Since before twilight there has been a steady increase of Young Adult Novel productions circulating in western book stores – Japan has been way ahead of us in that respect.
What are light novels and what is the difference between those and normal written literature? Strictly speaking there is none: light novels are indeed books with a few illustrations here and there throughout the reading. But the difference lies, once again, on the target audience.
Yes, light novels are the same as shoujo, shounen, and BL. It is a name designed to specify a target audience (much like YA Novels). The best light novels are pieces of literature dedicated to the young adult demographic. In fact, Japanese pop culture has developed their own market bubble regarding literature for young adults, and the literature media is very diverse: cellphone novels, light novels and visual novels are all created with the young adult audience in mind and contain novel stories.
Of course, people have a lot to say about Light Novels (sometimes not good things) But the truth is, light novels are one of the main sources of creativity and profit for the whole Japanese pop culture business. In fact, many LN were adapted later to anime, manga and even audiobooks, some of them reaching worldwide stardom after those adaptations – infact, some of the best animes of all time have their roots in light novels. Some of them will surprise you!
Whether it is because of the incredible plot or the well constructed characters, there are always some LN’s that manages to catch your heart and soul and never be forgotten. Here are two personal picks that are among the top novels to read in my opinion:
It is not a hard to conclude that the character is the element of utmost importance in Japanese pop culture. Everything revolves around the growth of specific characters and what happens to them defines the storyline. However, what we see in DRRR!! is slightly different. In this light novel, The City is the most important “character” of the plot.
“In my hometown, the sky seemed endless…but there was nothing to see.”
This is not really a new thing. The archetype of The City is a plot device that is fairly used by western comic books. The City is omnipresent and involves all the characters in its net. It is a living and breathing collective entity that defines how the characters turn out.
In the DRRR!! setup, Ikebukuro (a commercial district in Tokyo, Japan) takes the role as The City, and all the characters live in or around this area. Each character has its own plot and they are all connected through the City. Generally speaking, the story revolves around Ikebukuro and the young lad Ryuugamine Mikado, who just moved to Tokyo to study with his best friend Kida Masaomi. Along the way, more characters turn up creating a long net of plots, stories and situations. It is hard to even fully determine the main character (although the author makes an effort to keep the story around Mikado), DRRR!! proves to be one of the most interesting readings when it comes to Light Novels (The anime is not bad either).
No Game No Life
Although I am strongly against the meaningless and blatant sexualization of female characters (a common trait in most of ecchi manga), No Game No Life manages to built a strong storyline around all the unnecessary flying skirts. The siblings Sora and Shiro are known as Kuuhaku, the mysterious player that own most of the world records in a varied range of online games. However, in real life, both of them are hikikomori or NEET (A Japanese word used for people who are recluse and are not engaged in studies, work or general social life – stands for “Not in Employment, Education, or Training”) who are strongly dissatisfied with the current world.
“This world is just… a crappy game.”
- Shiro and Sora
After winning a chess game against a mysterious player, they are transported to another world called Disboard, rules by the God Tet, the Game Master. In this world, every conflict has to be settled by games.
Is is interesting to observe that Sora and Shiro never planned to get back home. They decide to stay in the world of games and eventually defeat the god of the games, Tet.
“In stories about people stuck in other worlds, the protagonists do their best to get back to their original worlds, don’t they? Why would they ever want to do that?”
The Brazilian writer, Kamiya Yuu, has lived in Japan for a long time and managed to deliver a very strong piece of Light Novel. I’ve had the opportunity to read both the Portuguese and Japanese versions and I dare say the Portuguese version reveals even stronger text lines and catchphrases. Definitely and excellent read (I could go without all the ecchi references though.)
I found Light Novels when I was dead tired of reading mangas. They are definitely a good alternative for all the visual information that the manga provides. Even if you are not really into books, light novels are not overly complex when it comes to the flow of the text (in fact, most LN’s are really easy readings). If you have found a favorite anime on this light novel list that you think is the best anime ever, why not download the original titles and see what have you missed while watching only the anime/manga adaptations?