What is a Japanese Light Novel?

You might have heard of a genre called light novel while watching anime, but how does it differ from novels and manga? Let’s examine this genre more closely.

Description of a Light Novel

The name light novel applies to any type of publication which targets teenagers and young adult readers. Like the manga, or Japanese comics, they also contain illustrations using the same art style in most manga, and the size of each volume is classified as a “bunkobon,” which has measurements of 105 mm x 148 mm. They also have the same qualities that will classify them as novellas, but most of them have less than 300 pages, not enough to classify them as full-length novels. So why is it called a light novel if it is a novella?

Translation of Light Novel

The name light novel is the closest English translation of the name “wasei-eigo.” The words wasei-eigo literally means Japanese-made English, a characteristic that describes the tendencies of most light novels to have words written in kanji, a syllabary used to spell borrowed foreign words. Others even refer to it as raito noberu, rainobe, and ranobe, which are all borrowed from the English words light novel. The light novel, therefore, means a Japanese novella. Some of these light novels are also in English instead of Japanese to appeal to a wider range or readers.

Light Novel and Novel

If that is the case then light novels are not like novels, because they are shorter and contain more illustrations than most novels produced by English writers. They might look like manga at first glance, but instead of panels and speech bubbles, the story is told with the use of both continuous texts and interspersed with illustrations in monochrome or colored pages. So why do they look like manga? The light novels are also closely tied up to pulp magazines in the 1970s, which practiced placing illustrations at the beginning of each story. The most popular serials (or the series of episodes with one overarching story or common character) were later printed into novels.

Light Novel and Manga

The spines of the light novel series will look like those of any manga series to make them easier to find on the shelves. They are also classified based on the age bracket of the target audience and themes. Light novels, however, are not like manga even if they share a lot of common features. Some light novels are even adapted into manga and some manga series have light novel counterparts and spinoffs. A few light novel titles are also adapted from live-action movies or TV series and anime.

Light Novels to Read

Here are some of the best light novels you should check out:

  1. Legendary Moonlight Sculptor
  2. Utsunomiko
  3. Tokyo Ravens
  4. Guin Saga
  5. Legend of the Galactic Heroes
  6. Majutsushi Orphen
  7. Record of Lodoss War
  8. Saiunkoku Monogatari
  9. Arslan Senki
  10. Kino no Tabi