The Benefits and Pleasure of Reading Light Novels

Normally this is the time of week I’d have a light novel or manga review and I certainly have more than a few books stacked on my desk and ready for their reviews to be written or finalised. However, recently I was asked what I enjoyed about reading light novels and it made me start thinking about the changes in my reading habits over the past two years since I started reading my very first light novel series, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash.

My whole life I’ve been obsessed with books. I fill shelves with them, spend hours rummaging through dusty boxes and shelves in second hand book stores, and spend more than a fair bit of time online shopping for books. However, growing up my focus was decided split with fantasy, science fiction and horror books on the one side and the standard classic literature list on the other. At university I expanded more into a range of authors who pioneered or represented movements or were renowned in some form or another, though I definitely kept enjoying my genre fiction.

It was pretty standard for me to be carrying two to three novels on me at any one time and cycle through them based on my mood or how much time I had to sit and read.

Maka Albarn - Soul Eater - Reading books

Then adulting happened.

I know, becoming an adult is kind of that thing we all have to do. But it had a definite impact on my reading because after spending a day reading for work meant by the time I came home I wanted entertainment that was less immersive and demanding of me and so movies and games filled the recreation time, as did my growing obsession with anime. I still read books, but they became something I stacked away and stored for long weekends or holidays where I would devour two or three in quick succession. Young adult novels became more standard in my collection because they were quicker to read and I was sure to complete it before I got distracted by work again.

As my anime obsession grew, so did my curiosity with the source material of many anime and while I wasn’t overly keen on reading manga, I decided it was time to plunge into light novels.

Fortunately for me I picked wisely.

At first I ordered one volume of one series when it was on sale and thought the worst that could happen was it would end up donated to a charity where it would end up sold on to someone else. However, I kind of became hooked.

For all that the first volume of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash is not a perfect book by any means, the story rolls over you easily and carried you along to the end. There’s enough description to sketch in the world and character dialogue to give them shape, but it doesn’t get bogged down in details or tedious conversations that serve no purpose.

In a nutshell, it is easy and undemanding to read. Plus, easily devoured in a single sitting or over a couple of evenings so even with work demands it was something I could sink my teeth into and enjoy.

However, as my collection of light novels and manga (because one opened the door to the other) grew I ran into a few problems as well as a few really good points.

My main problem was storage space. Because of the quick read time and number of volumes in some sets it became quickly apparent I was going to need to a new shelf to store them on. But the other issue is that each series seems to be its own specific shape. Some are wider or taller than others and so stacking books has become quite the game of jenga and I’m not entirely convinced I’m the best person for the job. Particularly when I decide to read an older volume and pull it out from under a precarious stack, or the latest volume of a series I just read needs to be placed under another series requiring some careful handling.

This is a dream come true, a room totally surrounded by books.

Admittedly, a lot of people are probably just better at dealing with stacks that don’t perfectly align but for me everytime I look at the light novel collection I just want to try to make all the spines line up neatly and I’ve yet to succeed because they just don’t.

The other problem is naturally cost. While each book doesn’t cost all that much, particularly taking into account the frequency of online sales, the speed at which the books are read and again, the number of volumes each set will end up with, means that the cost of books rapidly adds up. It isn’t insurmountable but in order to stop myself binge spending on any other given day I plan lists and schedules for my next book order to keep it all under control and under budget.

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Yet both of these are petty complaints.

The books I’ve bought and read so far have been fun and entertaining. They’ve given me a raft of colourful characters and settings and plots that are incredibly. In the case of Grimgar and DanMachi the books have filled the void left by anime that next concluded the story and in the case of the Natsume manga I’ve found a new and amazing way to experience a story I loved in anime form. Arifureta gave me something different in a genre I’m familiar with from anime, and so on and so forth.

I love the artwork that is included in these books, whether it is the fold out work at the beginning of the volumes or the images scattered throughout, it just adds something to the reading experience. And certainly I appreciate any book that is easily slotted into a handbag or travel bag. That and a book that doesn’t hurt when it falls on my face because I fell asleep while reading.

Certainly I’ve ordered the first volume of some series and it just hasn’t worked for me and I’ve not continued on, but that is true of all types of books. Growing up there was a huge second hand book sale that took place every six months and the last day of the sale always had a fill-a-bag option and so I would plunder the fantasy section of any and everything I hadn’t read. I worked on the standard idea that only one in every ten books I started would actually be amazing and only three in ten would be good enough to end up on my book shelf. The rest would be read and then returned to the charity to end up at the next book sale. The only tragedy being that one particular book got purchased on three separate occasions.

