(This post is part of a series of posts covering Christmas-themed anime episodes. For more posts like these, check out the 12 Days of Anime tag.)
It’s gotten fashionable to say these days that Haruhi Suzumiya has not aged well as a franchise. I can sorta see the argument there. Haruhi popularised the “snarky guy joins a high school club” genre of light novel adaptations, and many of its tropes have been relentlessly copied ever since. I haven’t seen the TV series for a few years now, so I can’t really comment on it.
But for what it’s worth, The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya is still a good film. A bloated one, perhaps, and probably too faithful to the wordiness of the novel, but still one of KyoAni’s finest works.
LN translation is in a similar place fansubbing was in before Crunchyroll and other forms of legal streaming came along. There aren’t too many light novels officially translated into English, and many series are out of print and discontinued. As a fan translator, I do my part in making Japanese LNs available in English, but I know that what I’m doing is actually illegal. But in many ways, it really can’t be helped, at least for now.
The good news is that the situation is changing, little by little. With more LNs being adapted into anime than ever before, people are taking notice of LNs (for better and for worse). Yen Press has recently licensed the guaranteed cash cow known as Sword Art Online, with other popular LNs like Kagerou Daze on the way. And with the shift from print books to Ebooks, LNs have a better chance of finding exposure at a cheaper price. The digital revolution has opened up possibilities for every literary subgenre imaginable, so it’s not as if there is no market for LNs, even if they will remain niche for the foreseeable future.
Beyond translated LNs, there’s another type of English light novel, one that’s been eking out a humble living in the dark corners of the internet up until now: original English light novels, written by English-speaking anime fans. It’s this kind of LN I’ll be focusing on today.
One of the most common complaints critics have about anime is that they pander to the otaku. Because fanservice and stock anime characters do nothing to further the plot or the themes of the narrative, this is generally perceived as an example of poor storytelling.
My intention with this post is to challenge this assumption.