Over the last year I have been getting quite a bit into light novels. This led to me making a New Year’s resolution at the start of 2019 to read at least 100 novel volumes in the year. For the purpose of this challenge, any kind of novel counts towards the 100, not just light novels; nevertheless, the vast majority of the novels I plan to read will be light novels, simply because there’s so many out there I still want to read. You can follow my progress in my Twitter thread here.
As of the time of writing this post, I have read 49 novels already, which puts me quite a bit ahead of pace. As such, I decided to hold a small Q&A about my novel reading project.
100 novels? That’s a lot!
Okay, so this isn’t really a question, but I bet many of you are wondering what it’s like to actually work on a goal like this.
The key is being intentional to read novels. There are times when I have to decide to read a novel rather than, say, play games or surf the Internet. Having an idea of what pace I should be reading at helps, too. To read 100 novels a year, I need to read a bit more than 8 novels a month, so with that in mind I have an idea of how far ahead or behind I am with my goal at any given point. If I’m ahead of pace (like I am right now) I might relax a bit and do some other things, but if I’m behind I know I need to be opening up a book.
The digital age helps things a lot; having books available on Kindle on my phone means I can pull my phone out and read a bit when I have some downtime in various places. That said, print books have their place too, specifically in places where my phone is not allowed…
Honestly, 100 novels is actually looking like a fairly low goal. At my current pace I could reach 120 novels by the end of the year, and if I put in some extra effort I could probably reach 150. But hey, it’s nice to have a relatively simple goal to start with. Maybe in 2020 I’ll bump up the goal.
Are you sticking with any particular series (or multiple series) to do this, or are you reading individual light novels?
To answer this question, I have to mention one other thing that’s been helping me with this goal: J-Novel Club’s membership and prepub system. If you check out my Twitter thread, you’ll notice that a lot of my novels are read as “prepubs from @jnovelclub”. These are usually listed before their e-books actually go on sale, so what are these about?
J-Novel Club has a membership program that, among other benefits, gives members access to “prepubs”. Before the e-book of a given novel is released, the book is translated and released weekly in 8 to 10 parts for members to read on their website. (They’re considered “prepubs” because they will undergo additional editing before the e-book release; members can even partake in this process by spotting typos/grammar mistakes and the like; also, the parts are taken down some time after the e-book is published.) This is a nice system for my purposes because having 1/8th of a novel to read every week helps break up and pace my reading in easy-to-manage chunks.
With this system I find myself following a handful of particular series. Other than that, I try to balance between continuing favorite series and starting new ones.
I also took questions about my thoughts about light novels in general, so here are some questions about those:
What got you into reading light novels?
I like reading novels in general; I find the novel to be a great medium for experiencing stories as I can go at my own pace through the story and ruminate on story events and characters. I enjoy how written prose allows for more detailed descriptions of how characters think and view everything around them. Also, it’s much easier to reread my favorite parts of a book than it is to do the same with other media like TV shows or games.
Of course, I also enjoy the sort of stories that come from anime, manga, and other “otaku media”. So light novels are pretty much the perfect intersection between my love of novels and my love of otaku media. That said, while I did read some light novels here and there in the past, what really got me started in this current light novel reading spree was back when I decided to try out the novel for In Another World With My Smartphone, the anime for which was something of a guilty pleasure; the first two volumes were only $1 each so I figured why not. I found myself enjoying the novels quite a bit more than the anime for the reasons I mentioned above, and the rest is history. Speaking of which…
Also, do you find they are better than watching anime, like when people compare reading the book is better than the movie? I’ve never been into light novels as it would take less time to just watch the anime, for me.
I basically answered this question above, but I must say that I believe that each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses and there are many things anime can do that a novel cannot. In an ideal world, every good light novel would have a great anime adaptation that fully adapts the story and brings a new perspective to the story using the tools unique to anime. Of course, the reality of anime adaptations is nowhere near that ideal, which leads into the next question…
What examples of LNs that were better than the anime? What are some cases where the anime adaptation was superior to the LNs?
Honestly, in the vast majority of cases I find LNs to be better than their anime adaptations. This is in part because I prefer reading in general to watching anime and in part because most adaptations don’t reach my favorite parts of a novel series. There are a few cases, though, where I like the anime more than the novel.
A big example would be Sound! Euphonium, which I read the novel of not too long ago. (Note: technically the novel is not a light novel, but more of a general young adult novel; notably, there are no illustrations.) While the novel wasn’t bad, the anime expanded on many things such as the relationship between Kumiko and Reina that add so much to the story. Also, it’s the sort of story that benefits hugely from having, you know, actual music.
A special mention goes to That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, for which I at least prefer the anime adaptation of the first volume (I have yet to read vol. 2 or beyond). The main reason being that the anime adaptation gives more interaction between Rimuru and Shizue, which makes the end-of-volume events more impactful. It’s not a huge change but it is a nice little addition.
