Fans Take Lead Amid Lack of Official Translations

September 12, 2009 at 12:04 am 6 comments

As many of you might know already, especially if you have been a light novel fan for a while now and have done a simple google web search, you have discovered that there are fan translations online for certain light novels. Fans who are able to read the Japanese language have taken time out of their lives to kindly translate to the best of their current abilities, these wonderful works of fiction from the nation of Japan.

Now if you don’t quite understand the difference between manga fan translations and light novel fan translations, I’ll explain. Obviously whenever you hear of “fan translations”, some people remember their knowledge of fan translations of manga and anime. They reply, “No, if I read fan translations of light novels, it’ll do to the light novel industry like what anime fan translations have done to the anime industry. It’s going to hurt the industry.”

That person couldn’t be furter from the truth, but while this is a very deep question that deserves a long lengthy discussion here (which it shall eventually recieve in time), my point is this. The light novel industry is a tiny niche, smaller than even Visual Novels as a whole (although, with Haruhi’s success, this could change soon). Fan translations, as weird as it may sound, actually HELP to keep the light novel industry going in America and the UK. Without them, the publishing companies would be in a possibly even bigger ditch then they are now.

You see, fan translations help to keep people interested in light novels, and also introduce people to “what is a light novel”. Without them, and the wonderful people who make them, the industry at the moment would be an even smaller niche. And although the clearly un-biased official light novel translator Andrew Cunningham may despise them for their sometime’s ‘raw nature’ and ‘unedited’ initial releases (not saying that I don’t like Andrew, cause heaven knows I love his work, haha), it is thanks to fan translations that people still are active in the light novel community. Obviously those who can read Japanese don’t care and aren’t affected much, but for those of us who are still learning Japanese and haven’t mastered it yet, those who still need English translations, fan translations are what keep us motivated till the next official release by a Publisher (which I, like many other’s, eagerly buy quickly upon release).

Now, after that little bit of commentary, here’s the real reason for this post. There has been a newly completed fan translation.

Zero no Tsukaima Vol. 10 – Yes, book #10 has finally been translated of the Zero’s Familiar series (and as a note to Seven Sea’s, please don’t feel inhibited to officially release the books. I along with many want to own an officially released product and help contribute to the franchise).

So yea, if you have been waiting anxiously, like I know many have, feel free to head on over to you know where and start reading.

Now the question is, how long will it take for them to get volume 11’s translation finished?

Leave your guesses and comments below. I love hearing from you guys and what you’re thinking, so please don’t feel shy.


Entry filed under: Articles, News.

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sharillon  |  September 12, 2009 at 6:38 am


    I see it a bit differently. Just look at some sites like “OneM****”. U can read the newest Naruto, One Piece or Bleach Chapters. And if u look at the access-nrs. they are better than the sales…

    I think a lot of people think “If I read it once on the net, why should I buy it instead? I dont need to read it twice.”

    I wouldnt say it doesnt help people focus the attention to manga, anime and LNs. But wouldnt it be enough to post maybe 1 Volume and then “stop” the translation to see whether it would sell better or not?

    A few month ago I was at a concert of Less than Jake. The band asked “Who here bought our album legally?” I was amazed on how few bought it… It was just about half of the people.

    And I recently had a discussion with someone who reads manga (not LNs) at “OneM****”. He said: “Why should I buy the books? I wouldnt ever considered buying them, because I can read them on this site”.

    That leads me to the conclusion that a lot of people wouldnt even buy them after reading them once.
    To me, I really cant read a LN on my PC. I really want to have a book in my hands, go to the bathtub and relax while reading. I cant do that with the fantranslations…

    • 2. ranobecafe  |  September 12, 2009 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks for the reply, actually, as I was trying to make clear, is that if the fan translations didn’t continue, we’d NEVER read the novels EVER. I do really want to in the soon future write a fully indepth article on this, because I think it deserves it. See, just because you can read it online, does NOT mean you don’t want to buy it. In fact, many LN fans who read translations buy the Japanese version to support the author. I believe its something that is just different about the psychy of a LN fan. We feel a deeper desire to own the book, to support the series, than someone who simply reads the manga. The problem with translating one volume is, that it may take 6-7 more years for a company to even ATTEMPT to translate it officially. I certainly am NOT going to wait that long, and I wouldn’t expect anyone else to. Since LN Publishers in America arent making money yet off LN’s, they aren’t profitable. So, fan translations are the only way fans can read their novels, at least until the market gets better. Not to mention also, the people in other english speaking countries that CAN’T order LN’s in their bookstores. Like I said, this deserves a deeper article in the future.

