Does Life Before the Isekai Matter?

Does Life Before the Isekai Matter?

What Matters Most in an Isekai Anime?

Today’s discussion was sparked by Toma in the DoubleSama Discord server saying that he wanted to learn more about Rudy’s past life in Mushoku Tensei. That comment isn’t something I agree with and so I decided I’d write an article explaining why I feel this way.

To start this discussion, I think it’s important to consider what you think matters most in an isekai anime. For me, the thing that matters most is either going to be world-building or the characters, depending on the type of series.

If it’s more of an adventure series, like Mushoku Tensei, world-building is key. And if it’s a comedy, like KonoSuba, world-building is less important and characters are key. But in either case, world-building is going to play a major role.

Rudeus "Rudy" Greyrat from the anime series Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation
Rudeus “Rudy” Greyrat

I know a lot of people may say that isekai anime are all about power fantasies. However, I don’t think that’s true. I think they’re far more about escapism. The reason I enjoy watching isekai isn’t so I can self-insert as some overpowered protagonist. It’s so I can explore a vibrant fantasy world.

If a fantasy world is built well, great. And if it also features a lot of good supporting characters, like Mushoku and KonoSuba both do, even better. But the protagonist generally doesn’t matter all that much to me. I want them to be funny in a comedy. Aside from that, I don’t really care.

So, this is what brings me to the main question of the discussion. Does the prior life of an isekai anime protagonist actually matter? Should knowing about their past play a major role in the story of the series?

Does a Protagonist’s Prior Life Matter?

The prior life of an isekai protagonist could give us a glimpse into why they think and act the way they do. That’s certainly the case at the start of Mushoku Tensei. Rudy is afraid of the world beyond his family’s property line because of the abuse he experienced from his peers in his past life.

That’s a fair point. However, has that actually mattered at all since the start of the series? We’ve gotten more of Rudy’s backstory as the anime progressed. But I wouldn’t say it’s had much of an immediate impact on his new life. He just knows he wants his current life to play out differently.

However, that could be said about 90% of isekai protagonists. One thing the majority of them have in common is that they were either NEETs or loners in their prior lives. And now, in their new worlds, they have friends and go on fun adventures.

Kazuma holding a saw from the anime series KonoSuba
Kazuma holding a saw

Kazuma in KonoSuba: NEET. Subaru in Re:ZERO: NEET. Rimuru in TenSura: Average salaryman. Momonga in Overlord: NEET. Sora and Shiro in No Game No Life: NEETs. Hajime in Arifureta: Loner loser. I mean, the subtitle of Arifureta even refers to Hajime as “commonplace.”

So, what’s my point here? That none of these characters are anyone special or interesting before they ended up in another world. They all lead extremely boring lives. That’s what makes them being transported or reincarnated in a fantasy world so good. It’s a chance for them to start over and live entirely different lives.

Also, consider how often the prior lives of these protagonists come up and how they reflect on them. In most cases, their prior lives are hardly mentioned, and when they are, it’s in a negative light. For example, Kazuma never mentions his prior life and Rudy only does to reflect on how much worse it was.

Why Prior Lives Aren’t as Important

There’s one reason I can think of for prior lives being important in isekai anime, and that’s for the mystery factor. Sometimes, why the protagonist appeared in the fantasy world is a big mystery. And, theoretically, if we knew more about their past, we might get some clues.

Obviously, this isn’t always the case, though. We know Kazuma died of shock when he thought he was hit by a truck (he was actually not hit by a tractor). And we know Rimuru from TenSura was stabbed and given the opportunity to have a new life by a god of some sort.

However, there are also those like Re:ZERO, in which the mystery surrounding Subaru’s teleportation to the fantasy world is a major part of the series. So, naturally, you’d expect that Subaru’s past is important, right?

Subaru Natsuki from the anime series Re:ZERO
Subaru Natsuki

Well, that’s where you’re wrong — at least for now. Unless some new twist occurs, we already know that Subaru’s previous life was unremarkable and has nothing to do with his teleportation. Instead, it seems likely that he was the victim of someone using magic in the fantasy world.

You see, even in the isekai where the teleportation or reincarnation of the protagonist is a mystery, their prior lives really don’t matter. So, rather than focusing on these prior lives, I’d much rather focus on how the protagonist develops within the new world.

Who they were before they arrived in the fantasy world is trivial. We know who they are immediately after their teleportation or reincarnation, and that’s what matters. From there, they grow and develop.

This is also true of any other protagonist in anime. We’re rarely with the protagonist from birth until death. We’re always joining them somewhere in the middle of their life. So why should it be any different with an isekai?


What’s your opinion on the importance of isekai protagonist backgrounds? Do you find yourself wanting to know more about them before they arrived in the new world? Or do you agree with me that who they were before doesn’t matter? Let me know in the comments.

If you enjoyed this review, remember to click the like button down below. Also, follow me over on Twitter @DoubleSama so you don’t miss out on any future content. And come join our Discord server if you’re interested in discussing anime with other members of the community.

Finally, I’d like to thank Roman and Toma for supporting at the Heika tier this month, as well as Key Mochi~ for supporting at the Senpai tier. To learn more about how you too can become a supporter of this blog, check out

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