Most anime fans will have heard the terms manga and light novels used when talking about any adaptations. But what exactly is a light novel?
In this article, we’ll explain what a light novel is and how it differs from regular novels and manga.
What Is A Light Novel?
Light novels are short, fast-paced novels published in Japan. Typically, you’ll find a whole host of tropes in a light novel in your average manga. However, while manga is a type of comic, light novels are solely prose.
Most manga publishers in America will also publish light novels, as their fan bases regularly overlap.
The reason they have an audience overlap isn’t by mere coincidence. Many manga series have light novels published alongside them, and original light novels often have manga illustrations on the cover and some inside the book.
However, one factor they have in common is that both light novels and manga are adapted to anime.
In a way, the closest description to a light novel is by thinking of them as pulp fiction. They’re not necessarily written for a YA audience, even if the readership tends to overlap there too.
Instead, light novels simply exist to provide an escape instead of providing a peerless insight into the psyche.
What Makes A Light Novel?
When you look at a light novel, you’ll notice that they look more like a novella than a novel. Combining the length of the light novel with its fast pace can mean readers can finish them in a few hours.
They’re designed to be easy to read and can be perfect when you want a quick one.
The reason light novels are fast-paced could be because most were initially written as online serials. A fair number of them were written on blogs and forums and then picked up by publishers for official release.
That’s why one feature of light novels is a long descriptive title and how you know an anime was adapted from a light novel. After all, they need to hook their readers quickly, so they need to reveal the plot quickly.
How Long Have Light Novels Been Popular In America?
Regarding publication, the U.S. didn’t start officially releasing light novels until the manga boom in the 2000s. However, they wouldn’t get much of an audience until 2014, when the publisher Yen Press created its light novel imprint in the form of Yen On.
After discovering their audience, Yen On published successive light novels in a month. Along with Yen On, other publishers, such as Viz and Seven Seas Entertainment, have been increasing the number of light novels published in the west.
Are Light Novels Any Different From Novels?
While you could say that light novels are a type of novel, they have a selection of similarities and differences. After all, light novels focus more on the written word than illustrations, a kind of literature you can read. However, light novels are far shorter.
See, most novels are expected to have over 50,000 words in them. But a light novel will never have that kind of length. They’re usually only around 100 pages long, and they’re designed to be easy to read.
They also include more illustrations in them than a novel to give a better depiction of the characters and showcase critical scenes. You’re lucky to find illustrations in most novels, with illustrations more commonly found in children’s fiction when you look at novels.
Light novels also have a different publishing size, where they are printed in A6 format and are thus easier to carry around with you. Novels, however, are often published in A5. The size difference alone shows how different they are.
While a light novel’s audience is usually between middle school and high school students, that shouldn’t mean that a light novel is more similar to YA books.
Many people can enjoy light novels for the basic vocabulary used and the unambiguous manner in which they’re written. However, you’ll find more complex novels as you read them. The writing style varies depending on the author, while light novels follow a specific formula.
The most effective manner in which they’re different is how they’re marketed. Light novels are highly commercialized and rely on branding to sell. They are typically sold based on how the cover looks.
Meanwhile, novels are often judged by the way they’re written. They focus more on the individual story and the fact that you will want to find out more. However, the light novels themselves tend to reveal the plot immediately in the title.
You may be able to argue that a light novel is a type of novel; they’re more closely related to pulp fiction magazines.
What’s The Difference Between A Manga And A Light Novel?
The one key element that light novels and manga have in common as they can both be adapted for anime. However, some of the differences lie in how they’re made.
Manga is an entirely visual format due to being a type of Japanese graphic novel. However, many people may confuse a light novel for a manga, as often, they tie into each other.
Many manga series have their light novels written based on their universes, so it’s easy to see how this can happen.
Manga is often made under a weekly or monthly schedule. Light novels don’t have this issue. They can have a slower pace than a manga, as they’re not at risk of getting canceled based on votes. You’ll often find they focus on narrative structure, and there’s less dialogue.
While manga is entirely visual, light novels tend to use their visuals to market their work. They don’t include these visuals. You’ll find a few illustrations within the pages; otherwise, they’re focused on prose.
As you can see, light novels are quick and easy reads that you can jump into when you want to escape reality. They’re not designed to be intense or analyzed but simply to kill some time when you want to relax.