The beginning and end of an Isekai

#1
Hi,

What is accomplished in portal fiction that can't be accomplished is simply setting the story in the fantasy/sci fi world right off the bat, without ever introducing world hoppers/reincarnation?

I've read a lot of Isekai/portal fiction and I can't think of any right now that I read until a conclusion was reached.

How should an Isekai end? 

Curious to hear all your thoughts.

Thanks!

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#2
what an interesting question, this should be quite fun
we'll have covered lots of ground when all is said and done
let me start by saying i'm a super fan of both
and i think the biggest difference found in them is "growth"

isekai are often power fantasy at heart
whereas portal stories have a much less rapid start
both do tend to end with MCs stronger than their peers
though in portal fantasy, it takes a few more years

what can portal stories do that isekai can not?
maybe portal tales are more relatable than not
portals give a bit more grounding in our own culture
maybe that lets stuff get just a little more mature

as for where an isekai should end, i just dont know
sometimes leaving readers wanting more can be good though
after they accomplish something major in the plot
best to make an epilogue, and keep the hype you've got?

peoconfused

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#4

eric_river Wrote:
what an interesting question, this should be quite fun
we'll have covered lots of ground when all is said and done
let me start by saying i'm a super fan of both
and i think the biggest difference found in them is "growth"

isekai are often power fantasy at heart
whereas portal stories have a much less rapid start
both do tend to end with MCs stronger than their peers
though in portal fantasy, it takes a few more years

what can portal stories do that isekai can not?
maybe portal tales are more relatable than not
portals give a bit more grounding in our own culture
maybe that lets stuff get just a little more mature

as for where an isekai should end, i just dont know
sometimes leaving readers wanting more can be good though
after they accomplish something major in the plot
best to make an epilogue, and keep the hype you've got?

peoconfused
You are literally amazing. Keep doing what you do.

Also thanks for replying. 

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#7
What should any story accomplish? 

It's just a plot device, so it can be used for anything. I suppose the obvious end of an isekai is that the character/s either return home or settle in, but at the same time, that's like saying that the purpose of a school novel is graduation. Imagine Harry Potter if the plot goal was graduating. That would be boring. 

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#8

Haust Wrote: What should any story accomplish? 

It's just a plot device, so it can be used for anything. I suppose the obvious end of an isekai is that the character/s either return home or settle in, but at the same time, that's like saying that the purpose of a school novel is graduation. Imagine Harry Potter if the plot goal was graduating. That would be boring.
I have to save the world, but the prom's tomorrow!  Drakanflip

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#10

MalevolenceMau Wrote:
Haust Wrote: What should any story accomplish? 

It's just a plot device, so it can be used for anything. I suppose the obvious end of an isekai is that the character/s either return home or settle in, but at the same time, that's like saying that the purpose of a school novel is graduation. Imagine Harry Potter if the plot goal was graduating. That would be boring.
I have to save the world, but the prom's tomorrow!  Drakanflip
Sorry, prom's cancelled due to end of world event. 

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#12

Seersucker Wrote: I got isekai'ed the other day. Now I owe child support to a harem of two dimensional fantasy characters which is hard to afford now that I'm back on Earth working construction.

Seriously though, framing it as an isekai makes the story easier wish fulfillment which is was an enormous chunk of readers here seem to crave.
Yep, that’s one of the reasons why isekai is so popular. It’s a bit like harems, a lot of wish fulfillment 

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#14

SomethingNew Wrote: Hi,

What is accomplished in portal fiction that can't be accomplished is simply setting the story in the fantasy/sci fi world right off the bat, without ever introducing world hoppers/reincarnation?

I've read a lot of Isekai/portal fiction and I can't think of any right now that I read until a conclusion was reached.

How should an Isekai end? 

Curious to hear all your thoughts.

Thanks!


Like many of the posters' have already said: at its basis, it's a wish fulfillment story. 

