get a foot into the industry which they may not have received before.
Another factor of why this the genre is popular is the popularity of the RPG in Japan, JRPGs are always a big seller with titles such as Dragon Quest and Pokémon still selling like hot cakes with each instalment and the huge exploration of worlds such as Skyrim and Add to dictionary are popular among the masses, and so a manga or novel based on exploring is enticing in itself. A lot of titles such as Star Ocean: Second Story and .Hack itself managed to use the ‘trapped in another world’ really well in their games that gained them a great reputation in the genre.
For me, however, I feel the most important factor is that this is not a new genre, nor is it an unseen one. Think in popular culture how many times do we see people transported to another world? Be it via Space or Time Travel? Popular Science Fiction series such as Doctor Who or Star Trek use these tropes in almost every episode and while the characters are ‘usually’ trapped on another planet it still includes the fun of the exploration and seeing how each world is different.
Which for me is the fun of each of these series. Despite being a popular theme a lot of these series are ultimately different. From Konosuba being more about the humour and stupidity in these worlds to Log Horizon’s realisation with the inability to die. Overlord, Tensei Shirata Slime Datten, Devil is a Part Timer and many others toy with the idea that the protagonist is reborn as a villain. With the amount of variety out there coupled with writing, styles mean that there is a lot of variation in the series, much like how we can have so many Superhero comics but most be mostly different.
Sadly it’s not all smiles and tears as we are discovering that while these are becoming more commonplace there is a reluctance to deviate from these type of stories, a competition that banned the theme of ‘reincarnation’ or ‘trapped in another world’ didn’t even get half of the amount of submissions that one that used this premise got, sadly it feels that doing something completely different is becoming harder and harder to do, almost as if people are attempting it to simply become popular rather than to be ignored, ultimately this makes you a ‘drop in the ocean’ writer.
I would finally like to point out that for me personally the release of some of these series as Light Novels has allowed me to rediscover my love of sitting down and reading an actual book over a manga, with companies such as Yen Press bringing out some of these popular titles and online services such as J. Novel Club it is allowing me to read as may of these series as I wish.
I don’t think that we are going to see the end of this trope for a long time yet, with titles selling incredibly well and appealing to western viewers, a lot of the series are even starting to receive games and building their franchises. But as long as the great titles are accessible I know I’ll be trying to read as much as possible.
Now if you excuse me. I have a series about a man being reincarnated into a Hot Springs to read.