Tuesday Terminology is a weekly segment to enlighten the masses with words, phrases, and ideals usually tacked on to today’s anime/manga scene.
This week’s topic: Light Novels
Anime these days are always one of two things: Originals or Adaptations. Adaptations are works based on another original source material that uses a different medium. Most often they are one of three mediums: Manga, Visual Novel Games, and Light Novels. Most casual anime fans are likely to believe that their favorite show is based on a manga or it is an original work altogether. You would be surprised to find out that a number of popular series are actually based off literary works of words accompanied with a few illustrations.
Light Novels are an evolution of the Pulp Magazine. The target audience has not really changed much from days past, aiming for young men in the junior high/high school demographic. They usually range from 40,000-50,000 words and average 200-pages. Most series are usually serialized in anthologies before being compiled into full-fledged books. In 1993, ASCII Media Works established the Dengeki Bunko magazine to compile various works, much like Shueisha’s Shounen Jump magazine does for manga. As years passed, more magazines became established (and fell): Faust, Gekkan Dragon Magazine, The Sneaker and Dengeki hp, or media franchise magazines like Comptiq and Dengeki G’s Magazine. These magazines furthered the format by highlighting and running contests to find and publish works from new, rising authors.
In the coming years, the popularity of Light Novel series would greenlight anime adaptations. Examples: Sword Art Online, Baccano!, Durarara!, Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere, Legend of Galactic Heroes, Slayers series, Boogiepop series, -Monogatari series, Record of Lodoss War. Many of these popular works started out small, in magazines, the web or small book publishers.
If you are ever interested in reading some series, the wonderful contributors at Baka-Tsuki have a huge list of projects that have been worked on, or currently in the works of being translated. Some series have actually been brought stateside, like: the Haruhi Suzumiya series and the Spice & Wolf series. US Publishing companies like Viz, DMP, Dark Horse, Yen Press, and Del Rey Manga have some series in their catalogs. So be sure to check it out the next time you hit up the book store.
More examples (with cover/promo art):