To dive a bit deeper on this topic, the reason why people may have a fascination with isekai/portal story is because you are putting an average joe that would (may) have a standard upbringing as us, the readers. We can connect with the MC because we are aware how a typical "normal human" would react in their situation. 

You can put your MC through all this weird trial and tribulations and the readers still won't feel that disconnect (hence the wish fulfillment and easy connection to the MC is achieved. With easier connection, the readers become more invested on MC's journey)

Of course, there are stories that subvert the isekai and portal story by having a not relatable MC or just a really screwed up world where nothing goes right for the MC and etc. You can play around alot with this genre. 

For regular fantasy and sci-fi world - unless your MC is Zany or are able to think outside of the world's logic that they were brought up in - their choices may be limited in order to stay consistent with the societal laws of their world. Isekai and portal hoppers are not bound by the societal rules- rather they don't have to care much for it. 

The closest example I would have is (albeit a bad one, lol) if you tap someone's shoulder while they are playing Mahjong. My friend said that in Chinese custom, it's incredibly bad luck to tap someone's shoulder because it's like stealing away the luck. But to someone who didn't know of that superstition, it's just a way to get their attention. When the said person gets angry and upset, we wouldn't understand why - because we never grew up in their customs or culture. 

TL;dr isekai/portal is also a great way to introduce conflict - societal conflict, culture conflict, race, etc. 

As for the ending? 

Either they accept their new life and become happy. They die trying to go back or "save the world" they were trapped in, or they go back to their world. 

Those are the ending that immediately come to my mind. 

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#15
A main character who is a native of our world and a main character who is a native of a fantasy world which has different culture and technology are going to have very different perspectives.  Usually, all the important secondary characters (or the other mc if the story has 2) are going to be fantasy world natives.  So having the mc not be a fantasy world native allows the writer to explore the difference between these two perspectives.  (And yes, as mentioned above, it's handy if the mc is as clueless about the new world as the reader is, though a good mc isn't going to be a blank slate; their personal history usually supplies some of their internal conflict.  Also readers/writers may simply prefer the more familiar perspective.)

Some theories about writing fiction say that the main character should have a unique ability related to the main thematic problem of the story.  For some writers, the point of creating a fantasy world is that you can build a setting which presents a theme, or multiple themes, more clearly and interestingly than a realistic setting could.  It's just as valid to ask what is accomplished in fantasy fiction that can't be accomplished (as well) by having your real world native main character stay in the real world?  Not a question one would usually ask in this community, but astonishingly there are lots of readers out there who dislike fantasy settings.  The answer to both questions is the same - cutting the main character off from the distracting irrelevancies of their personal history and the expectations of their culture and instead confronting that main character with a new world that has different social expectations brings the main character into a confrontation with challenges, ethical questions, opportunities, and/or a side of their own personality that they have never really focused on before.

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#16
It's colonialism power-wank.
A typical fantasy story has a protagonist growing up and existing within the world. They grow and develop alongside the world.
Isekai involves an invasive MC that follows the extremely repetitive "I will subjugate the pitifully stupid inhabitants of the world with my superior knowledge and wisdom!" plot.

Of course, you can't help but notice that slavery is a common theme in your typical Isekai... so as I said, colonialism. 

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#17

Nestor1079 Wrote: It's colonialism power-wank.
A typical fantasy story has a protagonist growing up and existing within the world. They grow and develop alongside the world.
Isekai involves an invasive MC that follows the extremely repetitive "I will subjugate the pitifully stupid inhabitants of the world with my superior knowledge and wisdom!" plot.

Of course, you can't help but notice that slavery is a common theme in your typical Isekai... so as I said, colonialism.



Or it's a genre that appeals to people who want to go to a world where they have the power to actually have the ability to influence their own lives and the world around them...where they are respected and given affections....Funny how it tends to be the genre enjoyed by the outcasts of society who feel completely out of place in the world they live.

Is there some people who are cruel sadistic monsters who think the way you think they do? Yes....but holy heck man, what an absolutely, and openly, hostile take that is.

