Follow TV Tropes


Standard Japanese Fantasy Setting

Go To

"A JRPG just isn't a JRPG unless it involves teenagers using the power of friendship to kill God."
Yahtzee Croshaw, Zero Punctuation

When the Standard Fantasy Setting spread to Japan, it picked up a few quirks and lost some others along the way. Japanese fantasy writers tend to draw less on Western fantasy Literature, and more on Video Games and Tabletop RPGs (specifically "Replays", as explained below). While still influenced by Dungeons & Dragons, it tends to take more cues from the original writings of Gary Gygax and less from those of later designers, combined with elements from games like RuneQuest, Ultima, and Wizardry.

The first Trope Codifier of Japanese Medieval European Fantasy comes from 1986, when the video game/manga/video game manga magazine Comptiq began publishing "Replays" — transcripts of a Dungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, and Tunnels & Trolls fusion campaign titled Record of Lodoss War. Lodoss became popular enough to receive paperback compilations and even be edited into a novel series, which would go on to become some of Japan's first domestic High Fantasy literature. Pressure from lawyers at TSR would force Lodoss to switch from D&D to a homebrew system, which would eventually become the basis for Sword World RPG (a.k.a. the 2d6 System), produced by Group SNE (translators for many Western tabletop RPGs at the time).

That year also marked the launch of the Dragon Quest series, the first three entries of which would have enormous cultural impact and become the Trope Makers for the Eastern RPG genre.

Similar settings can also be found in Chinese and Korean fantasy, albeit with a heavier injection of Wuxia themes.

Common elements include:

    open/close all folders 
    The Inhabitants 

    Character Classes 
Even if not an RPG Mechanics 'Verse, there tend to be a few archetypes which are more common:
  • Standard "Melee" Classes:
    • Magic Knights: Similar to RuneQuest and the first version of the Dungeons & Dragons ranger class, it's common for experienced fighters to know a few magic spells which improve their combat ability. In works where characters have a set class, this tends to be the class of The Hero, following the example of the Dragon Quest.
    • Master Swordsmen: A specialist in wielding swords better than anyone else, often capable of Speed Blitzing enemies by cutting them in half before they can react, or swinging their sword so hard that it can cut from a distance. Often wield the most katana-like swords they can get their hands on, or are outright referred to as "samurai". While they commonly wield one-handed swords, they will very rarely use it with a shield. Fencers and rapier-wielders are almost always either women, effeminate men, or the occasional Gentleman Adventurer, sometimes even crossing over with Wuxia.
    • Paladins: The standard Tank class. Assuming they don't overlap with the Magic Knights, they will usually be elite knights that serve a major kingdom and/or church. Unlike Western portrayals, they will rarely have to contend with a To Be Lawful or Good situation, due to the reasons laid out in Light/Darkness Juxtaposition: their power is typically "amoral", and fighting for "Light" does not also mean fighting for "Good".
    • Berserkers or Barbarians: Almost always a Tank class rather than DPS, and almost always equipped with a giant axe or a BFS. Berserkers are usually cursed with some sort of dark power which turns them into savage killing machines that can't distinguish friend from foe. The rest of the party will simply stay out of their way or do their best to support them from afar until they kill or at least soften-up the target.
    • Lancers: The Hero will almost never use a polearm as a primary weapon. Instead, lancers will usually be...well, The Lancer. Also, thanks to Final Fantasy, spearmen are very likely to double as Dragon Knights (often called "Dragoons" — while the term far predates the form of fantasy described here, its association with this form of polearm-using dragon knight is original to, and remains almost exclusive to, Japanese media).
    • Ninja: If there's a "thief" or "assassin" class, then they will either be called "Ninja/Shinobi" or be one in all but name. Sometimes, the thief or assassin classes are simply unevolved forms of the ninja class. Unlike the Western portrayals of thieves or assassins, rather than being greedy or selfish, the ninja class itself will usually serve or show self-sacrificing loyalty to a specific leader or lord.
    • Monks: Some fighters will be proficient in hand-to-hand combat and capable of performing feats of strength, speed or toughness that are only possible with some form of Ki Manipulation. In Japanese works, the "Monk" character is often filled by some form of Cute Bruiser or Little Miss Badass.
  • Standard "Ranged" Classes:
    • Archers: Will usually be lithe and lean, and physically weaker than the melee classes. Their bows will almost invariably be longbows or shortbows — crossbows may be used en masse by a trained Red Shirt Army, but "heroes", adventurers and other important characters will prefer firing by hand.
    • Gunners: Despite the anachronism, gunners will be able to use highly-accurate firearms that don't need to be manually loaded or refilled with gunpowder after a single shot, often powered by magic. Even more anachronistic, these guns are usually handguns; rifles and full-auto weapons are rarer, but even a fantasy setting might have a BFG or two.
    • Engineers: Another anachronistic class, utilizing technology usually of the Steampunk or Magitek flavour. They typically deploy golems, turrets or drones to attack for them and support their allies. Sometimes, they may also utilize traps and explosives.
  • Standard "Magic" Classes:
    • Black Mages: Can be either male or female, but will almost always use elemental magic like fire, water, lightning, etc. Fancier or more exotic spells will usually be exclusively used as a more specialized class of magic like an "Hex Magic", "Space Magic" or "Time Magic". Male examples will likely resemble a Wizard Classic while females are almost always a Cute Witch.
    • White Mages: Will almost always be female. Some will be reminiscent of the D&D "Cleric" class, with their powers coming from a divine source, and coming equipped with holy magic.
    • Summoners: Usually treated as a separate class from Black Mage and primarily fights by summoning familiars, or creatures made up of various elements. Some may have a few magical spells they can use without a summon, but not nearly as much as the other dedicated mages.

