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Comic Reviews

Isekai, or How I Learned to Love Shitty Power Fantasies

Isekai stories are the new fad in manga series at the moment – it’s actually a boom in the light novel industry, with manga adaptations of successful LNs. For the uninitiated, the Isekai genre is when the main character (typically a Japanese student or salaryman) dies or is summoned/transported  to a different world (usually your standard RPG setting) and given a huge boon by the god of the new world. Or, for whatever reason they’re naturally gifted in this new world. This boon allows them the ability to style on anyone they meet, or let them grow their abilities at an unparalleled rate. I’m going to be frank: most of the stuff that’s coming out is trash. I feel like the rate of trash is higher than average for this particular genre as well, because it’s especially conducive to trash. Why is that? Because the main theme of all Isekai is the element of the power fantasy.

The whole point of this genre is for someone average to suddenly be put in a position of immense power and privilege, so that they can wield it mercilessly on those now beneath them. They can still be nice or even give mercy to their enemies, because it costs them nothing. Others are so beneath them that sparing them has little or no consequences.

Having talked mad shit about the genre, I will now list my recommendations:

Kumo Desu Ga, Nani Ka? (This one is entertaining to me, because the appeal is something distinct and outside of the power fantasy. There are very little human characters in this at all – most of the focus is on the main character surviving against hostile creatures)

Tate No Yuusha (It’s cartoonishly over the top at times (all the time), but it serves to fuel the MC’s bile. His hatred is palpable – what works about it is it’s really easy to empathize with the MC – you see exactly how unreasonable his circumstances are, yet he’s the one who gets blamed for not fixing the problem. It’s Obama tier frustration: Republicans blame him for being ineffective while being the leading cause via blocking everything he does. Meanwhile, they also blame him for their blocking him because “A good leader wouldn’t have gotten himself in this position to begin with”. Classic catch-22.)

Tsuyokute New Saga (A variation – not actually a new world, but a groundhog day style reset: essentially, the main character travels back in time before anything bad happened to them and they have a chance to fix their mistakes. This is another popular framing device. This series is probably the most straightforward of the genre, but it has great execution.)

Dungeon Seeker (Edgelord trash. I think the shitty edginess works in its favor though. Don’t ask me how, because I don’t know either.)

Risou No Himo (Salaryman is summoned to a different world to marry the queen. He’s chosen because he has no familiarity with the new world and the queen wants someone spineless who won’t challenge her power. He understands this as an opportunity to loaf around and bang royalty, and be rewarded for it. Of course, he readily agrees to the proposition. The conflict in the story stems from how the realities of running an empire inevitably get in the way of him wanting to be a lazy sack of shit. He therefore has to use his salaryman powers to resolve problems in an organized fashion. I like this one because it cuts straight to the core of the power fantasy – You  (the reader) want to play video games, watch TV and bang hot chicks all day and be rewarded for it.)

There are some other good series, but they don’t come to mind at the moment.

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