The elephant in the room in another world: Analyzing Isekai Tropes and how to Deconstruct them

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Secret Identities in Isekai/Fantasy/Historical stories are rarely well made. Can someone talk about it ?

I think secret identity (by crossdressing or not) can be very good in a political scheme/plot...
 
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As someone who consumes and enjoy isekai/harem on a daily basis, one thing I like is when author make the brute, rough looking or ugly adventurers very capable and/or respected, instead of the random barbarian that only serve to harass the girls so MC can save them.

One story that I've seen doing that recently was Fukafuka Dungeon Kouryakuki: Ore no Isekai Tensei Boukentan (I read on Batoto since it has no chapter uploaded here and be warned: the story contain sexual and harem themes).

In this manga the old, ugly, brutish adventurers are very capable and widely respected since their feats, experiences and knowledge paved way for the newer generations.

The author takes many isekai themes and either gives his own touch or desconstruct some of them (example every Goblin is like a mini Rambo and this make them more scary and dangerous than the Goblins of Goblin Slayer, the MC himself was almost killed by a single Goblin on chapter 1), and the characters have no magic or herculean strenght (there are a few adventurers like the MC are slightly above average in physical prowess, but nothing else), so they need to be smart when fighting and rely on strategy, tricks and items to beat even the weakest enemies.
 
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Speaking of the idea that might makes right in fantasy world with very unequally distributed might.
Somehow, people doing worldbuilding keep forgetting that people in RPG-fantasy aren't just born strong. They need to train a lot, kill many enemies, plunder many spells and artifacts from ancient ruins. All of that at a risk to their own lives. People who do get beyond D-rank adventurers surely must like the job. They must be adrenaline junkies, mad scholars and other interesting people?

Would such a person really want to waste time ruling anything? Or would they rather delegate the responsibility to a professional, and just establish themselves in some role more suitable to their personality, like head of knights or a local deity?

And if they do have to rule, what their rule would be like?

Note that it applies not just to human kingdoms. Most Dark Lords started out their career as minor monsters or even ordinary people. Dark Lords like Sauron, who were godlike beings from the start, are in the minority.
the characters have no magic or herculean strenght (there are a few adventurers like the MC are slightly above average in physical prowess, but nothing else), so they need to be smart when fighting and rely on strategy, tricks and items to beat even the weakest enemies.
Does it even count as fantasy if there is no magic or superhuman feats?
There are no excuses in a deconstruction. Useful as these tropes may be, they are still tropes with no legs to stand on. I mean, these nations have an emperor with absolute, divine-right rule and yet feudalism still seems to be going strong. Even worse, guilds are ever-present, despite them only arising in part due to the decline of the nobles. These worlds make no sense, and almost never do authors try to examine these worlds and make something unique and that isn't a carbon copy of the same beaten-to-death settings. They could at least copy Japanese feudalism, which arose concurrently but independently of European feudalism. But Europe is used for fantasy while Japan is left as history.
Things make a lot more sense, if you understand the world as being in transition.
For example, if you're talking about absolute emperor and strong nobles - you're seeing a transition from feudalism to absolute monarchy. No doubt fuelled by adventurers' guilds doing a good job fighting off bandits and monsters, enabling people to travel on roads.
Change makes for interesting times, and interesting times make for a good story.
While perfectly established world where nothing ever changes can easily get boring.
 
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im a sucker for isekai's. the most broken OP MC's and the most down-to-earth reasonable stories both litter my manga pile.

but even i have my limits there are some manga where you cant help but wonder if the author was making the story while jacking it. there is quite a number of titles where i questioned 'why is this manga an isekai? make this a normal fantasy and nothing changes'. also for some reason way WAY too many authors insist on making their characters passive on religion, i dont know about you guys but if i FUCKING DIED and was sent to another world i'd be alot more serious about religion.

also monster rankings, i can understand mercenary rankings the guild wants to be able to make clear to onlookers who's who and how seriously you should take them, but when MC walk out of the first city which is populated by c-rank adventurers at most and runs into the 'SSS-super gabutari megasaur to end all megasaur's supreme(tm)' and shits in its mouth how am i supposed to take the story seriously? i dont even know what an f-rank monster looks like and you set a baseline of 'the world will now end!' with an immediate 'oh, were saved!' how will you move on to monster 2? you already built up monster 1 to be the final boss so its either all downhill from here your your talking out your ass
 
