I’ll answer the question in the title with another question: Given the current world climate, how would escapism not be a popular genre right now?
Whether you’ve been listening to Unwound for the past three season or you just started listening recently, I think I’ve made my excitement over isekai anime pretty clear. My love affair with the isekai genre began in my childhood because I fell in love with books like the Oz series by L. Frank Baum*, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll, and the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. As I got older, I got into stories like Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” and Disney’s Tron.
Isekai stories have been around for over 100 years in terms of literature and anime. Historically, the first isekai anime was the 1918 adaptation of Urashima Tarou, the tale of the fisherman who is taken to an undersea kingdom on the back of a turtle. It was directed by Seitaro Kitayama, who is considered by historians and researchers to be one of the founding fathers of anime.