    Other Common Tropes 

    Tropes More Common in Video Games and Light Novels 

Examples of these settings in Japanese media:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Delicious in Dungeon is a fairly grounded, low-fantasy take on this sort of setting (for example, there are no grand metaphysics at work in the world, adventurers exist but RPG mechanics do not, magic is generally small-scale and practical) but otherwise doesn't do anything revolutionary with it. That way, the reader needs minimal preparation before being introduced to the central conceit: what if you cooked and ate every monster you defeated while Dungeon Crawling?
  • Final Fantasy: Lost Stranger: The world is modeled much like the Final Fantasy games Shogo and Shuko grew up with. They're amazed and elated to encounter so many familiar things like chocobos (though, Shogo's encyclopedic knowledge of the games does lead him astray when he misnames some of the local races).
  • Interspecies Reviewers is a Deconstructive Parody that bases the setting on Rule of Sexy. Humans, demihumans, angels, orcs, elves, undead, and every other fantasy race you can think of all exist, but they're more concerned with having sex with each other than fighting. Most magic and Magitek also has a sexual use (primary or not) in this universe.
  • The joke of Kemono Michi is that it takes place in a Standard Japanese Fantasy Setting, but the tropes involved are completely demolished by the idiosyncrasies of the protagonist, Genzo — an animal-loving pro wrestler named "Animal Mask". He (and his pet dog) are summoned by a princess during his last wrestling match before retirement. After learning that the task he was summoned for was to destroy the "demon beasts" plaguing the kingdom, he instead suplexes said princess and escapes. At the local Adventure Guild, he learns that this world has no concept of "pets", as all demon beasts are considered malevolent at best or pests at worst. With his insatiable (and often creepy) love for all things animal (including beastfolk), he decides instead to open the first-ever pet shop in this new world, using his ridiculous might to subdue and tame the various beasts the Guild would otherwise order destroyed. Along the way, the rival of one of his allies in turn summons his rival, Manchurian Ogre (aka "MAO") to act as the Maou to his Yuusha. All these, and many other standard tropes wind up completely turned on their head by the introduction of both pro-wrestling as a form of combat, and Genzo's unpredictable behavior.
  • The Red Ranger Becomes an Adventurer in Another World: Red is dropped into one of these after his climactic battle with the Ender King, complete with a Maou the Demon King and previous examples of Summon Everyman Hero. His abilities befuddle the people of Idola's world, whose powers revolve largely around magic, and a bulk of the comedy is built around how badly his Stock Shōnen Hero personality and Toku hero sensibilities clash with the setting he's been thrown into.
  • The Vision of Escaflowne is set in a world that, at first glance, seems like Medieval European Fantasy, but is actually much closer to this trope, between humans as a dominant species (complete with katana-wielding knights), mystical and obscure elf-lookalikes, numerous beastfolk species, the Atlanteans as precursors, and nature spirit-like dragons. Oh, and there are, of course, Humongous Mecha, which are powered by the Mana Crystals formed from dragon hearts.

