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There is a very popular Japanese animation genre now called "Isekai Tensei", where a person is reincarnated into another world. There are probably over a hundred of these animes now, each season (3 months/4 months) new ones appear. Some people claims Mushoku Tensei (2012) was the first one, or at least the first to popularize the genre. But that seems like too recently for this to be the first story which introduced the idea.

Which was the first isekai tensei, the first story to introduce the idea of "reincarnated into another world"?

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    Are you specifically looking at anime? Specifically at dying and reincarnating? Specifically reincarnating as an infant rather than inhabiting an older person on the other side?
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 11, 2023 at 16:30
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    Mushoku Tensei is definitely not the first modern isekai tensei. Yojo Senki (‘The Saga of Tanya the Evil’ in English translations) predates it by two years. I don’t know of any older isekai tensei series than that myself, but I would be willing to bet that somewhere in pre-modern mythology such a story exists (isekai ten'i stories, OTOH, go back at least a thousand years, including for example the Japanese folktale of Urashima Taro) Jul 12, 2023 at 1:37
  • I guess Yu Yu Hakusho doesn't count because Yusuke is reincarnated in the same universe?
    – Simone
    Jul 12, 2023 at 10:31
  • Related on Anime.SE: Which was the first isekai tensei anime?
    – Andrew T.
    Jul 12, 2023 at 13:26

2 Answers 2

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Some have claimed that the 1911 Barsoom books by Edgar Rice Burroughs are the first isekai reincarnation stories. John Carter repeatedly dies, and is reborn on Earth and on Mars throughout the books. Somewhat more borderline, while he transports between two worlds, they are both within the same solar system. Also, unlike some isekai reincarnation works, John Carter always wakes up in his own body, rather than reincarnating into a new form, or an existing body.

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  • Arguably, Dante beat Borroughs to the punch with The Divine Comedy, but that stretches things in a different direction for "another universe".
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 11, 2023 at 16:45
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    I was tempted to suggest the Thomas Covenant series, which begins with Lord Foul's Bane (1977). When he's initially hit by the car and wakes up in the other world it certainly seems like he's been isekai'd, but he turns out to be only mostly dead. Jul 11, 2023 at 18:59
  • Keep in mind there are 2 types of Isekai, isekai tensei (reincarnation into another world) and isekai ten'i (transition into another world). My question is about isekai tensei. If the character appears in another dimension by moving through a portal or by waking up with its same body after falling asleep that's isekai teni
    – Pablo
    Jul 11, 2023 at 21:23
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    @Pablo: Except that John Carter's transitions are caused by him dying. :) Admittedly, he keeps getting put back into his body on Earth, and there were hints that he was something more than human, but it is a case of reincarnations.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jul 11, 2023 at 21:57
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    @FuzzyBoots Dante’s Comedia was theoretically isekai, but was definitely not isekai tensei. Dante (the MC, not the author) did not die and go to some other world, he just went to some other worlds (if you consider the inferno and paradisio to actually be other worlds that is). Jul 12, 2023 at 1:25
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Is very debatable some say is Alice in Wonderland (1865), some say Dante's Inferno (14th-century), heck even some mythos are isekai elements but if you looking for anime variant it's Aura Battler Dunbine (1983) by Yoshiyuki Tomino and if that name familiar it's because that author of Gundam.

And for novels, Haruka Takachiho's novel Warrior (1976) is the first isekai.

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    But I'm talking about Isekai tensei (reincarnation in another world), Alice in Wonderland would be Isekai ten'i (transition into another world). Also, I'm not making my question restricted to anime
    – Pablo
    Jul 11, 2023 at 21:20
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    Ok but again it's very debatable which one is considered the first isekai because they're so many stories of character going through others worlds dead or not Jul 12, 2023 at 1:54

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