Isekai is one of the fastest-expanding subgenres of anime today, yet like with many other well-liked genres in any media, occasionally viewers may unintentionally mislabel a series.
Sword Art Online is among the best-known examples of this, as it shows characters interacting with a virtual world without ever taking them to a real, existent physical one. As a result, although frequently being called an isekai anime, it is not one. Here are three additional series that regularly get mistaken for being "isekai," along with the reasons why.
Character in a Sign Can't Log Out of an MMORPG
Like Sword Art Online, .hack//Sign features a character who gets trapped in the virtual world. However, there's a twist that sets it firmly apart from SAO and other MMORPG anime. Only the protagonist is trapped in the game world; everyone else can log in and out whenever they please.
People tend to mislabel this series as an isekai for the same reasons as Sword Art Online, but .hack//Sign likewise only has characters interacting with a virtual world. By the end of the series, Tsukasa is finally able to log out and return to a normal life in the real world.
The Modern World is Reset by Dr. Stone, but It's Not an Isekai
After a mysterious occurrence causes the entire human race (and one race of sparrows) to become petrified, the world seemingly ends. However, humans start to slowly wake up again and one particular genius, protagonist Senku Ishigami, is doing everything he can to bring humanity's progress back up to speed.
Dr. Stone is often mistaken for an isekai because Senku and his friends seem to have been propelled to another world as they acclimate to pre-historic times, interacting with the people who grew up in this new world never knowing the comforts of modern-day living. But Senku and his friends are never transported out of Japan and the Earth that they know is still very much the same -- even if they don't have access to the internet for the time being.
Reki Kawahara's Accel World, Like SAO, Is Not an Isekai
Like Sword Art Online, most of Accel World's plot revolves around a popular online game. Unlike SAO, however, none of the characters ever find themselves trapped in the game and are able to log in and out as they wish. Based on this, it should be clear enough that Accel World isn't an isekai; however, its ties to creator Reki Kawahara's more popular work have led to assumptions that it follows a similar storyline.
While the game world does blend into the real world, no one is ever transported into it -- or any other world for that matter. This could change in the future as the Accel World light novels remain ongoing, but it's highly unlikely.