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there is quite a number of titles where i questioned 'why is this manga an isekai? make this a normal fantasy and nothing changes'.
Isekai is a normal fantasy. It just stars a protagonist that is both ignorant of the world (he's from another) and not an ignorant farm kid (which severely restricts available character types).
I think it's a good way to start a story about a wizard or a rogue if you don't have the skill to write from a point of view of a native who already knows most things.
There are also character-centric portal fantasy stories, where the other world might as well exist to teach the MC a moral lesson or something. But they are rare in Japanese fiction.
also for some reason way WAY too many authors insist on making their characters passive on religion, i dont know about you guys but if i FUCKING DIED and was sent to another world i'd be alot more serious about religion.
At this point, I think I've seen all sorts of relationships between fantasy MCs and religion. They might sleep with gods, they might seek to kill gods, they might ignore gods altogether, and everything in between.
But overall, people don't take religion as seriously when they know the gods exist and aren't terribly competent or powerful.
 
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Isekai is a normal fantasy. It just stars a protagonist that is both ignorant of the world (he's from another) and not an ignorant farm kid (which severely restricts available character types).
I think it's a good way to start a story about a wizard or a rogue if you don't have the skill to write from a point of view of a native who already knows most things.
There are also character-centric portal fantasy stories, where the other world might as well exist to teach the MC a moral lesson or something. But they are rare in Japanese fiction.

At this point, I think I've seen all sorts of relationships between fantasy MCs and religion. They might sleep with gods, they might seek to kill gods, they might ignore gods altogether, and everything in between.
But overall, people don't take religion as seriously when they know the gods exist and aren't terribly competent or powerful.
im not talking about the really good ones im talking about the chaff the basic-bitch isekai's many of them have MC meet with a god who proclaims 'you have died before your fated time, as recompense i shall grant you (power / a wish)' and then they wake up in a new world either fully grown or a baby. then when they are later taken / invided to a chuch they give a 'meh, im not really the religious...' bro you MET him / her. and every step of the way his past life is rarely even mentioned let alone used as a plot point, gintama started mocking the fact that earth rarely ever shows an alien in the background in later seasons of their show and these authors cant even use an important character aspect for plot importance! why have it at all? just make it so he was born blessed by the gods because he was selected as the next great hero or somthing!

one of the stories i read that i barely remember was an isekai where the guy was reborn in a world where he was found as a baby by some super-powerful vampire(or somthing) and surrounded by a forest containing the most powerful creatures on the planet so he grew up nearly devoid of the worlds common sense since he learned to hunt those creatures then went off to become a adventurer. during his stint as an adventurer he keep being confused on why everything is so weak and everone is shocked with his strength every step of the way. his past life is somthing he only thinks about once or twice every other chapter, it is never brought up outside his head and he doesnt use his knowledge of his old world in any notable way besides the occasional 'comedy' routine or comparison
 
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im a sucker for isekai's. the most broken OP MC's and the most down-to-earth reasonable stories both litter my manga pile.

but even i have my limits there are some manga where you cant help but wonder if the author was making the story while jacking it. there is quite a number of titles where i questioned 'why is this manga an isekai? make this a normal fantasy and nothing changes'. also for some reason way WAY too many authors insist on making their characters passive on religion, i dont know about you guys but if i FUCKING DIED and was sent to another world i'd be alot more serious about religion.
To become a proficient writer, one must polish his craft, so slowly gaining skill makes sense. What does not make sense is how low the bar is (LN/WN/adaptation) for getting published. There's so many basic things consistently wrong with the stories that it feels like no-one spent time editing or going over how things fit together.

The more I think about it, the more it feels like a business decision. Play it safe, keep it simple so it doesn't get shitcanned when the intricate, slowly moving plot doesn't captivate readers. There's comfort in known tropes, so even if the story feels like an alcoholic's seizure with some bowel movements on top, people will still read it and enjoy it.
 

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Well I finally found the willpower to respond.

