Why Is The Number of Light Novel Adaptations A Problem?

Light Novel Rage

It’s becoming a fairly standard cry each and every season. “There’s another light novel adaption with all its tropes and cliches.” And then fans of the source get defensive, those who dislike light novel adaptations start throwing out every poor adaptation ever as evidence that the entire idea of adapting a light novel is fraught with peril, and then there’s everyone else who is sitting on the fence and wondering if this light novel adaptation is going to be interesting, a train wreck, or an interesting train wreck.

So is there a problem with the number of light novels getting an anime adaptation?

I will admit, there’s a lot of generalisations about light novels and anime adaptations out there. Just watching season after season it is easy to buy into the idea that the anime industry is actually being taken over by light novel adaptations or that somehow they’ve become almost the staple source of adaptations. I certainly believed there were a lot more than it turns out there actually are.

So I decided to look into this a little bit. Just doing my own quick count on MAL for the anime that aired in 2018 (not continuing series) I found that unsurprisingly Manga remains the main source of anime adaptations. In fact, when you include web manga and 4-koma manga in the mix it accounts for nearly 50% of all source material for anime airing in 2018 that MAL includes in its seasonal pages (I’m totally open to the fact that this is not the be all and end all definitive source of information regarding this but it probably is a reasonable enough representation for this discussion).

What I was surprised to discover was that original anime accounted for 21% of anime in 2018. While I knew Zombieland Saga and one or two other titles were anime originals, I was unaware of just how many other original anime came out.

Zombieland Saga Episode 2

Then we have games, light novels and other (which accounts for ‘other’ as listed on MAL and novel and visual novel adaptations) which all come in at close to 10%.

Huh.

I genuinely did not see that coming when I first decided to see if Light Novel adaptations were in fact becoming too prolific. While I knew manga adaptations would still be the highest, I kind of thought light novels would be second or third, or at least close to a large chunk of the releases, but it is actually only sitting at 9.1%.

Then when you look at the highest scored title on MAL for each season, you see that in every case it was an anime based on a manga. The only light novel adaptation that came close was actually Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai in the Autumn season.

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 6 - Sakuta

So why do people think there are too many light novel adaptations or that light novel adaptations are ruining anime, or that they get too much attention?

One of the reasons might be how widely discussed these anime are, even if they aren’t scoring the highest for technical proficiency or story-telling. When looking at the number of members each title has in each season we start to see light novels rising significantly higher in popularity than their score rating would indicate. Winter 2018 see’s Violet Evergarden in the top spot with the Overlord sequel in third. Spring was dominated by manga adaptations so the only light novel adaptation that made it into the top 5 was the Sword Art Online spin-off series. Summer saw Overlord 3 and How Not To Summon a Demon Lord in the second and third spots respectively. Finally in Autumn all three top spots were taken by light novel adaptations including Goblin Slayer in the top spot, followed by Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai and Sword Art Online Alicization.

Following along on Twitter or just what gets reviewed on blogs, there is no denying that light novel adaptations are well watched each season. While they may not all rise to high critical acclaim they do generally entertain a wide audience and by and large they provide a bit of fun even if they don’t necessarily have depth. Then again, I was pretty stunned to find Violet Evergarden’s source listed as a light novel and I wouldn’t call Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai particularly shallow in terms of the emotional scope it tried to encompass.

And I can already hear some people arguing that those aren’t the light novel adaptations that are complained about. It is the other ones. You know the ones. The ones with self-insert protagonists that get transported to another world and live out some harem or power fantasy (or both).

Sure, we could look at The Master of Ragnarok and shake our heads in dismay at the state of the entire anime industry being reduced to that kind of light novel adaptation. Then again, we could see that as The Master of Ragnarok just not being very well written or produced as an anime and even by isekai/harem standards it ended up pretty woeful (personal opinion).

I kind of feel most people constructing an argument around whether there are too many light novel adaptations, or that light novel anime adaptations are somehow subpar, or who are arguing for light novel adaptations, all suffer from cherry picking the titles that support their argument. For every Master of Ragnarok there’s a Bunny Girl Senpai. And while isekai power fantasies may not be your personal thing, clearly they sell well so there’s definitely an audience out there for them. Declaring the entire genre trash or that every single story is the same is a little closed minded.

Admittedly, I’m not jumping up and down and saying that everyone should watch How Not To Summon a Demonlord anytime soon. There’s an audience for it though, and that audience greatly enjoyed it. Even some people who normally aren’t up for an isekai story full of fan-service and the like ended up enjoying Demonlord as it went about writing a story with fairly good pacing and combining its base elements to most entertaining effects.

How Not To Summon a Demon Lord Episode 7

So why is the number of light novel adaptations a problem?

