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The Otherworldly Isekai of the 90s

Isekai anime taps into the inner childhood dream of being whisked away to a fantasy world to play the hero.

And in the last 10 years, some of the most popular anime have been isekai. This includes shows like Sword Art Online, Re:Zero, and Log Horizon.

The theme of a protagonist being transported to another world is nothing new. In fact, movies such as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland fit this mold.

So, fortunately, if you are a fan of 90s anime and isekai (or isekai with female leads), you have some wonderful options to choose from!

Did we miss one? Let us hear about it in the comments!

What is Isekai Anime?

Odds are you already have a general idea of the meaning. But if you’re looking for a definition:

Isekai is a fantasy subgenre that involves a protagonist(s) being transported to a fantasy world or parallel universe wherein they often play a central role in a conflict of some kind. This serves as a plot device to help the audience understand the world at the same pace as the main character(s).

So without further ado, let’s dig into the list of 90s isekai!

9. Legend of Himiko

himiko and kutani climbing
Himiko-den – 1999

The nation of Yamatai has been attacked by the kingdom of Kune. In a bid to save their nation, the people of Yamatai send six queen candidates across the country.

The people responsible for choosing the queen hide in a magical pendant. This pendant is placed around the neck of a newborn girl named Himiko and she is sent to the future to live in relative safety.

Years later, while wandering around an archeological dig, Himiko’s pendant activates. This sends both her and her friend, Kutani, back to ancient Japan. As the two discover the secrets of the pendant, they set out to reunite the six queen candidates and save the kingdom.

8. NG Knight Ramune & 40

Lamune and royalty
NG Knight Ramune & 40 – 1990 to 1991

4th grader Lamune loves playing video games. And after a rough day at school, he buys one called “King Sccasher” from a mysterious girl on his way home.

After beating the game, the same mysterious girl appears, asks for his help, and reveals herself as Princess Milk. Lamune also discovers that he is a blood relative of the hero Lamuness.

He is soon after dragged into the world of Hara-Hara to save it from the evil Don Harumage. To do this, he must revive the Guardian Knights.

7. Those Who Hunt Elves

those who hunt elves tank
Elf wo Karu Mono-tachi – 1996

Three unlikely heroes are mysteriously transported from Japan to a magical fantasy world in this comedy isekai.

In a bid to send them back to their homeworld, an elven priestess attempts to cast a magical spell. Unfortunately, she is interrupted and spell fragments are scattered throughout the world.

Fortunately, a tank was transported with them. So the adventurous trio sets out to track the spell fragments, which have embedded into the skin of random female elves. Along the way, they encounter evil-doers who interrupt their quest.

Point of interest – Those Who Hunt Elves was one of 38 shows that were part of a 2015 anime ban by China.

6. Digimon Adventure

tai and agumon hugging
Digimon: Digital Monsters – 1999 to 2000

This one might hit the nostalgia buttons for some, and Digimon, unfortunately, got a bad rap as a Pokemon rip-off. However, despite this negative comparison, Digimon Adventure is a solid isekai anime from the 90s.

In fact, it can be argued that Digimon Adventure has held up much better over the years.

Digimon Adventure follows seven children who are transported from their summer camp to another world where they encounter “Digimon.” The children embark upon a trip of discovery as they attempt to find their way home.

5. El Hazard

attacked by the insectoids
El Hazard: The Magnificent World – 1995 to 1996

Three high school students and their History teacher are mysteriously transported to the world of El-Hazard. There, they find themselves thrown into a conflict between the human nations and a tribe of insectoids.

Strangely enough, each of the four people from earth receives a special ability that helps them navigate the world.

With these powers, the four protagonists find themselves playing a central role in the conflict that is plaguing the world.

4. Magic Knight Rayearth

magic knights
Magic Knight Rayearth – 1994 to 1995

Hikaru Shido, Umi Ryuzaki, and Fuu Hooji are three ordinary schoolgirls who meet during a field trip to Tokyo Tower. Suddenly they are engulfed by a bright light and see a vision of Princess Emeraude who pleas for their help.

Afterward, they are suddenly transported to the world of Cephiro upon the back of a giant flying fish. There, they are told by Master Mage Clef that they must rescue Emeraude by becoming Magic Knights.

Afterward, the girls set out to save the princess while learning the secrets of their newfound powers.

3. Fushigi Yugi

Miaka meets the emperor
Mysterious Play – 1995 to 1996

Best friends Miaka Yuuki and Yui Hongo discover a strange ancient Chinese book called “The Universe of the Four Gods” in a Tokyo library.

Opening the book transports the two girls to a strange and unfamiliar world. After a scary encounter with some bandits, they are saved by a mysterious rescuer named Tamahome. Afterward, Yui is suddenly transported back to the real world.

Still stranded in the unknown land, Miaka asks Tamahome to help her find her way home. And after a spot of trouble, the pair encounters the land’s emperor, Hotohori.

Hotori tells Miaka that she is the foretold priestess of the kingdom’s protector god Suzaku, and that she must find the god’s seven Celestial Warriors. And through their adventures, a budding romance develops between Miaka and Tamahome.

2. Now and Then, Here and There

lala-ru smiles
Ima, Soko ni Iru Boku – 1999 to 2000

If you’re looking for a dark 90s isekai anime, then look no further.

Now and Then, Here and There, is a story about a boy named Shu who meets a random girl named Lala-Ru on a walk home from school. Soon after Lala-Ru, is abducted by mysterious soldiers in a surprise attack.

While attempting to intervene, Shu is accidentally transported to a strange wasteland and is imprisoned in a warship. Shu is beaten and interrogated repeatedly and this is only the start of his new living nightmare.

1. The Vision of Escaflowne

Tenkuu no Escaflowne – 1996

15-year-old schoolgirl Hitomi Kanzaki has her world turned upside down the night a boy named Van Fanel suddenly appears from the sky. Unfortunately, a vicious dragon is following the boy, and he manages to kill the dragon after following a premonition from Hitomi.

Afterward, a pillar of light appears and transports Hitomi to the world of Gaea.

It is soon revealed that Van is a prince of the Kingdom of Fanelia. And together, Hitomi and Van battle the invading forces of the evil empire of Zaibach.


Rowegn became an anime fan in the early 90s after renting Akira on VHS. The experience completely changed how he viewed animation as a medium and he has since logged thousands of hours watching anime. Despite his love for all anime both classic and modern, 90s anime will always be near and dear.

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