This was a difficult volume to get my head around. I’m writing this summary not just so that fans can get an idea about what happens, but so that I can sort out my feelings on it.
Was it worth the two-year wait?
People sure like to romanticise piracy. This was something that occurred to me after I published an article a few days ago called Explaining the English Light Novel Boom with Bookwalker Global, which didn’t mention piracy at all and yet sparked controversy on the subject anyway. As many of the comments argued, fan translations have played a part in popularizing light novels in English translation. Why didn’t I mention their existence?
In truth, I didn’t set out to snub fan translation in that piece. It was simply the case that the people I spoke to at Bookwalker Global did not mention it. The article was not intended as a comprehensive overview of the light novel industry; it was meant to showcase Bookwalker Global’s perspective on the subject. I thought that their views would be interesting because a) They’ve recently jumped onto the English light novel bandwagon with a clear rationale for doing so, and b) They are deeply connected to the Japanese light novel market.
Fan translations were clearly not relevant with Bookwalker Global’s choice of exclusive titles. Neither The Combat Baker nor The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! had English fan translations when these releases were being decided, nor was there much hype for them on English-language social media. However, people still wanted me to talk about fan translation anyway. I suspect that they wanted me to romanticise their place in history.
I first read the My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU novels soon after the first season of the anime hit the airwaves, and it’s been one of my favorite light novel series since then. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes the series so appealing to me, but it essentially comes down to this: it’s the most true-to-life representation of the high school experience that I’ve encountered through fiction.
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.
Re:ZERO was a series I became mildly obsessed with as it aired. It resonated with me for similar reasons Oregairu did – because it showed a deep understanding of its self-loathing geek protagonist. In the end, I couldn’t help but root for Subaru, even when I knew that his actions were self-defeating. He felt empty and alone, and he was convinced that he could save himself by becoming Emilia’s knight. I’m not sure that he overcame his white knight complex by the end of the anime, but he did become more capable of empathising with others, and that was significant in itself.
However, anyone who followed me on twitter during the time Re:ZERO aired probably knows which two characters really stole my heart.
Last month, a new English light novel distributor emerged on the scene. Called J-Novel Club, it promises to publish the latest light novels worldwide in digital format. You might have seen my interview with the site’s owner on Crunchyroll, which goes into more detail about what the site is all about and what sort of titles are available there already.
Needless to say, I’m a supporter of the website. It’s a risky and experimental venture, but I definitely want it to succeed. If J-Novel Club manages to take off, we could see more light novels available in English, including the more obscure titles without anime adaptations. I never thought the day would come when I’d be able to read an official English translation of My Little Sister Can Read Kanji, but now that it has arrived, I fall on my knees and thank God I’m alive.
So what’s next in the world of English light novels? While I have no way of seeing the future, I do have some tentative predictions about the prospects of J-Novel Club, which I’d like to share in this post.
The Qualidea Code anime started airing today! …leaving audiences around the world very confused. Thus, I have prepared a handy FAQ to explain what the heck is going on and how this series was conceived.
[NOTE: This guide uses Japanese order for names: family name first, given name last.]
Natsume Sōseki is going to be resurrected as an android university professor. This is an actual thing that will happen.
Funnily enough, this might not actually be the quirkiest interpretation of Japan’s most admired author. Not only have his major works been adapted into anime and manga, Sōseki has appeared as a manga character before. In Koisuru Bungou, the Meiji author is portrayed as a romantic shojo lead character, who also happens to be a sparkling bishonen. Apparently, this manga was part of a “Kyun-kyun Kuru!” educational series created in order to get kids interested in literature. Okay.
Then there’s the 4koma manga Sensei to Boku – Natsume Souseki wo Kakomu Hitobito, in which Sōseki is portrayed as a neurotic university professor and a bit of a tsundere. This might be an accurate description of him, given that Sōseki smiles in exactly none of his photos in real life.
Natsume Sōseki is too moe.
All these things got me thinking: what if Natsume Sōseki were a tsundere android professor in an anime? I feel that he could easily fit into the worlds of Joker Game or Bungou Stray Dogs, two anime airing this season. Let’s run them down.