I don’t believe it is. It is another source of stories same as other novels, games, manga, etc and when adapted well can lead to some truly interesting anime. While it might feel like there’s too many similar light novels being adapted we need to consider the fact that clearly there’s a market for that story if it keeps selling, some of the adaptations are actually pretty good (while some are fairly objectively terrible) and that maybe it just isn’t your genre. Someone who doesn’t like shoujo love stories would declare those all the same as well and yet a die-hard romance fan would argue that every single one is different because of how the characters are constructed and the combination of elements around them.

It’s only been since starting the blog that I ever began reading light novels, and what I’ve found from reading them is that there’s a huge range in the quality of writing and the stories being told in them. However, I started reading light novels because there were some anime adaptations that were based on light novels that I fell in love with and I wanted more of the story. Which kind of means the anime did its job at promoting the source and was entertaining enough in its own right (or else I wouldn’t have bothered). So while I get that some people don’t like light novel adaptations, and some people hate isekai, I don’t think it is ‘taking over’ anime or that it is too highly represented, or even that adapting light novels is a problem. Like with everything it is about looking at each work on its own merits, or lack of them, and the personal opinions of the viewer. So while some people will continue to avoid these titles, others will eagerly await the next announced title.

Not from 2018 but still an awesome light novel adaptation.

That said, I’d love to know your thoughts so leave me a comment below and you can also check out my pretty terrible infographic with my findings from spending an afternoon reading MAL below.

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Karandi James
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Infographic - Anime By Source in 2018
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Announcing the Winner of the Reader’s Poll for Best Anime of 2018

With 12 titles going head to head, the top 3 anime from each season, it was always going to be a close race. With a day to go the top 4 were within 4 votes of one another. Then there was a last minute rush and the top 2 titles kind of took off.

Thanks to everyone who voted and who shared the link. I do think I’m going to keep this format next year of only including the top 3 series of each season in the final poll as it makes the final poll far more manageable.

But for now, let’s announce winners.

Tied for third place, with 13 votes each, we have March Comes in Like a Lion Season 2 and My Hero Academia season 3.

I was really pleased that March performed so well given it isn’t an anime that gets mentioned a lot. That said I absolutely love it and feel it definitely deserves a place among the top of 2018. My Hero Academia it is far easier to understand why this one got voted up and while season 3 wasn’t my favourite, it is still overall a fairly solid story.

In second place we have Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai with 19 votes, only one vote away from winning.

Bunny Girl Senpai Episode 2

This one was clearly always going to do well in the poll having been talked about at length during the Autumn season and having only just ended it was fresh in everyone’s minds. A very quality anime and well deserving of the mention.

However, that leaves us with the anime of the year.

Waiting for more fireworks.

And it is Sora Yori Mo Tooi Basho or A Place Further Than The Universe with 20 votes.

Now this was an anime I didn’t really get into and ended up dropping two episodes in. I did go back after in won best of the season and tried to watch it again. It really isn’t my kind of show. That said, it is fairly clear what the appeal of this title is and if you didn’t watch any anime last year this is an excellent starting point.

Thanks again to everyone who voted, the full results are below, and we’ll be back again at the end of the winter season to start shortlisting for 2019.

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NENDOROID NO. 1021 A PLACE FURTHER THAN THE UNIVERSE: HINATA MIYAKE
NENDOROID NO. 1021 A PLACE FURTHER THAN THE UNIVERSE: HINATA MIYAKE

Clearing the Air With The Help of Friends

Run With The Wind Episode Review Title

Run With The Wind Episode 13 Review

The episode begins with a punch but not the one we expect after last week. Instead, we see Kakeru punching his high school coach. Then, after the OP, we return to the present where Kakeru’s punch is brought up short by his teammates.

It is a powerful start to what is a fairly well directed episode even if the overall subject matter ends up being less impressive. I’m going to be honest, Kakeru’s drama has dragged on so long and ends up being able to be boiled down to angry teenage boy acted impulsively after not doing anything about regulating his emotions over a long period and then had to deal with consequences that came down across the whole track team. For people who were directly involved I guess it would be a big issue but as an audience member at this stage I’m kind of indifferent to Kakeru’s issues and mostly just wanted him to get over them so we could get on with the rest of the characters who’ve proven to be delightful.

Run With The Wind Episode 13 Kakeru's old team.

That said, despite the story itself not being all that great, the cuts back and forth between Kakeru’s high school days and his present moments training with the team build up a sense of a climatic reveal regardless of how you feel about the reveal. The use of static over the flash backs, with more interference and noise the closer we get to the punch, is highly effective at conveying Kakeru’s mental state.

Run With The Wind Episode 13 Kakeru's catalyst.