Such spells are usually seen at the archmage level...
But why? Why does it need to be locked behind omnipotence? Everything you said can work. These worlds are, at least sufficiently, logically coherent. The problem is not that these worlds are completely broken, its that they're carbon copies of every other work. The same fireball, the same gods, the same races, the same settings, the same goddamn magic status window (which really shouldn't even be a thing!). These are tropes. They're repetitive and unimaginative. Not to say all anime which uses these tropes are bad (Mushoku Tensei is fucking amazing), but the vast majority are. These are fantasy worlds, yet authors continue to write the same stolen self-insert who has a harem he'll never touch and in the same medieval setting every other author uses. In this light, my points are more suggestions -- an attempt to inject a sliver of originality into these god-forsaken worlds. Case in point, I thought that succubus in Shijo Saikyo no Daimao came from Demon King Academy because they have the exact same set-up, leaving me shocked when she wasn't in the latter anime. Both anime have a fucking class incursion in a dungeon under the school building for Christ's sake. I want something new, a bold author who takes these tropes and asks new questions about them, building an interesting plot that has different settings and mechanics. Grimgar Of Fantasy And Ash comes to mind as an isekai which had some originality.
 
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Status windows, skills and levels. I understand it is short hand for showing the character got stronger but... its not good
Magic is a tool when it exists in the setting. Often it is an omni tool of sorts with no defined limits. Limits are important as that is where the tension of the story is. If magic has no limits, then what problems cant it solve?
Ironically not slavery because Historically everyone did it. There is no cultural exceptions among humanity exist.
The demon king... If he absolutely must exist, He must be doing something or have a plan of some kind.
Actually epic fantasy in general. I guess I've read too many 'fate of the world hangs in the balance' recently.
Oh, then there is this whole trend of acting like no one uses techniques when fighting with weapons (I'm not talking about skills, I'm talking about the MC saying everyone's movements are very unrefined or sloppy, even the 'best' warriors around) because to be honest the stuff found in some of the treatises is absolutely brutal. Like the effective use of pocket sand.
OP protagonists, or anyone else for that matter. Once characters are blowing up mountains... well... it was mildly amusing the first couple of times however the novelty of it has run dry long ago.
The Iseki'd character having basically no personality of his own. Blank slate characters are boring. There are so many options like having the character refuse to believe the world is real like in the infamous 'chronicles of thomas covenant the unbeliever'
I would say more but I find myself out of time.
 
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Status windows, skills and levels. I understand it is short hand for showing the character got stronger but... its not good
Magic is a tool when it exists in the setting. Often it is an omni tool of sorts with no defined limits. Limits are important as that is where the tension of the story is. If magic has no limits, then what problems cant it solve?
Ironically not slavery because Historically everyone did it. There is no cultural exceptions among humanity exist.
The demon king... If he absolutely must exist, He must be doing something or have a plan of some kind.
Actually epic fantasy in general. I guess I've read too many 'fate of the world hangs in the balance' recently.
Oh, then there is this whole trend of acting like no one uses techniques when fighting with weapons (I'm not talking about skills, I'm talking about the MC saying everyone's movements are very unrefined or sloppy, even the 'best' warriors around) because to be honest the stuff found in some of the treatises is absolutely brutal. Like the effective use of pocket sand.
OP protagonists, or anyone else for that matter. Once characters are blowing up mountains... well... it was mildly amusing the first couple of times however the novelty of it has run dry long ago.
The Iseki'd character having basically no personality of his own. Blank slate characters are boring. There are so many options like having the character refuse to believe the world is real like in the infamous 'chronicles of thomas covenant the unbeliever'
I would say more but I find myself out of time.
oh yeah...status windows. definitely an overused concept, some isekai have the MC use some kind of magic item to see their own status and correctly make sure they arent a staple of the overall story but this types are too rare imo

i disagree on the demon king aspect however. if there isnt a threat at such a level in the story then reader are forced to question 'why is the MC even here?' and you end up lacking in even the basics of power-fantasy justification. in addition i havent seen very make isekai's that do the 'MC saying everyone's movements are very unrefined or sloppy' thing myself. normally when they do that it isnt a 'true-isekai'(irl to alternate reality) but a kinda 'semi-isekai'(alternate reality to alternate reality or the past to the future) and the MC is criticizing based off his own experiences in his past fantasy life compared to the current fantasy life
 
