Recently, we’re seeing a major trend of new adaptations of very old light novel and manga series. The excellent adaptations of Mushoku Tensei and HoriMiya, as well as the upcoming one of Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy are all series fans had given up on ever seeing in anime form. Mushoku Tensei in particular has been completed for years. It’s turning out that even complete prior adaptations aren’t a barrier to entry, with the reboots of Fruits Basket and Shaman King.
Anime adaptations have always been a mixed bag. There are some that absolutely blast it out of the park on every level, like the Monogatari series, Low-Tier Character “Tomozaki-kun”, and My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU. Some actually improve on their source material, like KonoSuba. Some are just faithful adaptations, like the first two seasons of A Certain Magical Index, or Is It Wrong To Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon? (mangled title translation aside). And then there’s total stinkers that either miss the point entirely, like Arifureta, drop a deuce in production, like 7 Deadly Sins, or change the plot/ending in absolutely disgusting ways, like Kuma Miko, Nanana’s Buried Treasure, or the first attempt at Negima all those years ago.
But in the midst of all this, a lot of terrible series are getting adaptations, and it’s utterly baffling. The Rise of the Shield Hero, for example, is not only a case study in poorly-aging themes (at its best), but the author famously despises the series’ biggest fans. In Another World With My Smartphone and Geniuses Have It Easy Even In Another World are boring, generic trash, the sort of thing isekai haters believe all isekai series are like. Redo of Healer, meanwhile, is utterly repugnant on every level, even before getting animated.
So the floodgates are open and damn near anything is on the table, but utter schlock is being churned out. Obviously Sturgeon’s Law is in effect here, but there’s a long list of series that not only deserve an adaptation, but in many cases are long overdue. Most fans have at least a favorite series they’re waiting to hear the announcement on (any day now, right?) if not an entire list. I’m here to bring you an extremely biased list of series I’m waiting for, as well as some my friends have badgered me into mentioning, with some short descriptions and/or shameless begging to explain why they’re here. I’ll be splitting them up by category, so let’s get going.
SLICE OF LIFE — There are plenty of good stories around that don’t need the breakneck pace of an action series or the fantastical touch of isekai (or magical high school, if you’d like to date yourself), though genre fusion has proven successful.
The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten — A high school boy discovers that the idol of his school is his next-door neighbor. The excuses they make to interact slowly fall to the wayside as their relationship grows deeper. A very sweet romcom that’s refreshingly light on wish-fulfillment.
Days With My Stepsister — A fluffy romcom about a high school boy and girl whose parents have suddenly married and gone on a long honeymoon. Their similarly cold and logical attitudes betray them as their feelings for each other change and develop, leading to delicate tension without feeling forced.
Not My Daughter, But Me?! — A single mother fully expecting the boy next door to marry her daughter is blindsided by his sudden confession to her. But this isn’t a random whim; he’s had his heart set on his childhood friend’s mother for ages, and the daughter is fully in favor of setting the two of them up. A fluffy romcom with an age difference pointed in an unusual direction.
FANTASY — Stories about magic, either hidden here on Earth or in other worlds where it’s commonplace.
7th — A fairly standard harem novel at first glance, the main character has occasional bouts of dramatic personality change, resulting in some of the best comedy off Earth.
Altina the Sword Princess — A timid strategist is assigned to the third princess, and ends up embroiled in the battle over succession. He’s not even confident in himself on strategies for normal war, let alone political strife! Thankfully leans far more into war and politics than the potentially problematic romcom aspects.
Bokutachi no Remake — A salaryman who failed the entrance exam for art school and gave up on his dreams compares himself to genius creators his own age before bed one night. Upon waking, he finds himself back in high school. Given a second chance, he finds himself in college alongside the peers he idolized, and brings them together despite their disparate types of talent to make a powerful, creative multimedia team. This time, letting himself down also means letting them down, and he’ll never allow that.
Defeating the Demon Lord’s a Cinch (If You’ve Got a Ringer) — A cleric near the level cap joins a party of fresh adventurers, who push him to despair. If these kids are the hope of the world, we’re doomed. His attempts to take matters into his own hands make things worse, even when he steps back into a more behind-the-scenes role. A comedy of errors — think KonoSuba if Wiz was a world-weary archcleric desperately trying to help Kazuma save the world despite his best efforts to screw it all up.
Dragalia Lost — One of the only remaining CyGames mobile games yet to be adapted, along with World Flipper. Unfortunately, given the partnership with Nintendo involved in its creation and distribution, this one’s less likely to happen.
Dungeon Meshi — Anthony Bourdain’s D&D campaign. (Not really, but it might as well be.) A group of adventurers survive in the dungeons by cooking everything they kill. Complete with illustrated recipes at the end of every chapter.
The Genius Prince’s Guide to Raising a Nation Out of Debt (Hey, How About Treason?) — The crown prince of a small country nestled between major powers wants nothing more than to sell his territory to a more stable force and live quietly with his closest confidant. Unfortunately(?) for him, he’s too smart to be pushed into a bad deal for his people, and ‘fails’ upward into controlling more and more territory.