Why we needed a sit down with the whole team to ‘confess’ everything is something I’ll never quite understand but the team’s reactions are predictable and suitably amusing. It does feel though like the end of this episode has brought a breath of fresh air with this whole Kakeru’s mysterious past finally being out there and so I’m very much looking forward to next week. Particularly when the preview at the end of this episode shows we are going to get some more time with Prince.

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Run With The Wind Original Soundtrack
Run With The Wind Original Soundtrack

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Series Review

Their Fight Isn’t To Save The World – Just Their Corner Of It

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary was one of those odd titles that comes out each season where I haven’t heard of it, haven’t seen any promotional materials, and just kind of go in blind. A fantasy-action, according to MAL at least, it seemed like it could be quite fun. And I was pleasantly surprised to find a fantasy that wasn’t isekai and instead had a faintly historical setting though the inclusion of mechas and ultimately flying armour kind of threw any basis in reality right out the window.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 6 Cheng

Now, I am going to end up recommending this title, mostly because very few people watched it while it was airing and I feel it really got overlooked in a strong season. However, that recommendation comes with a caution. The animation goes from average to terrible and remains that way through most of the run time. So if you are someone who expects modern anime to have high quality or at least reasonably consistent animation, I’d suggest not even trying this one because you are not going to enjoy it. For those that don’t mind the slightly shoddy visuals, there’s a pretty decent story to be found here.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

The setting works very well in Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary. The Taibai Empire is expanding and wants to conquer the world and does so by brutalising the inhabitants of small villages. It is more or less the expansion of China though don’t expect historical accuracy here. Yin and Ning are two sisters whose lives are destroyed when their village is attacked. Yin is waiting outside the village at the time and escapes mostly unscathed but Ning loses both arms (in what becomes an ongoing trend in this story – seriously, how many sets of arms does she go through?).

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 6 Yin and Ning

With this backdrop we follow Yin and Ning as they join up with the rebels fighting the empire. However, their scenes are interspersed with Zhao (Yin and Ning’s childhood friend) and Cheng, the Empress. We see both sides of this conflict and the personal dramas of these four young people all propelled into a war they didn’t start but are now just kind of destined to get caught up in. It borders on melodramatic at times, but each of the characters is interesting in their own way.

Yin and Ning, despite being close as sisters, are changed by the events in different ways. Yin just wants to keep her sister safe and out of the war but Ning is far more violent and wanting revenge for Zhao’s ‘death’ as well as the loss of her arms. It is probably telling that Ning’s fate isn’t exactly wonderful given her motivation rides from one hatred to the next. Yin on the other-hand suffers ongoing heartache as she tries and fails to keep the war away from her life.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

Zhao’s transition to serving the empire seems really odd at first but ultimately his character begins to make sense as he consistently chooses the path of least resistance. He’s someone who just wants to get a little ahead in the world and find a small piece of strength for himself. But it is his wavering between his various allegiances that ends up costing him.

Lastly, we have Cheng who is torn between being a very young girl who lost her father and being the Empress of a vastly expanded nation. I really liked that Cheng got treated as a human throughout all of this rather than just being the face of the enemy. Her relationship with Zhao is complicated and interesting to watch unfold even if you know early on there is no way it will end well.

Xuan Yuan Sword Luminary Episode 4

With a cast that all hold their own ground and a setting rich with potential, it is almost a shame that the animation wasn’t up to the challenge. We have sword fights, magic, burning villages, explosive death machines, and impossibly awkward mechas. The story choosing to focus in on the young cast members caught up in events makes things feel more personal and allows there to be some resolution within the thirteen episodes but a lot of the plot is implied or occurs off-screen with plenty more to happen after the end of the final episode, should there ever be a continuation.

As I said at the start, I do recommend this one for people looking for a fantasy or action story though it isn’t without its problems. Still, despite it not being that great, it was a little different and certainly interesting enough week to week.

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DIABOLIK LOVERS OFFICIAL VISUAL FAN BOOK
DIABOLIK LOVERS OFFICIAL VISUAL FAN BOOK

The Winter Anime Watch List

Endro! Episode 1

Here we go again. This season has already gotten off to an interesting start and while there aren’t as many anime that I’m thinking will become amazing there’s certainly a wide variety and quite a few that will potentially be very entertaining this season. My watch list is fairly diverse this season and there’s a few on there that I’m a little hesitant about and may end up dropping and swapping out but for now here is the schedule for the blog. Anyway, this schedule will kick in from next Monday.

The Rising of the Shield Hero and Meiji Tokyo Renka are not on the list because Arthifis and I will be sharing our thoughts on those together at episode 4.

The Rising of the Shield Hero: Naofumi, "Whatever".

Monday

Domestic Girlfriend Episode 1 Natsuo

Tuesday

The Morose Mononokean Season 2 - Hanae hiding behind Rippou.

Wednesday

Grimms Notes: Robin Hood finds a gun.

