As you browse the manga section of the book store, you come across a manga that really catches your eye. It has an epic title and an even more awesome cover. But when you open it, you’re disappointed to see plain text with the intermittent picture.
Next time you pick out one of these books, don’t put it back on the shelf— these light novels can be just as entertaining as manga.
What Are Light Novels?
Light novels aren’t full-blown books, but they aren’t manga either. They’re characterized by their fairly short length of under 300 pages, and contain the occasional manga-style artwork.
Light novels are a treasure trove of ideas for manga, anime, and video games—so if you want to know about a new game/movie/anime before anyone else, you should start reading this genre.
The publishers of light novels actually invest into anime as a marketing strategy. Once an anime adaption of light novel gets released, the light novel will start flying off the shelves.
Unfortunately, the authors of light novels are often underappreciated and overworked. Since light novels are basically used as advertisements for its accompanying manga or anime, authors usually have a very tight production schedule.
1. Log Horizon
If you’re a fan of the Sword Art Online anime and manga series, then you’ll love Log Horizon. It follows Shiroe, a veteran gamer in the popular online MMORPG Elder Tales. After taking a short break from the game, he decides to go back online to try out the latest update.
Shiroe, along with 30,000 other players log in on the update’s release day. Things have definitely changed—the game has now become a reality. Join Shiroe and his friends as they try to cope with their new monster-filled environment and immortal bodies. After you finish the light novel, make sure to check out its anime and manga adaption as well.
Baccano! comes from the same author of the Durarara!! light novel series, and it’s just as good. It takes place in a fictional version of the United States during Prohibition, and features a cast of characters consisting of thieves, alchemists, homunculi, and assassins.
In the year 1711, alchemists summon a demon that provided them with an elixir of immortality, which only causes even more trouble in the future. Baccano! switches back and forth between characters, plots, and timelines, so make sure to pay close attention.
3. Your Name
You might know Your Name by its popular anime adaption, but you should really consider reading the light novel as well. Your Name tells the intertwined tale of Mitsuha Miyamiza and Taki Tachibana. The young girl, Mitsuha, lives in a small town in the countryside and fantasizes about becoming a boy living in the city.
When Mitsuha wakes up one day, she realizes that she’s become a completely different person—Mitsuha has switched bodies with Taki, a Tokyo-native high school boy. They soon settle into each other’s lives, leaving notes for each other along the way.
4. Spice & Wolf
Kraft Lawrence, a young traveling merchant, is often out on the road alone, with only his horse to keep him company. One night, he finds a sleeping wolf goddess in his cart who goes by the name of Holo. She decides to bargain with Kraft—in exchange for taking her with him, she’ll provide him with the wisdom to help him gain more business.
Set in historical Europe, Spice & Wolf offers a charming story between Kraft and Holo. As the light novel progresses, Kraft begins to realize that traveling with a wolf goddess can be a real handful.
The Monogatari light novels all use the same –monogatari suffix. The first novels in the series, Bakemonogatari, introduces high school student Koyomi Araragi. After transforming into a vampire for a short period of time, he’s finally back to his human form.
He later meets a strange, sickly girl at school who weighs almost nothing. Koyomi is determined to help her, and brings her to the woman who cured his vampiric condition.
Re:ZERO revolves around Subaru Natsuki, a young man who rarely leaves his house and spends all his time playing video games. His simple world gets turned upside-down after a trip to the convenience store.
Suddenly, he’s warped into a completely different world, with no idea who summoned him or how he got there. He ends up meeting a half-elf girl named Satella, and discovers that he has an awesome time traveling ability—but there’s a catch: he has to die in order to use it.
The story of Clockwork Planet occurs after the apocalypse. However, the world is not a wasteland—it has since been put back together by a mysterious engineer called “Y.” He intricately rebuilds the entire planet using gears and clock parts, and deems the new Earth “Clockwork Planet.”
One thousand years later, the mechanic-obsessed Naoto Miura encounters a piece of artificial intelligence construct by Y. The robot, RyuZU is Naoto’s only hope in resolving a conspiracy that puts the lives of everyone on Clockwork Planet in jeopardy.
My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong as I Expected is a slice of life light novel centering around the troubled student, Hachiman Hikigaya. Hachiman has an overall cynical view of life—he thinks that happy young people just don’t exist, and anyone who says they’re happy is just faking it.
After Hachiman writes an essay that challenges the values of society, he’s assigned to join the Volunteer Service Club as punishment. The members of this club strive to improve the lives of other students, something that Hachiman isn’t especially enthusiastic about.
Light Novels Aren’t Short of Depth
Despite the fact that light novels are usually short, they often contain a lot of depth. In fact, light novels sometimes contain even more detail than its anime counterpart.
Want to stick to reading manga instead? Check out these manga that should have their own anime adaption.