Why is Japan suddenly obsessed with… reincarnation?

Claire Heginbotham
5 min readAug 13, 2021
Photo by Ryan Miguel Capili from Pexels

This article’s not about religious reincarnation.

It’s about a movement. A movement led by young office workers. A movement led by people wandering across the hopeless, desolate landscape of corporate life in your 20s and 30s. It's about the solution to a society so depressing, all we want is to escape it.

This article is about the fantasy of reincarnation.

Back in 2005, I was starting my troubled teendom. My parents sucked, my hair was frizzy, and I didn’t really know why I had to wear a bra all of a sudden. Lame.

In my desperation to escape, I lost myself in fantasy books. Garth Nix, C.S Lewis, Terry Pratchett, JK Rowling— I was like a drowning person trying to keep myself afloat with words. Then, in came Naruto and I dove down into a whirlpool of fighting anime, girly anime, food anime, romance anime, slice of life anime, any anime. I bounced from episode to episode, hoping it would rescue me from the darkness.

More than anything, I wished I could enter these fantastical worlds myself. I wished I could escape.

The reincarnation storyline

We meet the main character — a man or woman ages 15–29 — in the normal world. They are unhappy with their current life. It’s almost like they are living a shadow life; mundane and monotonous.

Then, the character dies suddenly. And voila we’re in another world with magic and some kind of kickass super power.

The real story begins. Our likable protagonist overcomes any fears from their old life quite quickly. They eagerly enjoy their new world and quite quickly we forget this was even a reincarnation story. Even if “reincarnation” is in the title!

It’s odd as a 28-year-old to watch these literal translations of my various fantasies. And some of the mottos hit pretty darn hard.

Anime #1: That time I got reincarnated as a slime

The slime Rimaru is born into a world of monsters and humans where he starts to create his own nation.

The lessons you learn:

Claire Heginbotham

Tech and travel copywriter who writes content, kickass websites, and emails that convert. Low key Star Trek fan.