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oh yeah...status windows. definitely an overused concept, some isekai have the MC use some kind of magic item to see their own status and correctly make sure they arent a staple of the overall story but this types are too rare imo

i disagree on the demon king aspect however. if there isnt a threat at such a level in the story then reader are forced to question 'why is the MC even here?' and you end up lacking in even the basics of power-fantasy justification. in addition i havent seen very make isekai's that do the 'MC saying everyone's movements are very unrefined or sloppy' thing myself. normally when they do that it isnt a 'true-isekai'(irl to alternate reality) but a kinda 'semi-isekai'(alternate reality to alternate reality or the past to the future) and the MC is criticizing based off his own experiences in his past fantasy life compared to the current fantasy life
Well the problem IS the whole power fantasy. At least the degree at which it is presented. It is that attitude which has flooded the market with paper thin characters steamrolling all opposition. To be frank it's bad storytelling.
As for the audience questioning why the character is there in the first place, well... Have you ever heard of suspension of disbelief? Most people will just accept the guy is in a new world as part of the silly starting premise. The character doesn't need to have someone explain to him why he's going there. Doesn't need to die to get there. In fact my favorites begin the the character wondering where he is and how the **** he got there. At the beginning of the story the character really only has one directive. The one we all have: survive.
 
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Well the problem IS the whole power fantasy. At least the degree at which it is presented. It is that attitude which has flooded the market with paper thin characters steamrolling all opposition. To be frank it's bad storytelling.
telling where a story ends and a power-fantasy begins can be hard. spiderman for example was heavily based off the author, hes borderline a self-insert but since the story is good enough people are able to look past that to the greater story at hand.
As for the audience questioning why the character is there in the first place, well... Have you ever heard of suspension of disbelief?
indeed, but there is also the concept of 'breaking the suspension of disbelief' and if you have a kindgdom summon heroes from another world but there isnt a big bad to fight then that suspension is lost. like you said there are isekais where the main character or somtimes main cast arent sure what prompted their transfer in these cases a demon lord isnt needed and survival is an acceptable end goal but even then using one as your eventual explanation i dont see as doing anything narratively wrong, at that point your not really complaining about isekai's but stories in general. since most stories have somekind of big bad antagonist

by the by based off what your talking about i think you might like the story of "Isekai ni Otosareta… Jouka wa Kihon!" since MC, while clearly overpowered, is kinda the 'demon king' himself and the main bad guy is the kingdom corrupting the great forest where the monsters live
 
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indeed, but there is also the concept of 'breaking the suspension of disbelief' and if you have a kindgdom summon heroes from another world but there isnt a big bad to fight then that suspension is lost. like you said there are isekais where the main character or somtimes main cast arent sure what prompted their transfer in these cases a demon lord isnt needed and survival is an acceptable end goal but even then using one as your eventual explanation i dont see as doing anything narratively wrong, at that point your not really complaining about isekai's but stories in general. since most stories have somekind of big bad antagonist
The summoned to another world to be the hero!! That's the trope I was trying to think of (though to be fair I have read a few where the story was good despite all my aforementioned gripes). How in the world do you know this entity you are pulling from an unknown realm will be more capable then what you already have in your own world. If it is more powerful how can you control or direct it effectively (wait is that why girls are fawning over the guy?) My poor attemt at humor
Also the mere presence of the demon lord is a trope, which is what this thread is about. You are also correct that a story requires conflict and in a visual medium, physical conflict is easiest which lends itself well to the evil king (Any variant thereof that exists). I suppose my complaint is it is always the demon king (except in Grimgar... then you have the lich king)
This makes me wonder what other evil kings exist in Isekai that I just simply haven't had the fortune of encountering?
 
