The explosion of the otome-game isekai genre

One of the first otome survival animes!

Within the past few years, I’ve written about the sudden appearance of the otome-game isekai genre in both manga and anime format. Trying to keep up with the number of works is just impossible at this point; I’ve even attempted to update the manga page with additional manga when I get the chance! However, and happily, this genre has honestly just exploded both in popularity and amount of content. At this point, I’m going to be dropping the name “otome-game isekai” in favor of “otome survival.” Read on for why I’m doing this.

Forewarning that this may contain some spoilers about works! You’ve been warned!

No longer otome-game isekais

I really hesitate to call this the “otome-game isekai” genre anymore, even though there’s an overarching theme that’s shared between all of these works.

The work could be about someone going back in time and repeating their life after dying, being isekai’d into a novel they’ve read (often times right before they die), or even being a bystander in a work they’ve never had any attachment to (why your sister gotta read/play all those otome games?). The focus in all of these is on the female character attempting to successfully live through whatever situations are in front of them, and escaping all of the bad “routes,” aka dying.

That’s why I’m pivoting to calling these “otome survival” works.

While we have shojo and josei genres already established, the feel of these works seem somewhat different, and at times, more desperate.

Shojo feel more focused on lighter issues and more bubbly topics, such as love and relationships, especially with a younger crowd. A lot of these take place in the middle/high school setting or very closely to one, with a lot more focus on teens. Josei, while looking towards more “adult” issues, feels more about contemporary adult issues on a day-to-day basis, even if it’s in a historical setting.

When we look towards the otome survival, you can usually pin-point that it’s that type of work within the promo or first page of reading, especially if it’s a Korean webtoon/vertical strip type comic.

Subgenres of otome survival works

Like I pointed out in the manga post, there are a bunch of sub-genres to this genre, and that continues to grow as we see the exponential growth of material.

There are still the mainstay isekais relating to an “original” work:

  • Reincarnated as a villainess
    • As a child
      • Villainess Level 99 ~I May Be the Hidden Boss but I’m Not the Demon Lord~ [悪役令嬢レベル99~私は裏ボスですが魔王ではありません~]
      • I Won’t Become a Villainess. I’m Just a “Normal” Duke’s Daughter! [悪役令嬢になんかなりません. 私は「普通 」の公爵令嬢です!]
    • At the end event
    • After dying in her original life… usually from overwork
    • Trying to avoid the bad end
    • After the original soul/villainess died:
      • Happy Ending for the Time-Limited Villainess [시한부 악녀의 해피엔딩]
  • Reincarnated as the main character’s friend
  • Reincarnated as the main character’s family member
    • Usually the step-mother
      • I raised Cinderella preciously [신데렐라를 곱게 키웠습니다]
      • I’m a stepmother, but my daughter is just too cute! [계모인데 딸이 너무 귀여워]
    • It’s time to change the genre
    • Sometimes as the sibling:
      • The Precious Sister of the Villainous Grand Duke [악당 대공님의 귀하디귀한 여동생]
  • Reincarnated as the main character/main love interest
  • Reincarnated as the villain’s child
    • I’m the precious daughter of the greatest villain in the fantasy world [무협지 최고 악당의 귀한 딸입니다]
  • Reincarnated as the antagonist’s love interest
  • Reincarnated as a “mob”/side character (and becomes important)
    • I Became The Secretary of the Tyrant [폭군의 비서관이 되었습니다]

… but now we also have a lot of time traveling:

  • “Villainess” dies and goes back in time to right the wrongs:
    • Actually, I was the real one [사실은 내가 진짜였다]
    • The Villainess Reverses the Hourglass [악녀는 모래시계를 되돌린다] (This is one of my favorites! Great story w/ amazing art)
    • Tearmoon Empire Story [ティアムーン帝国物語 ~断頭台から始まる、姫の転生逆転ストーリー]
  • Character dies and goes back in time:
    • A Silent Garden [침묵의 정원]
    • Just leave me be [나를 버려주세요]
  • Character is reincarnated in the same universe as another person:
    • Dear Us Who Used to be “The Ice Knight and The Failure Princess [拝啓「氷の騎士とはずれ姫」だったわたしたちへ]

… and a number of authors are getting pulled into their works!

… and sometimes they’re just isekai’d into these worlds to show off their skills, more like a typical isekai. These are more focused on issues that would typically face women, such as marriage, sexism, or all of the above, and give the female lead an opportunity to shine in her new life:

  • The young lady is a royal chef [로열 셰프 영애님]
  • My secretly hot husband [남편이 미모를 숨김]
  • Life in Another World as a Housekeeping Mage [家政魔導士の異世界生活~冒険中の家政婦業承ります!]

Other times, we just have our main character attempting to survive a harsh reality, usually in a European-inspired setting:

  • Having the villain’s child
    • I gave birth to a villain’s child [살인귀의 아이를 낳았다]
    • I gave birth to the tyrant’s child [폭군의 아이를 가졌습니다]
  • Girl just wants to have fun — her way
    • May I Please Ask You Just One Last Thing? [最後にひとつだけお願いしてもよろしいでしょうか]
  • She mad, and she want REVENGE
    • Cinderella Wasn’t Me [신데렐라는 내가 아니었다] (another one of my favorites for the drama, but also how the mom is treated and how badass the FL is 🙂 )

Keeping up is a challenge

Over the past few years, I’ve been attempting to keep a track of all the new works being released, mainly because… I really enjoy them, they’re a dirty pleasure read. 🙂 The problem is that my follow list feels like it has a few hundred works in it simply because of how many new ones are coming out all the time, or are being freshly translated into English. I’ve also come to realize that there are just SOOO many in the webnovel universe that who knows how many are out there at this point!

Bottom line, though, is that I feel like there was a previously untapped market for works about girls and women who have to face a number of challenges in society that’s finally being addressed. It’s not just about finding love or overcoming some petty issues, but really trying to figure out how to navigate lives that really don’t want you to succeed.

What are your thoughts? Do you have any good otome survival works you’d like to suggest for the list?


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