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Trapped in Another World
aka: Portal Fantasy

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"Far away, far away."

A standard plot/Myth Arc for Speculative Fiction: The Ordinary High-School Student, frequently their friends, and sometimes their enemies are all transported (often summoned) to another world — distant planet, a Magical Land, Alternate Universe, the past, The Future — where they find they have an important role to play in Events of Significance that are occurring at the same time as (or sometimes because of) their arrival. Usually there is no hope of their finding a means to return home until after the great threat facing them has been defeated. Occasionally, they will then question if they even want to leave, especially when there is an ongoing Fantastic Romance. These stories often feature alternate methods of bringing the protagonist to the new world, such as Reincarnation, swapping bodies with an inhabitant of the new world, or becoming their own video game avatar, though simple bodily transport is still common.


In Japanese media, this is known as "Isekai",note  with such protagonists typically being their local demographic's flavor of hero, note  and usually involves said character gaining RPG-like powers on arrival (or at the very least, is set in a Role-Playing Game Verse). Expect The Protagonist to possess some form of New Life in Another World Bonus. Though it's been around in many forms of media long before the term was coined, the majority of isekai stories as we know it are derived from Web Serial Novels or old stories reworked into Light Novels, with their premises and writing style even being noted as a subgenre: Narou Isekai.note  A lot of these are also Harem Series, to the extent that a party of sexy heroines (or heroes) who are attracted to the protagonist has become part of the standard formula. During the 2010s, these types of stories became so popular thanks to Japanese publishing companies like Alphapolis and Media Factory that, by the end of the decade, it had become an Undead Horse Trope: being parodied, subverted and even ridiculed to hell and back, while straight-forward examples still remain very much present.


In Literature, this is often referred to as a "Portal Fantasy". This plot device is also extremely popular in Crossover events, as it's a good way of bringing together disparate settings in a semi-logical manner.

If it's the hero's job to bring back a trapped person, it can become an Orphean Rescue; while if someone else turns up to bring back the hero, it's Weirdness Search and Rescue.

The inversion of this, where a person from the other world comes to ours, often inverts the premise along with it: Whereas an Earth hero usually gets called over to where the action is, the Otherworldly hero is usually transported where the action isn't, or becomes the action when they get there.

Super-Trope to Portal Book, Portal Picture, Summon Everyman Hero, Fourth Wall Shut-In Story and Trapped in TV Land. Often overlaps with Down the Rabbit Hole, Fish out of Water, and You Can't Go Home Again. (When returning home proves to be relentlessly mundane and you wish you'd stayed in the magic world, it's So What Do We Do Now?.) The inverse of Alien Among Us.

Compare with Kidnapped by the Call. Contrast with Constructed World, which doesn't involve present-day Earth at all. For generic types of other dimensions, see Another Dimension. See also The Homeward Journey. For the reincarnation flavor of this plot, see Reincarnate in Another World or if the new world was fictional in universe Media Transmigration. If the protagonist is lucky, it comes with a New Life in Another World Bonus.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • Buck Rogers is about the titular hero who goes into suspended animation and wakes up in the 25th century. It was based on the novel Armageddon 2419, by the same author and with the same premise.
  • Flash Gordon is about the titular hero and his friends getting stranded on the planet Mongo. In the original comic strip, they do eventually escape Mongo, return to Earth, and engage in still more voyages to other worlds, but the Mongo arc is the one everyone remembers and on which most subsequent adaptations have been based. The long-running comic eventually brought them back to Mongo and found an excuse to bring back the supposedly-dead Ming because, well, Flash Gordon didn't quite feel like Flash Gordon without them.

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney's Alice in Wonderland. Ultimately subverted when it turns out to be All Just a Dream.
  • Manolo's predicament in The Book of Life once he gets to the Land of the Remembered. Because he's dead, he is unable to return to among the living to find Maria, unless he gets help from La Muerte.

    Manhua and Manhwa 
  • In Infinity Game, a slacker high-school student gets pulled into a world where he is named the "Dungeon Master" and creates a new game world to escape his boring school life. The cast end up trapped in the world after a Computer Virus stops them from escaping.
  • The Reason Why Raeliana Ended Up At The Duke's Mansion has the protagonist pushed off a bridge and reincarnated into the world of a murder mystery she read as Raeliana, the dead centerpiece of said mystery.

    Mythology and Religion 

  • This happened to Arnie in Hello, from the Magic Tavern, who fell through a magical dimensional portal behind a Burger King in Chicago and found himself in the fantastical, magical land of Foon. Luckily, he's still getting a wi-fi signal from the Burger King through the dimensional rift and so he hosts a weekly podcast from the tavern the Vermilion Minotaur in the town of Hogsface, in the land of Foon.
  • Dungeons & Daddies begins with four dads, their sons, and their minivan being pulled into the Forgotten Realms.

  • At a book signing, Sam from ElvenQuest is dragged into LowerEarth when a group of heroes kidnap The Chosen One, aka. Sam's dog, and he wouldn't get them go. Naturally the only way to get back is to go on their quest to get the Sword of Asnagar, which will (a) defeat the Lord Of Darkness and (b) let Sam go back home).

  • This setting is currently the most popular for multifandom Journal Roleplay Games. The community has even coined a phrase for games based around this setting—"spooky jamjar". Which has now come full circle- meet Roleplayedingly. A roleplay where the characters are sent to a new world every week- and every world is an existing LiveJournal roleplay.
  • After Meowfurryon was killed on NoPixel, he showed up in the NP Public Alternate Continuity and mentioned that his death in the main universe had "isekai'd" him to the new universe.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The frame story of Castle Falkenstein involves computer game artist Tom Olam being magically summoned into the Victorian-fantasy world of the game. Though as it turns out, it was actually the copy of Leonardo's Sixth Codex in his backpack that his summoners needed...
  • GURPS:
    • A short supplement, GURPS Fantasy: Portal Realms, covers this topic in detail.
    • An even shorter supplement, GURPS Steampunk Setting: The Broken Clockwork World, describes a specific portal fantasy setting.
    • This is also how the world of GURPS Banestorm came to be, with medieval and Renaissance humans (along with races from many other worlds) dragged into the fantasy world of Yrth. It's specifically mentioned that the Banestorm is still active and can grab player characters from modern Earth in order to kick off a fantasy campaign.
  • Heroine always starts off with the eponymous protagonist's ordinary life in the real world, before quickly bringing her over to the Magical Land, which she can only leave after overcoming her personal flaws and completing an arduous quest.
  • The original module for Ravenloft for D&D had characters pulled from other D&D settings to face The Devil Strahd. This has since become such a traditional setup for adventures in that setting that it took thirteen years for them to write up information as to creating characters who were native to the setting.

  • Most of the Tsukiuta stage plays feature original stories where the idol characters are trapped in another world. The worlds will have a different theme each time, and different fantasy costumes. So far, there have been multiple ''wa-fuu'' worlds, an Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired Rabbits Kingdom, and an upcoming Cyper Punk world.

    Visual Novels 
  • YU-NO: The Isekai plot twist that precluded the second act of the visual novel was genuinely revolutionary in 1996. The second act of YU-NO was a Trope Codifier of the Isekai genre.

    Web Videos 


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Portal Fantasy, Isekai


Welcome to Animalia

Alex and Zoe enter a mysterious portal in the town library and find themselves in Animalia, a world of funny animals.

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