Nanana’s Buried Treasure — This one actually got an adaptation already, but they horrifically botched the far-too-early ending. With the recent trend of reboots, many fans are hoping for another try.
Shakugan no Shana — It’s a real shame they never got around to making that 3rd season that got greenlit. The series really could’ve used some actual closure, and the light novel is there and waiting.
The Strange Adventure of a Broke Mercenary — An unremarkable(?) mercenary named Loren joins the adventurer’s guild after the bloody defeat of his unit in a war that went bad. When he falls in with a newbie party, he makes a fast friend in the group’s cleric, Lapis. But there’s more to her than what he expects, and he quickly finds himself embroiled in intrigue, dealing with sealed gods and politics both human and demonic.
ISEKAI — If you want an actual escape in your escapism, there’s nothing like leaving the entire world behind, right? These stories will take you where you want to go, as long as that somewhere isn’t here.
Apotheosis of a Demon — A Monster Evolution Story — A short but surprisingly powerful story of a supposed VRMMO gone sour, as the secret project to invade another dimension using remote-controlled avatars through a full-dive MMO goes horribly wrong.
Cook of the Mercenary Corp — A young pro chef in training ends up in a mercenary company in a fantasy world. His attempts to communicate through food work far better than he ever expects, earning him the favor of multiple royals, while inspiring the mercenaries to greatness. The secondary chapters after every major event showing the other perspectives are great fun.
The Death Mage Doesn’t Want A Fourth Time — When an entire classroom is transported to a world with both high fantasy and future tech elements, one boy’s power is granted to another through an unfortunate misunderstanding of names. Cursed by the God of Reincarnation for daring to complain, he suffers through a short but brutal life before being killed. When he reincarnates into a third world, he decides he’s not going through that again, no matter the cost — and also that the God of Reincarnation is unfit for the position in every way, and has to go.
The Ideal Sponger Life — A Japanese salaryman is offered the choice of a lifetime, quite literally. Summoned to a fantasy world, he is returned on the same day with a beacon-like artifact and 30 days to prepare for a permanent change of residence, should he accept. And accept he does, as his new home comes with a royal wife he fell for at first sight and a cushy position as a trophy husband. But this man was not chosen randomly, and his family’s secrets come back to haunt him even in another world.
Magical★Explorer — A boy finds himself in a dating sim RPG game — as the unlucky best friend character. With his knowledge of the game’s plot and systems, he vows to bring about a happy ending for everyone, not just the protagonist and his harem. But rather than joining the protagonist’s group, some of his favorite characters are sticking to him.
Magic in this Other World is Too Far Behind! — When a high schooler gets summoned to a fantasy world with his best friends, he becomes a hero. But what he doesn’t know is that one of his friends is a mage — and always has been, protecting him with magic from behind the scenes. He pits his modern magic against that of the fantasy world in an attempt to return the three of them to their own world. (More recent volumes bring it into some other subgenres, but that’s veering into spoiler territory.)
When I Left My House After 10 Years of Being a Hiki-NEET, I Was Transported to Another World — Now that’s a mouthful. A shut-in finally steps outside after his parents’ death, only to find himself, his house, and his dog in a fantasy world’s forest. His house remains mysteriously connected to the internet, resulting in some of the most intense forums drama either world has ever seen.
ISEKAI SUBGENRES — Isekai, being the massive trend it is, has spawned several prominent subgenres, each with some standard trappings but carrying a unique flavor.
OTOME / VILLAINESS — Reincarnation into female-protagonist romance games, typically as a character hostile to the protagonist. My Next Life as a Villainess — All Roads Lead to Doom was merely the harbinger of this trope; there have been plenty before it and even more since.
Accomplishments of the Duke’s Daughter — An avid gamer finds herself in the body of an otome game’s villainess at the moment of her downfall, facing the dissolution of a betrothal and an exile, deserved as it was by the body’s previous owner. She uses her advanced education and business sense to make her own way in the world beyond the game’s plot, striving to become a leader her territory can trust.
Deathbound Duke’s Daughter — A girl reincarnates into her favorite otome game as the villainess, who dies in brutal and painful ways in absolutely every route. In her attempts to avoid the targets of the game’s romances and the death flags they bring her, she inadvertently attracts them to her for the right reasons instead.
Falling in Love with the Villainess — In a shocking twist, one of the people reincarnated into this otome game actually hasn’t played or even heard of it before. But as the servant of the villainess, he falls for his master, vowing to protect her from the wrath of the world. And protect her he does — even as the universe itself tries to bring the plot back on track, and the worthless, selfish failure of a heroine goes about her role in the worst ways possible.
The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs — Something of a reversal of the subgenre, as a brash and outspoken teenage boy finds himself reincarnated as a nameless background character in a particularly poorly-written, pay-to-win otome game, which he’d been forced to play by his domineering older sister immediately before his death. Drawing on his knowledge of the game world and its most expensive DLC, he runs roughshod over its most egregious plot holes, bringing the heroine and villainess together in friendship in the process.
THERE AND BACK AGAIN — Ex-isekai protagonists readjusting to modern society after living the dream elsewhere.