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How in the world do you know this entity you are pulling from an unknown realm will be more capable then what you already have in your own world.
i think most of theses stories are implying that in the ancient past there was 'the first [insert] king / lord' who nearly drove humanity to its end and in a desperate move they cast whatever rituals and spells they could muster to try and save themselves and managed to summon a hero(or heroes) to save them and so its become a tradition to summon hero(es) everytime there is a [insert] king / lord so they arent pushed to the brink again
This makes me wonder what other evil kings exist in Isekai that I just simply haven't had the fortune of encountering?
what ive seen for the most part is demon, monster, and the lich one you just mentioned or some kind of evil god. there are also isekais where there is a demon, monster, or lich king / lord but he / she isnt the main antagonist, theres some where the kingdom that summoned the heroes just wants to use the heroes for power so the kingdom itself is the real bad-guy, and finally there are those where they are summoned to fight an unending war with some kind of calamity('waves' of monsters or a spreading disease turning the worlds population into zombie like things for example)
 
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In history real kings have caused plenty of trouble, there's no need for a demon lord. 👿 Oh wait, instead of a story that's in any way realistic, you instead just made an escalating power fantasy & the most skilled human warriors will be no match for him? Then I guess you do need demons (most of whom still look weak compared to OP hero). :devilish:
 
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The problem is not that these worlds are completely broken, its that they're carbon copies of every other work. The same fireball, the same gods, the same races, the same settings, the same goddamn magic status window (which really shouldn't even be a thing!). These are tropes. They're repetitive and unimaginative.
I think you're looking at it from the wrong angle.
Works that focus on exploration of the setting, with unique magic, culture and other things - they're perfectly valid literature.
But they're not really the same genre as most isekai web novels.
Just like how there is sci-fi that focuses on exploring the consequences of inventing super-food that makes animals and people grow larger. And there is sci-fi that is basically a wild west movie in space.

Power fantasy? Steamrolling over all opposition? Yes, there is market demand for these kinds of stories, and you just have to accept that they're just as much a valid literature as horror stories or dystopian sci-fi. Personally, I much prefer power fantasy over horror and dystopias. If I want horror and dystopias, I'll turn on the TV, or open a news site.

Status windows, skills and levels. I understand it is short hand for showing the character got stronger but... its not good
These are inherent attributes of RPG fantasy. Leave them out - and you no longer have RPG fantasy, and you'll need a whole lot of other tropes to depict combat. Maybe make it work like in martial arts manga like Dragonball.
Magic is a tool when it exists in the setting. Often it is an omni tool of sorts with no defined limits. Limits are important as that is where the tension of the story is. If magic has no limits, then what problems cant it solve?
In my experience, magic that actually has no limits is rare. It's way more common that magic can only manipulate elements. And it's usually limited by the caster's knowledge and attention span too.

The Iseki'd character having basically no personality of his own. Blank slate characters are boring. There are so many options like having the character refuse to believe the world is real like in the infamous 'chronicles of thomas covenant the unbeliever'
Does the character have no personality, or does the character's personality match your own well? Or does he just have a very agreeable personality?

indeed, but there is also the concept of 'breaking the suspension of disbelief' and if you have a kindgdom summon heroes from another world but there isnt a big bad to fight then that suspension is lost.
Does this happen? I think I know only one manga like that, where the hero-summoning ritual keeps working long after the original threat has passed, and there is no need for heroes anymore.
Occasionally there are manga where evil kingdom summons heroes to attack peaceful neighbors, but that's the limit.

It would be interesting to see a story where a kingdom summons otherworlders to get otherworldly knowledge (like toilets and good food), instead of fighting a battle. But it's usually gods who do that, because they look at Japan and envy not having their food.
 
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The summoned to another world to be the hero!! That's the trope I was trying to think of (though to be fair I have read a few where the story was good despite all my aforementioned gripes). How in the world do you know this entity you are pulling from an unknown realm will be more capable then what you already have in your own world. If it is more powerful how can you control or direct it effectively (wait is that why girls are fawning over the guy?) My poor attemt at humor
Most summoning rituals are religious rituals where you ask your god(dess) to send you a hero that will save the day. It is now the god's responsibility to recruit an appropriately heroic soul and imbue them with godly powers ("cheats"). Just like how fantasy priests can heal people without knowing anatomy.
And of course, controlling the gods' chosen champion is just blasphemy. You get the hero you need, not the hero you want.
But if you really want to, using women to influence the hero is always a safe bet. Otherworldly champions do not really appreciate the whimsical titles of your aristocracy or the mysterious metal of your currency. Having one woman from every fraction that's nominally on your side is a way to keep the political balance intact.