  • This trope is baked right into the DNA of the premise of I've Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level; the protagonist maxed out her level over the course of 300 years by killing Cute Slime Mooks. Her Family of Choice is comprised of a number of Cute Monster Girls ranging from slime spirits to a dragoness to a cute poltergeist to an elf, and a demoness as a Cool Big Sis. She finds out that she's reached max level via a nearby Adventure Guild, and mazoku (translated as "demons" in English) have their own society filled with a diverse assortment including ogres, trolls, animal-themed Beast Men, and so on. There are also gods and other deities, such as the one who reincarnated the protagonist and made her immortal in the first place.
  • In Another World with My Smartphone ticks several boxes:
    • One of the first things the protagonist Touya does is join an Adventure Guild.
    • Beastkin and beast races exist and are looked down upon by certain elitist groups of humans.
    • The protagonist encounters expies of The Four Gods and eventually makes them his familiars.
    • There is a Japan-analogue called "Eashen".
    • There is an ancient civilization of precursors that were wiped out eons ago.
    • The protagonist eventually discovers the means to create Humongous Mecha called "Framegears".
  • Maoyu takes place in a standard JRPG setting where Hero travels alone to take down the Demon Queen in hopes of ending the Human-Demon War. What he doesn't expect is that the Demon Queen is personable and would prefer to discuss economics and sociology to fighting. She then pulls apart the typical notions of an Action Hero and how killing her and ending the war wouldn't make anything better for humans or humanity before inviting Hero to help her work toward a world "beyond the hill" past simply ending the war.
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero begins when multiple everymen from Japan are summoned to be "Yuushas", equipped with four separate sacred weapons. It takes place in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse where beastkin are discriminated against and often sold into slavery. In addition, later arcs reveal that there are four massive Kaiju which double as expies of The Four Gods.
  • Slayers starts out parodying every trope on the list while still playing them relatively straight. Nominal Hero Lina Inverse, reluctant leader of a party of heroic adventurers, is a Black Magician Girl who has mastered a Fantastic Nuke spell, the Dragon Slave, which usually ends up destroying the very town she's been hired to protect. Monsters and mazoku are one and the same, and include many kinds of beastmen, with greater demons being higher-level mazoku, all the way up to Shabranigdo, God of Darkness. At least one clan of Shinzoku are Physical Gods who take the form of dragons.
  • So I'm a Spider, So What? is set in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse that features morally-complex gods, a Hero, demon-lords, religious and abyssal magic, and the corruption and destruction of its denizens' souls in a cycle of reincarnation. Later revelations also indicate that the world is slowly dying thanks to overuse of The Lifestream — a problem that drives the underpinnings of the setting. In a parody of traditional isekai, the protagonist is reincarnated as a weak spider-monster in a labyrinth instead of as the Hero — with that honor eventually going to one of her classmates. Humans live in medieval-style kingdoms, most elves live in a Hidden Elf Village, and Monstrous Humanoid species like goblins and ogres live in isolated villages and are often regarded as being just another type of monster.
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is set in an RPG Mechanics 'Verse that mainly draws from medieval Europe but has a cabal of demon-lords and heroes who are often summoned or reincarnated from other universes. The main character, Satoru Mikami, is reincarnated as a slime dubbed Rimuru Tempest. He becomes the leader of a village of goblins (which evolve into hobgoblins), gradually accruing more followers of different monster species — including oni (which evolve into kijin), pig-man orcs, and lizardmen (which evolve into dragonewts). He also forges dipilomatic relations with some of the neighboring human and dwarven kingdoms; befriends dragon-gods, heroes, and demon lords; and wages war against a corrupt church and the kingdoms under its sway.


