Light Novels: An Introduction

Posted by Guest Author on Feb 28, 2008 in Comic Books |

Light Novels

Most people know about anime and manga, but a new wave of Japanese popular culture is just starting to hit the shores of the United States: the light novel. The light novel (literally “raito noberu” or “ranobe” for short) is similar to a young adult novel in the United States, but it also has a little twist: manga-style illustrations are littered throughout the books.

Light novels have been around for ages, and many prominent artists and mangaka have illustrated them. Yoshitaka Amano, best known for his character designs for the Final Fantasy series of games, illustrated the Vampire Hunter D novel in 1983. Shoujo/boys love mangaka Fumi Yoshinaga has illustrated dozens of BL novels.

But these novels are now uniquely positioned to arrive with a bang in the west. Western fans’ awareness of the genre skyrocketed thanks to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, one of Japan’s most popular light novel series which was adapted into an anime whose popularity reached epic proportions.

Combine that with the continuing boom of manga and you’ve got a market ripe for the picking. In fact, light novels might have been brought over earlier, but translating a full novel is a much more difficult task than translating a manga, requiring a higher fluency in reading Japanese (and, therefore, a higher-paid translator). Tokyopop and Viz have both churned out novels for a year or so now on a small scale, but the slightly smaller publisher Seven Seas has plans to release another half-dozen or so in the near future.

Now that you know what light novels are— and why you should be aware of them —check back here tomorrow for the start of our list of the ten light novels that you need to know!

Gia Manry is a Portland, OR-based professional writer specializing in pop culture/entertainment writing. Read up on more of her work at or hire her at

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