Light novels – for a medium that has actually spawned quite a few beloved anime series, it seems that a large portion, if not the majority of the anime community knows very little about them. Light novels are, like their name in part suggests, novels. In the west, they would be most akin to Young Adult fiction, often targeting themselves towards high school and middle school audiences, but not always.
What makes a light novel different from an actual novel is all about the finer details in the way it is written. Typically a light novel is shorter than an actually novel (50,000 words or less), often relies much more on dialogue, and typically comes with manga-style illustrations every couple of pages. All these factors actually make it the perfect source material to adapt because it comes with lots of easy dialogue while still allowing animators to take some liberties with the scenes and direction.
The unfortunate thing about light novels and anime is that light novels are often multiple-volume affairs and anime can only adapt so much in the standard cour, two cour, or split cour format. However, the real trouble comes if an anime adaptation isn’t popular to merit a second season. You have a story that is usually (hopefully) somewhat wrapped up, but you don’t get the whole picture. You often miss out on many of the awesome moments later in a light novel series which would be considered the climax of the story as a whole.
Yet…You do have options. As anime grows in the west, so, too, does the market for translated light novels, be it done professionally or by fans. So if you really want to get a deeper look at these 10 anime series below, you might just want to check out their source material.
Sword Art Online
There are those that love Sword Art Online, and there are those that hate it. There are very few fans that have neutral feelings on the matter. However, what many anime-only fans fail to realize is that the anime isn’t exactly the best adaption, as is often the case.
There is a huge amount of content in the Sword Art Online universe and two seasons isn’t enough time to properly present it all, namely the many side stories that happen throughout the story that allow you to get to know different characters and their dynamics. Unfortunately, the many different characters of the series is where it really shines. So while the anime may cover the first eight or so light novels, it covers about a fraction of what is in those eight.
And then there is the matter of the other 20+ volumes that haven’t been adapted…
Spice and Wolf
The Spice and Wolf anime is actually looked upon quite keenly by its fanbase because it does do a decent job of adapting the light novel series without trying to move too quickly. For example, season one covers volume one and two and the second season does two volumes as well. However, the second season actually skips volume four, likely because the story would have made for a weird stopping point.
Unfortunately, no matter how fervent fans are for a third season, it is only two more volumes of a 19-volume series.
The Devil is a Part-Timer
This anime series is seen by less informed fans as a fun little gem that they hope someday receives a second season. While that is probably never going to happen, you don’t need to let The Devil is a Part-Timer be just a short 13-episode watch.
The anime actually covers the first two volumes in a 16+ volume series. Even the manga goes further into the story and has some excellent developments. Often it is the comedy that is more intriguing than the story itself, so rest assured that the light novel has that in spades too.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash
The whole isekai genre, or person sent to another world, is kind of a crowded one in both anime and light novels. Yet, you have series like Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash that try to do something different with it, get an anime series, and probably didn’t end up popular enough for a second season. However, if you were intrigued enough to want to learn more about these character struggles as well as how they go there, the light novel for Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is ongoing at 9+ volumes. The anime for Grimgar only covers the first two volumes, though it does differ a bit in a few places.
Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
While you don’t get to enjoy the same view of Hestia when she is primarily crafted out of words, if you enjoyed the world that the anime created out of Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, the light novels go above and beyond. This is one series that is still kind of threatening a sequel, all hope carried on the back of how popular Hestia’s
breastias chestia pig tails were, but while you are waiting for that to happen, there is more to explore. The anime of DanMachi covers about the first five volumes, but there are 11 volumes in this ongoing series, and they all get just as cool as the ending of the anime.
It is also worth noting that the new anime series in the DanMachi world, Sword Oratoria, following Ai Wallenstein also has its own separate set of light novels, too.
Ah, Durarara and its close cousin Baccano are heavily character-driven stories that rely on a very large cast. While both anime series were popular, typically anime leaves something to be desired when it comes with deciding which characters get explored in a large cast. So while the seasons of Durarara anime coincide with the ending of the light novels, you have missed out on quite a bit. There is also the matter of another series, Durarara SH, that is now being released.
The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya
In comparison to the anime, many found the light novels of the Haruhi Suzumiya to be rather boring, but actually they are rather quite clever. The novels don’t always focus on the sheer silliness, but rather explore complex physics concepts and sci-fi theories in a way that almost makes it as intelligent as Steins;Gate.
The best part of the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels (other than skipping the Endless Eight) is that it is a pretty straightforward read, unlike the anime adaptations that adapt parts of the light novels, creating standard ways of viewing it and the chronological way.
Yet, if you want something deviously smart to read that also fills in more of the Haruhi Suzumiya universe, you can do worse than this 11 volume series.
Not only is the Monogatari series somewhat difficult to hunt down in order to watch, but its titles are getting increasingly difficult to keep track of the watching order. Unfortunately for us, each of the 23+ volumes of the light novel also come with a different –monogatari prefix. Needless to say the titles of the anime co-align with the light novels, so there is so much more to this series of wonderful short stories.
A Certain Magical Index
If there is one fanbase equally as rabid as the Fate/Stay fanbase, it is the Certain Magical Index fanbase. Despite getting two seasons, far more than most light novel adaptations get, they are always thirsty for more. However, one nice tidbit is that the anime, which covers all the way up to volume 13, actually sticks quite closely to the light novel, meaning if you have watched the anime, you can pick up at volume 14 and see where the series goes on its 22 volume journey.
There is also the matter of Railgun and its many other spin-off visual novels as well. There is certainly enough to keep people engaged for awhile, explaining the hearty fanbase.
No Game No Life
Unlike all these other series that have massive, long established light novel series, No Game No Life is actually kind of new, or was when it was adapted. The anime series covers the first three volumes of the light novel, but premiered when there was only six available volumes. The ongoing series has increased to nine volumes, currently.
While the anime adaptation followed the source material pretty closely, there is one slight difference – the anime kind of limits the ecchi. The light novel, surprisingly, actually has a few more perverted situations, which is weird considering it is usually the other way around.
You have any other good light novel recommendations that anime fans need to read? Let us know in the comments section below.