  • 3. KafkaFuura  |  September 12, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Luckily I think the difference between a novel and something like manga and anime is that when you’re reading something, you’re generally not at your computer. You may be on a bus, plane, well anywhere. I’d say that many many more people want print versions of novels. They take longer to read, and need a higher level of immersion to enjoy, rather than a 5-10 minute break for flipping through the newest chapter – something easily done at a computer.

    Also translating Light Novels v. Manga:
    Manga is ridiculously easy to translate. Even if it’s complex, like something out of xxxHolic or something, it’s dialogue. Whether it be mental or outspoken, it’s all dialogue. When you step out of the realm of dialogue in Japanese, things get invariably more complex. Even in light novels, where the language for many is “lighter” – think Crime and Punishment vs. War and Peace – there are still a lot of conventions that follow a more classical style – which is well, thicker. Putting difficulty of language aside – then you have the difference in the sheer amount of text.

    Even at collaborative wiki-style translation sites, only the most popular things get translated at a decent speed – and that’s with many people working on one book. If light novel companies in America and elsewhere had a dedicated staff – they wouldn’t be outstripped by the moderately popular fan translation, done probably by a single university student during every once and a while free time.

    While manga publishers may be fighting a losing battle; (small teams or bored high school students with a little passion and team work can put out a manga chapter hours after it has been released in Japan). Light novel companies are up against a fight they can “win” they just need to invest in it.

    Unfortunately they have campaigning to do. A decent amount of people eat up comics even if they don’t buy them – at least there’s an interest there. I don’t know many people who enjoy reading – apart from my literature and writing classes.

    I know it seems to some extent like I’m campaigning for them, orz – but DelRey had a great idea with translating Faust. Bringing a literary magazine from Japan to America – it even has a few short stylistic manga in it to catch those that might not otherwise pick it up. – They just need to try harder for its success I’m afraid, not many people know about it.

    You pick up the book, read through it – fall in love with an author or two, and then you’re hooked to buy more – the problem is, there really isn’t much more at all! – Then you have to order boxes and boxes of books from Japan, ship them, and read them yourself – which is kind of like swimming through the ocean, enjoyable as it is ._.

    • 4. ranobecafe  |  September 12, 2009 at 2:01 pm

      The secret to creating a successfull Light Novel, something else that I feel I should write an article about in the future, is to NOT market it to manga fans. It’s regular general reading audiences of America that will fall in love with light novels. But they have to be marketed correctly.

      As for FAUST, I fell in love with Otsuichi’s story. 🙂

  • 5. Sharillon  |  September 13, 2009 at 4:37 am

    Faust is kinda… strange. At least Volume 2.

    The best story was “Gray Colored Diet Coke”. And then Del Rey dont even has plans to publish the whole novel. The end was like a total cock-blocker….

    Then Jagdtiger. It seems to be a short-story from one of the Boogiepop-Novels, since the Towa-Organization is mentioned. And I guess in a “normal” Boogiepop novel u will meet the characters again.

    And whats bugging me about Del Rey is: Where is Kara no Kyoukai? Or Zaregoto 2? And will there even be more novels in the Jiken-series?

    Somehow when I buy a LN-Series from America most of them get cancelled…

    Happened to almost every LN-Series by Tokyopop. Scrapped Princess, Stars-Series, Gosick, Missing, FMP, Kino no Tabi…

    And with the Viz-Novels. Where are my Shakugan no Shana Novels? 😦

    With Del Rey it seems the same…. Zaregoto, Psycho Busters…

    I also say… It lacks proper marketing. But I think the problem is also the readership. Most Anime/Manga-Fans will either say: “I would rather read a real novel!” or “Dont wanna read that much.”
    The “normal” people will say: “Looks pretty childish. Dont wanna read it!”

    • 6. kafkafuura  |  September 14, 2009 at 12:05 pm

      The key is to force the books on people ^^ haha! – we should all become teachers and make it required reading. – The form of most light novels at least is unique enough to justify it…


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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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