Thursday

That Time I Got Reincarnated as A Slime Episode 14 Rimuru

Friday

The Price of Smiles Episode 2 - Yuuki

Saturday

My Roommate is a Cat Episode 2 Cat on Keyboard

Sunday

Sword Art Online Alicization Episode 14 Kirito and Eugeo

Episode reviews with stars next to them (*) are ones I’m not certain about whether they’ll stay on the watch list for a season. We’ll see how they go.

I’d like to remind my patrons that they can still nominate the anime they want reviewed for patrons only this season. Once that is selected future episode posts will be password protected for patrons only. And if you would like to support the blog in 2019 please consider becoming a patron.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the line up this season. I’ve got comedy, isekai, drama (and melodrama), there’s cute girls, there’s magical girls, and a slice of life featuring a cat. One thing this season is not going to be is repetitive as I get through this watch list each week.

I’d love to know what you are watching this season and hopefully you will join me as we follow some of these show’s this season.

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Karandi James
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The Accidental Creation of A Slime Nation

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode Review Title Image

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 15 Review

Rimuru is remaining very much a character that plot just happens to. He died because the plot killed him off and was reborn for the same reason. He stumbled across Veldora in the cave by chance and equally became the leader of the goblins by a series of events mostly outside of his control. Same with the ogres. And now the Lizardmen and Orcs have decided to leave him in charge of the whole forest alliance supported by the Dryad and before Rimuru knows it the Dwarf King shows up and acknowledges the alliances as an actual nation.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as  a Slime Episode 15 - Dwarf King

At no point does Rimuru have any real plan for where this is going (outside of getting his bath constructed because that’s apparently a really high priority). And while Rimuru does make decisions, for instance he could have ignored the goblins when they asked for help against the direwolves, in terms of being the protagonist his choices are always kind of driven by circumstance.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 15 - Rimuru becomes a chancellor

What it means is that this bouncy blue blob, while amusing to be sure, seems very passive in a story that seems to be revolving around him. Certainly Rimuru gets some great moments, and watching him getting flustered as more and more titles and responsibility get thrust upon him, is entertaining, but Rimuru isn’t really driving this story. In point of fact, the plot isn’t really pushing forward at all. It progresses and there’s certainly indicators of future conflicts, but the story seems content to wallow in the everyday moments broken up by action only by necessity.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 15 - Bad guy

Episode 15 of That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime is an excellent example of what this story seems to want to do. We see the town being constructed and encounters between characters. While there is a fight in this episode it is short and more good-natured than hostile and afterwards everybody eats.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime Episode 15 - Orcs

For me this means while I am enjoying That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime but it isn’t going to be a story I hold up as a favourite and these characters are never going to leave all that much of an impression on me. From week to week I don’t really think about this show outside of watching it and even when things end on a bit of a cliff-hanger I’m not overly concerned. Still, for relaxing and entertaining, That Time I Got Reincarnated as Slime is certainly hitting the mark and it is just kind of a fun way to pass the time.

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THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME – RIMURU CHANGING MUG CUP
THAT TIME I GOT REINCARNATED AS A SLIME - RIMURU CHANGING MUG CUP

Another Cute Girls Beat Demon With A Time-Warp Twist

Endro - Post Title Image

Endro! Episode 1 Review

We see to be swimming in stories that take place after a final battle in recent times, though here’s a twist… they went back in time to before they beat the villain and the villain has gone back to but remembers that final battle. It all sounds kind of cool and fun and then we realise it is a slice of life story featuring a quartet of cute girls with the demon being transformed into a loli teacher for whatever reason.

Endro Episode 1

If we find out at the end that the only reason the heroes get strong enough to defeat the demon lord is because the demon lord was the one who trained them (though technically she’s trying to get them expelled), I’m probably going to be really annoyed at this.

Endro! Episode 1

All and all though, the first episode is pleasant. The characters are cute without becoming annoying and so far we haven’t had any random boob groping or the like (though we did get some ear nibbling and sleep talk plus the outfits of a couple of these girls are reminiscent of the uniforms in Akashic Records of a Bastard Magical Instructor).

Endro Episode 1

What might get annoying is the demon as the loli teacher. While she has the potential to be quite interesting as the only one aware of the time travel and what happened when the heroes confronted the demon lord, so far she’s kind of petty and pathetic and her schemes are transparent and juvenile. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything to like here but she’s certainly the weakest link for me so far.

While I’m not 100% sold on this one if it comes down to a choice this season of watching this or Ueno-San I will definitely pick this without hesitation.

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Karandi James
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SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI
SEISHUN BUTA YAROU WA BUNNY GIRL SENPAI NO YUME WO MINAI 1/8 SCALE PRE-PAINTED FIGURE: SAKURAJIMA MAI