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#18
Long before there was ever a word of isekai, there were portal fantasies. One of the oldest and most beloved of those was The Chronicles of Narnia, which to this day everyone seems to at least have heard of. Saying that the very concept of getting transported to a different world is just about childish wish fulfillmment also leads back to the Chronicles of Narnia, or to be more specific, its author C.S. Lewis, who said:

"Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up"

There is a bit of an obsession, not only on Royal Road, but in general about being seen as serious, dramatic and very literary. I'm not putting down people who want to attain that status. I was and still am among their ranks. Isekais and before them Portal Fantasies aren't that. They are very popular however because they're fun. Sometimes stupid fun, fueled by fantasies of being all powerful and perfect. I'm not defending the genre as a whole. There are its black sheep and there are a lot of stories who rely on it as a crutch, rather than a mere plot element.

But sometimes you want to explore a new world through the eyes of someone who hasn't grown up there. Sometimes you want to put people who you and me could see walking by on the street into mortal danger. Sometimes you want to make not only a story, but also a game of sorts, following different rules. At other times it's precisely because you want to tell a tale about being far away from home and wanting to return. Or starting anew. 

Portal fantasies are great for just that. They connect two worlds in a way and allow you to explore a soul torn between the safe and mundane or the dangerous and fantastical. Many lead to the conclusion of asking where they belong, the old world or the new or whether they're even able to return. I feel like every isekai/portal fantasy ought to ask that question at least once in however miniscule a way. 

But I think you can take Isekais wherever you want them to be. They're not great literary works, they're like sandboxes. In the end, few of us will ever win a Pulitzer or become critically acclaimed, but every single one of us can have fun with reading and writing. That's why those stories have their place. At least for me

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#19

Nestor1079 Wrote: It's colonialism power-wank.
A typical fantasy story has a protagonist growing up and existing within the world. They grow and develop alongside the world.
Isekai involves an invasive MC that follows the extremely repetitive "I will subjugate the pitifully stupid inhabitants of the world with my superior knowledge and wisdom!" plot.

Of course, you can't help but notice that slavery is a common theme in your typical Isekai... so as I said, colonialism.
Uuuuuuuh. That's a bit of a reach. 


The charm of an isekai is exploring new, impossible places. Can't do that with a world one grew up in and know the common sense of. It's just the literary version of booting up a brand new video game and now knowing what you'll find inside.

LitRPG and the associated isekais is just video game self inserting. It's harmless enough. Chill. 

Re: The beginning and end of an Isekai

#20
SomethingNew Wrote: What is accomplished in portal fiction that can't be accomplished is simply setting the story in the fantasy/sci fi world right off the bat, without ever introducing world hoppers/reincarnation?


A reincarnation or world hopper allows the writer to make jokes or references and English idioms or 21st century earth cultural values that is shared with the readers.
If you start with an in-world character, you have to make up swear words, idioms and a culture. Basically it's easier to write an isekai character and the audience is better connected to the mc.

Nestor1079 Wrote: It's colonialism power-wank.

no. this is shoving a square peg in a round hole.

Isekai is a huge genre in Slavic nations like Russia, Poland, Ukraine, etc which are landlocked and were never colonial empires.
Isekai is huge in Japan because people there are workaholics or stuck in huge urban cities and want a getaway fantasy.

It's a genre that allows for self-insert of a person from any nation on earth and their 21st century knowledge such as penicillin, mathmatics, chemistry interacting with a fantasy culture or even a second chance at life appeal. A lot of Isekai at its core is all about life after death concept - get run over by a car, reincarnate in another world.

>How should an Isekai end? 

The conclusion of a fun to read isekai is:
a) become god [Worth the candle, Vainqueur the Dragon]
b) eternal adventure that never ends [bunch of books at the weekly-popular RR list]
c) uplift a nation [ Castle Kingside ]
d) build a nation for everyone [ That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime ]