If you follow my blog/Twitter, you might know that I’ve been encouraging light novel fans to join the summer reading program over at English Light Novels. In June, we read the first volumes of Kagerou Daze and Mimizuku to Yoru no Ou. If you’re familiar with either of those series, hop on over to the discussion thread and share your thoughts!
If you think you’re too late for this party, never fear. You can always participate in the July program. This month, we’re reading The Isolator by Reki Kawahara (yes, THAT Reki Kawahara) and Tasogare-iro no Uta Tsukai by Kei Sazane. (For more information on where to find these novels and the program schedule, click HERE.)
Getting back to Kagerou Daze and Mimizuku, I thought I’d do something a little different and give readers a taste of what Japanese readers think of the light novels we’ve been reading in English. I’ve translated the top two reviews on Amazon into English. This is by no means a comprehensive overview of fan opinion, but it should give you an idea of what some Japanese readers look for in light novels.
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.