    Video Games 
  • Chrono Trigger is all over the place with this trope. Because the game revolves around Time Travel, it creates a hodge-podge of many different tropes, from both Fantasy and Science Fiction. The three main protagonists are a Master Swordsman with Divine Magic, a Rebellious Princess with both archery (and a rare crossbow at that) with healing and Ice Magic, and a Gadgeteer Genius Gunner with Fire Magic. They are joined by a Magic Knight cursed with the body of a Frog, a robot from the future with a variety of weapons, a female cavewoman that fights with her bare hands, and a literal Maou that once led the demihumans to war against humans. The time periods they travel to vary from a post-Industrial early modern society, a medieval kingdom, an ancient magic society of Precursors, a prehistoric society, and a ruined future.
  • Its sorta-sequel, Chrono Cross, furthers this by introducing more fantastic creatures like dwarves, fairies and mermaids, an expansionistic empire, a holy order of knights, and a corrupt false religion. The only thing the setting truly lacks are actual gods of any kind; it's later revealed that the "Dragon Gods" worshipped by demihumans are actually malevolent creations made by the Big Bad. The entity "FATE" worshipped by humans is actually a supercomputer from the far future seeking absolute control to ensure its own existence, and the aforementioned Big Bad is an alien parasite that has been manipulating human society since prehistoric times to provide itself with sustenance.
  • Dark Souls was originally inspired by a Japanese guy reading and only partly understanding Western fantasy novels. As such, it has many of the hallmarks of this trope, including complex and fallible deities of Light (not entirely good) and Dark (not necessarily bad), deities of Life and Death (the flaws in both of which give rise to tormented demons and soulless undead hordes), Knight Templar priesthoods and holy warriors who draw on the Light to perform miracles and morally suspect offensive magic (divided into scholarly sorcery and primal pyromancy).
  • Dragon Quest is one of the major Trope Codifiers of the setting. Most games focus on a Hero (Yuusha) on a quest to defeat a demon lord of some type. Almost every "Yuusha" in Japanese fantasy are thus inspired by the DQ protagonists. Amongst the many types of monsters and enemies established within the game, the franchise was the Trope Maker of the Cute Slime Mook. Several light novels take heavy inspiration from this franchise for thematic inspiration, specifically Dragon Quest III due to its wild popularity in Japan.
  • Final Fantasy is not one world but many, with some entries being more standard than others. The series is the Trope Maker for standard RPG magic classes, and its Job system includes at least one of each class on the list, sometimes combining them into character in games with a smaller cast. Magic crystals are omnipresent, and usually significant to the plot. Elves and orcs are rare, but there's usually a few goblins as early enemies, Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors slime enemies in the form of Flans, and at least one beastfolk race. Actual demons and gods are rare, with the role of religion typically instead going to otherworldly spirits or beasts (most commonly known as Eidolons) and their summoners.
    • Final Fantasy is much more of a Standard Western Fantasy than the later games, fighting D&D specific monsters like liches and mind flayers which became less common later in the series. But it did introduce the standard classes of Fighter, Thief, Monk/Black Belt, White Mage, and Black Mage, and included some then-unusual additions such as a Humongous Mecha as a late-game boss and a Cool Airship.
    • Moogles first appeared as forest-dwelling cute mascot race in III and have served in that capacity in every main entry from V onward.
    • Final Fantasy IV introduces summon magic, and the Land of Summons — powerful magical creatures/spirits which can be magically called to the caster's aid. These appear in every subsequent entry, sometimes by names other than Summon or Eidolon — on several occasions as the Kaiju-sized threat which levels a city or castle.
    • The world of Ivalice, as seen in Ivalice Alliance games (starting with Final Fantasy Tactics, later appearing in a numbered entry in Final Fantasy XII), is perhaps the straightest example, a densely historical setting of war and political intrigue. While Hume (humans) empires control most of the setting, there are many prominent beastfolk characters, from the lizard-like Bangaa and Pig Man Seeq to the furry, masked Garifs and aloof, rabbit-eared Vieras, who live in secluded forest villages.
    • This trope is best demonstrated with Final Fantasy XIV which, in addition to establishing its own complicated lore and setting, is heavily inspired by previous games in the series. For example, part of the backstory is that there are multiple generations of Precursors, as an Eternal Recurrence is that the world gets repeatedly destroyed during multiple eras of prosperity. Further, Hyur (Humans) are the most widespread race, but there are also the Elezen (Elves), Lalafell (Halflings/Dwarves), Rogaedyn (Giants), as well as the cat-like Miqote and Hrothgar. Most races from older Final Fantasy installments also return, such as the Bangaa and bunny-like Viera. There are also groups of "Beast races" which receive varying degrees of discrimination. There's an evil empire wielding advanced Magitek, a religious kingdom doused with heavy Anime Catholicism and fighting a Forever War against dragons, multiple stand-ins for Japan, an eternal struggle between entities of Light and Dark, and even giant Kaiju and Humongous Mecha. And naturally, the series has most of its usual character classes, such as Paladins, Bards, Monks, White Mages, Black Mages, and of course, Ninja and Samurai.
  • Genshin Impact is a JRPG Sandbox game which took some influence on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild plus most of the contents of this trope, including a protagonist that is Trapped in Another World, characters with common anime stereotypes, enemies like Slimes and Hilichurls, and a I Will Find You main plot that will lead him/her to wondering all the new world looking for "The Seven". It's very "Japanese Fantasy Setting" but it was made by Chinese company miHoYo, the creators of Honkai Impact 3rd.
  • The Legend of Zelda is another Trope Codifier, originally drawing heavy inspiration from The Lord of the Rings and other western fantasy. Over time, the game has also incorporated many other elements of Japanese fantasy; Ganon was conceived as a "Maou" from the beginning, but the fact that he, Link and Princess Zelda are destined to eternally reincarnate to battle each other was added in later games, as were concepts like different brands of Precursors, which are more explicitly magical in earlier games but tend to leave much more technological legacies in later ones, and a variety of deities, spirits and demonic entities. The series' mortal races don't fit into either the Western or Japanese archetypes very closely, as they tend to be original creations, but there are usually a variety of the Nature Spirit sei races (such as the Kokiri/Korok forest children, the fairies, and the wise and ancient Great Deku Tree), the monstrous hordes of the ma races under Ganon's thrall, and holy shin beings (such as the goddess Hylia and a variety of lesser deities and immortal dragons).

