Light Novels and Others

I’ve always considered Light Novel to be a cousin of Manga, both of them being popular media in which Japanese authors use to express themselves. There are certainly similarities between the two, both being printed media, used as tools of storytelling, and can end up being adapted into animations if they are popular enough to catch the attention of animation studios.


The Boogiepop series, often credited for popularizing modern light novels.

The interesting part though, is when we look at the differences between these two media. Aside from the painfully obvious lack of drawings on light novels compared to Mangas (an average light novel only feature a page of art between every ~40 pages of text), one common trait among light novels is that they utilize internal monologues a lot. Light novels are typically short on content, instead they tend to explore and dwell on the inner thoughts of characters (hence the “light” novel). Additionally, light novels have an affinity towards metahumor as well. The Monogatari series being one of the most popular light novel series, famous for its constant wordplays and meta comedy elements.

One of my favourite action series, Owari no Seraph, was originally written by author Takaya Kagami as a manga, its first volume being published in September 2012. The series has since then have 12 more volumes published, and had 2 cours of anime adapted by Wit Studio which I personally really liked. (Can’t wait for season 3!) But Takaya has also written 2 spinoff series focusing on individual characters on light novels instead.

The first spinoff series of Owari no Seraph is called Ichinose Guren: Juurokusai-sai no Hametsu (Guren Ichinose: Catastrophe at Sixteen). It focuses on the character Guren Ichinose, and his experience in the world. Without going into details, Guren was born into a family of rather low social standing and has to constantly deal with ridicule by people from above. This is where the main difference between manga and light novel shines, and why I thought it was a brilliant move by Takaya Kagami to instead write this story on a light novel. In this spinoff series, action and fighting were kept to a minimal, instead readers periodically get glimpses into Guren’s inner thoughts and struggles dealing with his surroundings. Monologues were thoroughly utilized for readers to understand our main character.

One of the anime from the last year’s fall season was called Girlish Number, and its main character Chitose Karasuma was an aspiring voice actress who wished to work in the animation industry. There was a scene in which Chitose asked where the character she will be voice acting was adapted from. When the director revealed that it was from a light novel, Chitose immediately made a frown. The joke was that modern light novels have become infamous, due of an increasing abundance of authors writing heavily fan-service oriented, low effort titles involving harems and ecchi elements. This may sound elitist, but I couldn’t deny that light novels with cliche stories filled with over sexualized girls is pretty trashy.

Though that is certainly a criticism for light novels nowadays, It is important not to generalize and consider all light novels low effort. There are indeed some lousy ones, but some masterpieces also exist in the form of light novels, we just have to look for them.

(By Casey)

Owari no Seraph’s official site:

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