Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#1
I was on one of many writing discords the other day and someone told me that Dante's Inferno was technically an isekai. This had made me irrationally angry, and I have been thinking about it for several days. They also stated that Alice in Wonderland and The Bible are also isekais.
Where is the line drawn!?!?
I feel like over-saturation in one genre can make anything a "insert-something here".

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#2

Akata Wrote: I was on one of many writing discords the other day and someone told me that Dante's Inferno was technically an isekai. This had made me irrationally angry, and I have been thinking about it for several days. They also stated that Alice in Wonderland and The Bible are also isekais.
Where is the line drawn!?!?
I feel like over-saturation in one genre can make anything a "insert-something here".
We'll not sure about The Bible, but Alice in Wanderland definitely is.


Let's look at how Isekai is defined -   is a subgenre of Japanese fantasy light novelsmangaanimeand video games revolving around a normal person from Earth being transported torebornor trapped in a parallel/different universe.

Now let's look back at Alice in Wonderland: a normal person from Earth - check; parallel/different world - check.
There are actually plenty of western books and movies that have this genre, and Hell could technically count as a parallel world.
Here are a few:
Jumanji
X-men of future past
Monster hunter
Back to the future (maybe, I mean the timeline is changed so it should have become a parallel world, right?)
Even Matrix (that is technically a virtual world created by machines that humans can access, it's more technical but still should count as a different world, only technically)
And all this is just the tip of the aisbearg!

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#3
I would not count Dante's inferno as an isekai. But I'm a metaphysical kinda person and count Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and Earth as states of being rather than different places. The Kingdom of God is inside you and all that stuff. Even if that's not the case, the Biblical canon states Heaven, Hell and Purgatory as natural continuations of life on Earth, so I don't count them. I also wouldn't count Earth -> canonical Asgard as an Isekai, for the same reason. But Asgard -> poof now you're in Biblical Heaven = isekai, because different canons, even though they're technically both connected with earth, canonically speaking. 

Narnia and Alice, though? Isekai. 

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#4
Damn, now I want to write an isekai about someone who got isekai'ed from the biblical canon universe to the universe of the Heliand poem and have to deal with Saxon Warchief Jesus being a thing. Schenanigans. 

Would that even be an isekai? It is still, technically, a Christian universe. Is it an isekai if it's an isekai into fanfiction? I suppose at this point all I can say is that an isekai is like art - it's an isekai if the author says it is. 

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#5
Fundamentally, I think the drawing line is both (a) that travel to the destination is against the natural order, and (b) the destination has a distinct "otherness" from the real world.  For instance, neither Dante's Divine Comedy nor the Christian conception of heaven and hell would qualify because while "other," the souls of the deceased are supposed to eventually end up there.  In contrast, Alice in Wonderland is a portal fantasy as Alice is clearly not supposed to be able to travel to Wonderland, but did through extraordinary circumstances.  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is not because it is basically time travel into Earth's past.

This seems to be a fairly robust definition, while at the same time clearly delineating between superficially similar stories.  For instance, Edgar Rice Burrough's A Princess of Mars (i.e., the John Carter series) is an isekai as Mars is both "other" and John is not supposed to be able to have gotten there.  On the other hand, Andy Weir's The Martian is not an isekai because travel to Mars is possible and while Mars is not Earth-like, it is within the scope of human understand and so is not "other." 

Part (a) does a very good job of capturing all of the standard isekais involving a god or hero summoning grabbing one or more persons from Earth and taking them to another dimension/world/reality.  On the other hand, part (a) excludes all reincarnation into another world from isekai.  While Wikipedia disagrees with me, including reincarnation into another world as isekai subdivides all reincarnation stories into either reincarnation into Earth or reincarnation into another world.  And while those two groups may have very different themes and tones involved, the difference is just as large between reincarnation into another world and being "yoinked" into another world. 

The one subset I have not quite nailed down are those stories where the protagonist dies on Earth and then possesses the body of a non-newborn (usually, a teenager).  That does appear to fit both (a) and (b), so it's mostly a matter of whether an additional qualifier to isekai should be added that the protagonist remains in their Earth body.  It's  also debatable whether that qualifies as reincarnation or not.

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#6
Isekai is nothing more than a type of portal fantasy. A term that does exist but for some reason,  is not used when describing isekai.

I would label it a type of portal fantasy and not apply that label to everything that has an individual that goes to a different world no matter the story. Isekai has its own set of tropes and conventions that separates it with something like Chronicles of Narnia. 

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#8

L.J.Anders Wrote: Isekai is nothing more than a type of portal fantasy. A term that does exist but for some reason,  is not used when describing isekai.

I would label it a type of portal fantasy and not apply that label to everything that has an individual that goes to a different world no matter the story. Isekai has its own set of tropes and conventions that separates it with something like Chronicles of Narnia.
This is actually a really good point.  Isekai and portal fantasy both come loaded with cultural expectations.  And while I myself am partial to connecting the two into some sort of super-genre, it's also valid to consider them distinct due to their origins and developments.  Of course, there are issues with cross-pollination between the two, and it'll only get worse in the future, but it's still a good point.

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#11
Luda305's definition is very helpful and specific. I do, however agree that isekai is more of a subgenre of an otherworld fantasy, as are more euro-traditional portal fantasies (though I'm not sure if there is an original overarching term for fictions in which the MC is suddenly in another world.)

I think and agree that isekai is a more specific term that denotes use of light novel tropes, but I can also see how the term is being suborned to encompass all otherworld/portal fantasies, due to increasing prevalence of isekai stories in western media and decreasing familiarity with other, older stories.

Faerie stories are a good example of a portal fantasy that are completely different from isekai, especially when you consider the rules of engagement when one found oneself accidentally transported, if one ever wanted to escape back to the human world.

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#15

Akata Wrote: I was on one of many writing discords the other day and someone told me that Dante's Inferno was technically an isekai. This had made me irrationally angry, and I have been thinking about it for several days. They also stated that Alice in Wonderland and The Bible are also isekais.
Where is the line drawn!?!?
I feel like over-saturation in one genre can make anything a "insert-something here".

theyre right isekai litterally meaans portal fantasy, any story where you adventure in a world/plane that isnt your original one is an isekai, and that is the only defining feature of an iseakia.

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#17
I think portal fantasy requires a lateral movement in world hopping. If you ascend or descend (like Dante's Inferno) that doesn't count. But most anything else probably would as long as it's on the same plane of existence. 

Dream worlds normally aren't considered on the same plane. We don't view those as fully actualized worlds.

It's a fun question to get into the weeds on regardless. 

Re: What is considered an Isekai?

#20
Oh good, it's the "is a hot dog a sandwich" conversation again.

Portal fantasies are pretty broadly defined.  Here's some things I wouldn't include:
  • Time travel, especially if it's within normal Earth history.  The Time Machine is right on the line for me since it's such a different world
  • Stories where they repeatedly go to different worlds (to pick an example off the top of my head, A Wrinkle In Time)
  • Stories where going to whatever other place is normal, common, and known to people whether or not they all know or believe (rules out most afterlife stuff)
Things that should maybe be a sub-genre of portal fantasies and feel 'different' even though they would probably still fit in most definitions:
  • Stories where the main character goes there deliberately and has the means to return at will
  • Non-fantasy portal fantasy
  • Stuff where the author probably would have had an aneurism if they heard you call it a portal fantasy