It helps that the above two instances gave plenty of time to adapt their novels; Sound! Euphonium took an entire season to cover one novel and Slime adapted the first volume in 8 episodes; this kept anything from feeling rushed. Anime being worse than the novel are often because the adaptation rushes things. The worst case of this is probably The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar. Sure, the original light novels weren’t anything special, but they had some interesting elements of incorporating modern knowledge into a historical past. The anime, though, crammed seven volumes of story into twelve episodes, glossing over some pretty significant backstory and worldbuilding elements, which turned it into a mess.
OK, here is a question: You sometimes see gals in anime that have purple hair, but the characters will describe her hair as “black”. Sup with that? Should we interpret purple hair to be black IRL?
For the record, this wasn’t actually asked about light novels, but it does come up in light novels too; for example, in Full Metal Panic!, main heroine Kaname is described as having black hair, but in the cover illustration (and in the anime) she has blue hair. Simply put, colorful hair makes a character more distinct and memorable. So yes, in most cases that take place in “our world, where a character has colorful hair you can assume their actual hair color is “normal”. Of course, if it takes place in a fantasy world, all bets are off…
Top ten LNs or LN series?
I think this is a nice way to finish off this Q&A session. Keep in mind, there are still plenty of LN series I have yet to read, as well as plenty of volumes to read in series I am reading. For this list, I am limiting it to series I have read at least two volumes of. You can almost certainly expect this list to change by the end of the year. Nevertheless, here are my top 10 LN series as of now. (Each entry includes the last volume I have read from that series.)
#10. Toradora! (vol. 3): I liked the anime of this one, and the relationship between Ryuji and Taiga is even better to read in book form. If you want to hear more thoughts, you can check out our Light Novel Club discussion on volume 1.
#9. Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?! (vol. 4): Honestly, this entry is really collectively for all of FUNA’s light novels; her other ones, I Shall Survive Using Potions! and Saving 80,000 Gold in Another World For My Retirement are also great, being hilarious adventures involving overpowered girls in another world who don’t quite realize how their powers are shaking up the world around them. Abilities Average takes the spot simply because it has the most volumes out that I’ve read.
#8. Invaders of the Rokujouma!? (vol. 14): The anime for this one was already surprisingly good, and the light novel goes beyond that to craft a story full of heart and some fascinating plot developments.
#7. Kokoro Connect (vol. 5): Another one for which I really liked the anime and now I get to read the light novel past where the anime ended. There’s so much more to it than just body-swapping and related phenomena; it’s a story about identity, relationships, and other sorts of psychological challenges life can throw at you.
#5. An Archdemon’s Dilemma: How to Love Your Elf Bride (vol. 5): This is a super-adorable fantasy romance. The main duo have this awkwardly sweet dynamic going on, and there’s also some interesting developments in the background. This one also has a wonderful cast of supporting characters, and overall it’s just a really nice read.
#4. Outbreak Company (vol. 9): As mentioned when we covered the first volume last time in Light Novel Club, I really like how this one takes its story of taking otaku media to another world seriously, looking at the actual ramifications of its premise and how it affects the characters. Having a great cast of characters helps, too.
#3. Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension (vol. 5): …I am dead serious about this one. Yes, it’s a fanservicey story about a guy who goes to another world with a power that lets him bathe with girls… but it’s surprisingly wholesome, and the bathing scenes have something of a family feel to them, strangely enough. The surrounding story has some interesting developments and a solid sense of adventure, and stack that with seeing how his “bath” power develops and it’s actually quite in line with a lot of what I like to see in isekai stories.
#2. Log Horizon (vol. 4): I love the anime for this, and the light novel is holding up just as well. This one does a great job of blending in game elements to a living world, exploring all sorts of themes and showcasing not just straight up action but also high level strategizing. It has incredible worldbuilding and great characters, and overall I just love it.
#1. How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom (vol. 8): And here is my favorite light novel right now. In retrospect, the premise of this one isn’t anything special; what really gets me with Realist Hero is how well it executes that premise. It has a wonderful cast, plenty of interesting plotlines, some surprisingly good harem romance (and romance outside of the main character, too), and also a lot of heart to it; it’s as much a story about interpersonal relationships as it is about rebuilding a fantasy kingdom. While I may one day find a light novel better than it, for now Realist Hero is as close to everything I want in a light novel as I have found.
Thank you for joining me in this special Q&A session! In a few days we’ll have a proper Light Novel Club post on the last volume of True Tenchi Muyo!, with discussion from TWWK and our newest writer and light novel enthusiast, JeskaiAngel, so look forward to that. After that, I will announce the next light novel for discussion… and here’s a hint: it’s one of the titles in my top 10! Which one? You’ll have to wait and see…
(Header image is from Ascendance of a Bookworm, Vol. 1, released in English by J-Novel Club.)