Light novels are known for their clickbait titles even though the majority of light novels do not actually have clickbait titles. But hey, I fell for it, because out of all the J-Novel Club titles released so far, the only ones I’ve read at the time of this writing are My Little Sister Can Read Kanji and I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse. I regret nothing.
This blog post is an evaluation of the two titles and their potential for fantastic memes.
My Little Sister Can Read Kanji is set in a dystopian future where otaku culture has taken over the world, and nobody can read kanji anymore except for the MC’s little sister. One day, our moronic hero meets up with his favourite author, an old man who writes perverted siscon fantasies, and they get sent back in time to our era, where they must survive in modern-day Japan despite being kanji-illiterate stooges.
I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse is about an average high school boy who belongs to a bloodline that forces him to take the place of the hero of any light novel-esque story. On his sixteenth birthday, a girl from the future informs him that he will save too many girls and they will start a war over who gets to bang him, causing the apocalypse. In order to prevent that, he must choose a girl from his harem.
My Little Sister Can Read Kanji has the better premise, because it’s what all the light novel haters are afraid of. I love drinking the tears of haters who think light novels are RUINING THE ANIME INDUSTRY and killing Japanese literacy while they’re at it.
In My Little Sister Can Read Kanji, the old man who writes perverted siscon fantasies becomes a little girl with twin tails. He is the best girl.
In I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse, R is the deadpan moe girl from the future. She has a nice hat, therefore she is the best girl.
Overall, however, both novels have shitty girls, I am sorry to say.
I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse is a pretty good story. All the characters are involved with a different storyline which the MC can alter, and it is pretty clever how the different storylines come together. The pacing is good, and there are no wasted scenes. Also, the MC is smart enough to save multiple worlds simultaneously but dumb enough to say shit like this:
On the other hand, My Little Sister Can Read Kanji is not a well-told story. Once you get past the zany premise, it starts to get tiresome in the middle section of the story. The scenes drag on with meaningless banter, and for a while the story feels directionless. Maybe the plot will pick up in volume 2 after the cliffhanger ending.
That said, the satire is amazing.
Towards the end of the first volume, My Little Sister Can Read Kanji starts to make some thoughtful commentary about the assumptions we have about literature. Just as the people of our era dismiss light novels and stories about little sister incest offhand, the people in the world of My Little Sister Can Read Kanji dismiss literary fiction offhand. In truth, neither attitude is healthy. Shouldn’t we try to broaden our prospects by reading as much as we can?
If there is one thing I like about light novels, it’s that they’re linked to multiple subcultures and literary traditions in Japan. Light novels draw as much from western and Japanese sci-fi and fantasy novels as they do from manga and visual novels. “Proper” novels can have long and inane-sounding titles too. The relationship between “subculture” and “mainstream” can be hard to define when people often mistake “proper” novels for light novels and vice versa.
Light novels can do anything, and that’s how you end up with weird shit like My Little Sister Can Read Kanji and I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse.
I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse is a really good, fun story, but My Little Sister Can Read Kanji gets to the heart of what light novels are all about. As someone who enjoys reading books of all sorts, from Natsume Souseki’s Kokoro to My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as Expected, its message resonated with me. Who cares what people think of you? Embrace your tastes loud and proud!
Having said that, My Little Sister Can Read Kanji is a bad novel. Read I Saved Too Many Girls and Caused the Apocalypse instead.