Isekai, a popular genre in Japanese media, usually stars a protagonist who is transported into a new world they must survive in and/or escape from. While the genre may be best known for its action and adventure elements that take viewers on a journey to fantastical worlds beyond their imagination, the most successful and popular series also feature strong romantic plots. In fact, romance is the secret ingredient to the increasing popularity of isekai.
Isekai Romance With Magical Beings
Given the otherworldly elements typically associated with isekai, the genre makes plenty of room for fantasy-based romance. As protagonists are transported to new worlds, they are bound to meet people very different from themselves. This can lead to unexpected relationships with magical beings like demi-humans, witches, vampires, or even gods and goddesses. Relationships with demi-humans make up one of the genre's most common tropes, as featured in top series like Inuyasha and The Rising of the Shield Hero.
The fantasy romance in isekai anime offers a fun and whimsical escape from typical modern-day romance. Viewers are entertained by unpredictable and fantastical relationships that can never occur in real life. The more unlikely and powerful the love interest the better, hence why many isekai series feature love with gods and deities like The Devil is a Part-Timer and Kamigami no Asobi. Such blossoming romance is a common focus among the most popular isekai, entertaining viewers with an array of relationship scenarios and conflicts never found in real-world romance.
How Isekai Romance Is Strengthened Through Adventure
The isekai genre was made popular by its limitless adventures and excitement, often starring protagonists who fight and venture out to find a way to return home to their own world, like Sword Art Online. In fact, Sword Art Online -- and not a standard shojo or slice-of-life series, as you'd expect -- is the top-rated show in MyAnimeList's 'Romance' category. (The site isn't the be-all and end-all of anime rankings, but SAO's two million members on the platform is a very decent sample size.) Whether characters are transported into a video game, novel, another dimension or an entirely new world, the protagonist is bound to face unfamiliar and difficult obstacles as they journey in a world foreign to their own. The thrill of adventure mixed with romance often strengthens the trust and bond between teammates, as seen in Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon?, which is also in MAL's Top 1o Romance anime.
Given the difficult journey ahead, these characters often find travel companions to help them navigate unknown lands to complete whatever mission they're on. During their journey, they may gradually grow closer and ultimately develop romantic attraction to one another. Sometimes these feelings can become a conflict of interest if the travel companion is helping the protagonist return home, like when Raphtalia realizes Naofumi may leave her world forever in The Rising of the Shield Hero.
Isekai Couples Overcome Impossible Odds For Love
Isekai anime focus on long, treacherous journeys that force companions to overcome impossible odds to stay alive and get closer to their goal. While facing danger together on a regular basis, they often save each other's lives over and over. This can lead to feelings of gratitude, reliance, and trust between them which builds the necessary foundation for a healthy romantic relationship. As these characters discover they make a great team during their mission, they start to wonder if they'd make great romantic partners as well.
Couples featured in isekai often come from completely different worlds, and their fateful meeting is an impressive feat in and of itself. However, their ability to stay together and make the relationship work is an entirely different hurdle to overcome. Many isekai couples are forced to make drastic lifestyle changes in order to stay together, like Kagome leaving the modern era forever to live in the Feudal Era with Inuyasha. Given these extreme situations, the isekai genre continues to push the boundaries of romance, leaving viewers to question how far they'd be willing to go in the name of love.