Examples of these settings in other media:

    Fan Works 
  • The Good Hunter, a crossover between Bloodborne and Monster Girl Encyclopedia (MGE), has the MGE 'verse. Further details of the world building of the MGE 'verse can be found in the wiki here.
    • In terms of inhabitants, aside from your typical Standard Fantasy Races like humans, elves, and dwarves, a whopping 220 types of mamono exist. Despite their variations, they generally have the desire to seek human males for companionship and reproduction. However, due to the current Monster Lord's power, the mamono have developed a strong, lustful desire for mating with said humans, with or without their consent. The succubus family, in particular, can transform non-mamono males and females into incubi and succubi respectively, again, with or without their consent.
    • The setting of this fanfic does not work like an RPG, but elements of Character Classes can be found. For example, Cyril is a multi-melee Magic Knight, Wilmarina is a Master Swordsman, Daria is an axe-wielding berserker, Druella is a Black Mage, and Jophiel is a valkyrie that resembles a paladin.
    • Light/Darkness Juxtaposition in a nominal sense is prevalent in the story, as shown from the conflict between the Order of the Chief God and the Monster Lord, though not to the extent of a cyclic conflict, just a very long one. The "light" side fosters human heroes via the blessings and guidance of the Chief God to fight against the mamono, while the "dark" side is, of course, more concerned about sexual intercourse than anything else. Both beings of power demonstrate Well-Intentioned Extremism. The "dark" side claims to strive for a Free-Love Future between man and monster, while using contradictory means (i.e. mating without the consent of their partner) to accomplish this vision. Meanwhile, the "light" side consists of Knight Templars who opt for a Final Solution to deal with the problems brought by the "dark" side.