The Hero Who Returned Remains The Strongest Even In The Modern World — A young man returns after a stint as a hero to find that Earth has been more magical than he thought all along. With onmyouji and exorcists fighting yakuza, demons, and demon yakuza, he finds himself embroiled in new problems, which he usually solves through unheard-of levels of brute force.
I Got A Cheat Ability in Another World, and Became Extraordinary Even in the Real World — A genuinely nice guy who’s been kicked around for his body shape discovers a portal in his grandfather’s basement, leading to a sage’s retreat filled with fantastical artifacts. Unlike most isekai protagonists, he stays genuinely nice and humble as he does his best to improve the lives of those around him.
Isekai Uncle — A diehard Sega fan who was summoned as a hero as a teenager wakes up from his coma in reality, but retains his memories and magical powers. His nephew helps him attempt to become a YouTuber while watching his uncle’s recorded misadventures (and unnoticed failed romances) through memory visualization magic.
The Reunion With Twelve Fascinating Goddesses — An isekai protagonist who speedran the Demon Lord to make it back to his grandmother’s funeral returns to the fantasy world a year later after painstakingly recreating the transfer magic. But the time scale of the two worlds is vastly different, and the goddesses he’d made contracts with have had plenty of time to become lonely and bitter in his absence after their abrupt parting. If he wants to get along with them, he’s really going to have to earn it this time.
REVERSE ISEKAI — In Soviet Isekai, fantasy races get summoned to Earth!
A Knight Comes to the Countryside — A dying knight from a fantasy world appears on a farm in backwoods Japan. A nearby farmer discovers her and nurses her back to health, but between language barriers, quarantine scares, and her ability to use actual magic, her life on Earth is off to a rocky start despite his best attempts at making her comfortable.
Welcome to Japan, Ms. Elf! — As much a slice-of-life as a fantasy action series, this novel features a man who’s been dreaming of another world since childhood. When he falls asleep next to one of its fantastical residents, they both wake up in his apartment in Japan, where he takes her on foodie sightseeing trips in between otherworldly adventures.
THE WORLD TURNS — Earth itself becomes a fantasy world, often through an interdimensional merger, or a widespread outbreak of RPG-style dungeons.
D-Genesis — An ongoing novel with an analytical, pragmatic approach to fantasy elements. An unremarkable pair of a salaryman and a salarywoman quit their jobs when they discover fascinating new properties of the world’s newest residents, the dungeons.
Dungeon Busters — A middle-aged man transforms himself in his backyard dungeon before taking the world’s dungeons by storm, in an attempt to stop an oncoming apocalypse.
Everyone Else is a Returnee — A completed Korean novel, easily among the cream of the crop within this subgenre. An unnoticeable man gets left behind when Earth gets evacuated to begin its transformation into a fantasy world, caterpillar-to-butterfly style. And that’s just the beginning of his troubles.
A VIP As Soon As You Log In — Another completed Korean novel, by the same author as EER above. A boy awakens to his previous life’s memories as a blacksmith, and has to clean up his own(?) interdimensional mess, which was left unfinished with his prior death.
GLORIOUS TRASH — These series are bad and all their fans know it, but love them anyway. Since we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel with Shield Hero and then going further to drill halfway through the world with Redo of Healer, these are no longer the worst option, right?
Arifureta: From Commonplace Job to World’s Strongest — Given that Asread disastrously shat the bed on the current adaptation, in the wake of the Fruits Basket reboot, I’d love for another studio to take a crack at this series later on. The epilogues after the main story now have significantly more content than the story itself, and are some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever read. Even if Asread finishes its run of the main story, I don’t trust them with the comedy.
Lazy Dungeon Master — A crafty but perpetually sleepy Japanese man with a foot fetish ends up as a Dungeon Master, and his dungeon is female. With the groundbreaking idea of harvesting life energy via a comfy inn attached to a mostly-safe dungeon, he ends up in all sorts of shenanigans with heroes, dragons, and demon lords coming to stay in his luxury fantasy suite with modern amenities.
Mixed Bathing in Another World — While most people have heard the stories about being reincarnated as monsters or swords or dogs or slimes or even vending machines, relatively few have heard the story about the guy who got reincarnated as a hot spring. Yes, really.
Survival in Another World With My Master — It’s Minecraft in trashy wish-fulfillment isekai novel form. Best to adapt this while the YouTuber-watching audience is still young enough to have the free time to watch it.
World’s Strongest Rearguard — When a Japanese bus gets in an accident, its passengers are transported to the Labyrinth Country, a sort of purgatory for lost souls. They are expected to delve into dungeons and pay their way into an afterlife with help from a job system, but one salaryman ends up accidentally fudging the system by vaguely choosing an unknown job, “Rearguard.” He and several (female) passengers from the bus end up on a journey to discover the secret of the forgotten gods sealed deep beneath the labyrinths, shattering records and making mad bank along the way.
Again, this is just my personal list. I’m also certain I’ve missed a lot of important titles due to MangaDex being down, which prevents me from checking my reading lists there. If you’ve got a list of your own, let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear about it!
(Unless your list is full of series I can’t stand, in which case I don’t wanna hear about it. But you have no way to know that without trying. So post it anyway.)