What Exactly Is A Light Novel?

July 26, 2009 at 1:32 am 9 comments

We begin our first real post for this blog with a simple question. What exactly IS a Light Novel? This question, the subject of hot debate within the light novel community for quite some time, shall in this article, attempt to be answered.


Cover of a Popular Light Novel in Japan

Defining a light novel is a tricky thing, mainly because the opinions and individual responses regarding this very question are so wide and varied. One person may define it as speed reading, another may call it inventive young adult fiction, while another may even go as far as to call it ‘great Japanese literature’. Because of the so widely differing opinions held about them from within and outside of the light novel fan base, a somewhat solid definition of a light novel must be reached not by its literary aspects, but rather by its technical.

A Light Novel on average ranges in size of usually around 50,000 words. However, here again, we run into a somewhat difficult issue. This is because of the fact, that while a large part of light novels do in fact fit this word range, many don’t. Some in fact, are far lower, while others are much higher.

Light Novels are probably most distinguished by people for their most obvious aspect, the illustrations. Almost every light novel will always have an anime style illustration for its cover. And while most choose to also have 5-10 extra illustrations placed within the book, (some color, with the majority being black and white), some light novels on occasion choose not to.

Light Novels are also very notorious for their stories, which some could argue, is what keeps its fan base coming back over and over again for more. If you ask any ‘American’ fan of light novels why they enjoy them, many will respond it is because of their stories, and how vastly different they can be from the average books and fiction being published daily in the United States.

Light Novels are also known for another aspect, their writing style. This is both the subject of praise and criticism from its readers. Light Novels are driven many times primarily through dialogue, allowing the story to flow quickly, interestingly, and enabling the reader to read through the pages at a bit faster rate. However, when doing this, on average, it is not stated who is speaking, and thus, it is up to the reader to actively keep in mind the person speaking, since there is no indication given for who it is except when the conversation started. This is both liked and disliked by fans of Light Novels and non fans alike. Another aspect of Light Novel writing style is that paragraphs can range from 4 sentences, to at times, one. Sound effects are also at times given an entire line to magnify effect. This creates a unique reading experience different from the normal accepted writing practices of published fiction. This again is enjoyed by many, and disliked equally by others.

In conclusion, it could be said that Light Novels do not in fact have a solid definition at all. It is more of a personal conclusion we come to after reading them, which varies with each individual’s taste.

For me, a Light Novel is a unique and exciting look into a part of fiction we rarely see anymore in the west, where imagination and risk taking go hand in hand when making a book, where stories surpass the mundane, and offer tales that take us where we dared not dream of going before.


Entry filed under: Articles.

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. http://www.the-honyaku.co.cc  |  July 26, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Very informative article! For the first blog, I’m really looking forward to seeing how it turns out.

    • 2. ranobecafe  |  July 26, 2009 at 8:31 am

      Thanks. ^_^ I want to make this blog into something really great.

  • 3. Bill Bartmann  |  September 4, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Cool site, love the info.

  • 4. joaquinayee  |  September 7, 2009 at 11:54 pm

    Excellent site, keep up the good work

  • 5. Rajikai  |  September 9, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Um… You learn stuff everyday… Thanks for the lesson of the day ^_^

  • 6. Kurt  |  December 9, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    You just gave me absolutely everything I needed… Wonderfully written, a great definition for those of us who are curious.

    • 7. ranobecafe  |  December 12, 2009 at 2:43 am

      I’m glad you liked it. ^_^

  • 8. Light Novels « eoxe – Online Incoherency  |  January 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    […] Of course, while these can be seen as a typical novella, In all honesty LN’s can be best described as being Manga with more words in place of the pictures. For one, the fact that the novels are still quite dialogue heavy like their more pictoral counterparts. Also, they are often serialized just as a Manga is. Nowadays, the two can be seen in the same magazine. Maybe its because Ive read alot of manga that I see it that way but I find it easiest to understand. (If that made no sense, don’t worry, it is better explained here) […]

  • 9. DarkPhoenix  |  February 7, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Ahaha, thanks for the info ^_^
    Truth is, I’m confused with the word limit, but looks like it’s not the problem after I saw this one XD

    So, I take it as around 50.000 words per one volume? @_@


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Welcome To Ranobe Cafe!

This marks the english speaking world's first dedicated light novel blog, bringing you news and views from the english perspective on light novels. We are more than just a blog about light novels though, we also stand in awe of the many other literary works crossing over to the West from Japan. So expect to also see articles that dabble from time to time in Cell Phone Novels and Japanese Sci-Fi works, to mention a few.

So come all you light novel enthusiasts! Come one and all! We may be a niche, and may represent one of the smallest markets in these economically troubled times, but we are also one of the most dedicated! So let us come together and support the industry we love and hold so dearly!



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