But I really liked the way hero summoning worked in Dog Days anime. There, the princess simply summoned a boy she liked (because she could also use cross-dimensional scrying). He wasn't even the best at the sports that resembled what the princess needed - the princess has chosen based on her own feelings.

Also the mere presence of the demon lord is a trope, which is what this thread is about. You are also correct that a story requires conflict and in a visual medium, physical conflict is easiest which lends itself well to the evil king (Any variant thereof that exists). I suppose my complaint is it is always the demon king (except in Grimgar... then you have the lich king)
This makes me wonder what other evil kings exist in Isekai that I just simply haven't had the fortune of encountering?
Plenty of evil human kings there. Usually of the kind that summon "heroes" to attack peaceful demons or beastmen.
If they do manage to put up a fight, they transform into demons or something.

Occasionally the main bad guy has a title of Dragon King, but I don't think I've ever seen one transform into a real dragon.

Evil gods are also well-represented. If they do transform, they transform into some really weird stuff Lovecraft would approve of.
 
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Does this happen? I think I know only one manga like that, where the hero-summoning ritual keeps working long after the original threat has passed, and there is no need for heroes anymore.
Occasionally there are manga where evil kingdom summons heroes to attack peaceful neighbors, but that's the limit.

It would be interesting to see a story where a kingdom summons otherworlders to get otherworldly knowledge (like toilets and good food), instead of fighting a battle. But it's usually gods who do that, because they look at Japan and envy not having their good.
there are some manga where the kingdom does it for political power or to try and gain a military edge or they do it despite the [insert] king / lord being extremely passive so the question arises 'how did they even know there was a [insert] king / lord?'. ultimately such stories have alot of ground to make up when they pull these kinds of twists some manage it by turning the kingdom into the big bad but too many dont and make survival into the main fight for the MC but the MC in such stories are normally surviving with ease so we're back to breaking that suspension
 
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or they do it despite the [insert] king / lord being extremely passive so the question arises 'how did they even know there was a [insert] king / lord?'.
That one is probably done with prophesy and scrying. Even in settings with reasonably active demon lords, it's not uncommon to summon/nominate heroes before the demon lord is expected to break the seal or get elected or otherwise take the stage.

In some settings, the very existence of the demon lord makes monsters stronger and/or more aggressive, even if the demon lord just sits on his/her throne.

some manage it by turning the kingdom into the big bad but too many dont
Can you give some examples?

and make survival into the main fight for the MC but the MC in such stories are normally surviving with ease so we're back to breaking that suspension
Survival should never be a problem for a summoned hero. That's something people accidentally appearing in isekai can have problems with, but summoned heroes have their heroic power and support of people and the country.
Summoned heroes have their own problems, main of them being finding a reason to fight, fighting experienced veterans of evil armies, and betrayal by the summoning country.
 
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Survival should never be a problem for a summoned hero.
i disagree, i think a survival isekai where the MC needs to find realistic ways to determine if the food they gathered is poisonous or not without killing themselves, hunt borderline mythical beasts, and make a safe home out of his environment would be really interesting
MC's life experience would be knowledge of all survival tactics in his original world and he would need to find ways to apply that knowledge in a world where alot of it may not completely apply, and MC's 'gift' would be heightened speed
Can you give some examples?
'turning the kingdom into the big bad' or 'too many dont'? because for 'too many dont' i normally drop those forgettable manga. the most recent one i read and cant remember the name for was about a guy that got transferred along with random other people and got the farming skill instead of a more conventional one(dont worry he still kills everything in one hit) and gets abandoned by the rest of the 'party' in a forest where he farms with ease and bangs every women he meets. im sure he'll end up killing the demon lord or whatever by the end but its not a goal all he's doing is 'farming', if you can even call it that, and banging all the women that keep showing up...oh and he met the guy who abandoned him in like 5 chapters or somthing and beat him up so no revenge plot either.
 

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