Yeah, No Game No Life looked like it should be perfect for me, but just didn’t work out.

From that point of view, I’ve had far more hits than misses when it comes to reading light novels, though given a lot that I’ve chosen I’ve watched the anime of, I’m not going in blind to very many.

While a few people I know feel I’ve gone backwards a bit in my reading, all I can say is that I’m having as much fun as every consuming stories. While the pictures on the covers of the books I’m reading these days may be brighter, what hasn’t changed is my general love of words and nicely flowing plot with characters I can get behind and want to see succeed.

Next week I’ll get back to actually reviewing something from the stack before it takes over my desk entirely but before then, if you read light novels I’d love to know what you find appealing about them?

Thanks for reading
Karandi James
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In Case You Missed It

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Another week where it felt like things were go, go, go. But then again, I guess the lead up to Christmas always feels like that as for some reason everyone decides the things that could wait all year suddenly need to be done right now. However, it is also a time where people start doing housekeeping and putting themselves in order. Last week some three bloggers that I followed announced an end to their blog. And while I know blogs come and go all the time, some without announcement, it is still sad to see people leaving the community here on WordPress because it is a community that is so much fun to be a part of.

So without further ramblings, let’s get to this week’s anime related blog posts that I came across while scuttling around in my corner of the internet. As usual, I didn’t have time to read as much as  I liked and there are probably some truly fantastic posts I missed, so please feel free to give a shout out to them in the comments below.

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Posts from the Community

Who Am I has an interesting post about the source of Kirito’s strength in Sword Art Online Alicization. They avoid going into spoilers for the arc, which is great, because I’m enjoying being pleasantly surprised by what happens and don’t really want to be told, it would take all the fun out of speculating. Still, they make a good point about Kirito and why he is fundamentally able to break or overcome the rules and other characters based on the information we’ve been given in the first 8 episodes. A very nice post to read.

Cactus Matt takes some time to look at 10 typical complaints about harems and works at rebutting them, or agreeing with them but in a round-about way making it clear that it doesn’t matter that the complaint exists. Keep in mind that he isn’t actually telling people who dislike harems they are wrong or that they should like them, merely that their not liking the harem genre is no reason to spoil the fun for those who do enjoy it. It’s a fun post and written in Matt’s typical conversational and entertaining style.

Ty from Watash wa Bucho shares a summary of why various bloggers still love anime. It was fun thinking about it about this idea and great to read the responses of others. Seeing the common themes from responses put together here is a solid reminder that there are a lot of reasons to love anime. This one is a great read to make you smile.

Yomu follows up their excellent review of Jormungand last week with a character analysis/discussion of Koko Hekmatyar, a very dynamic and interesting character indeed. While there are a few spoilers in this post if you really want to keep the plot a secret, for those who have watched Jormungand, or are interested and don’t mind having a bit of foreknowledge, this post is a great read and a lot of fun.

Koko Hekmatyar - Jormungand

Irina has a discussion post about the technical vs creative merits of anime and asks why more people don’t look at the technical. Like so many of her posts it is a great conversation starter and well worth the read, as well as reading the comments to find out what others think. Of course, I’m pretty sure most of my readers have already found this one.

Atelier Emily has a truly beautiful post about creating otherworldly spaces through visuals in Tsurune. One of the big draws for the show early on was just how beautiful it was and how the visuals drew me into each and every scene, and reading this post really emphasised how well thought out and detailed the visual direction has really been in this anime. A really great post to read.

Tsurune Episode 2

From Ink and Image there’s a post that looks at Lupin the Third and how the show and characters have evolved over time. I’m not a huge Lupin fan but I was still curious about this franchise that continues to enthral audiences and seems to capture new viewers decade after decade and this post was an interesting read as to how the story has managed to not become too dated over time. Great post to read.

Artemis from Otaku Lounge has a great top 5 list of English OP’s performed by native English speakers. It is a companion piece to a previous top 5 list which is linked in the post, and also an awesome list, and I just love lists. This one is a great read, and you can listen to some great OP’s so be sure to go check it out.

Pick of the Week

L-zerb did a comparison piece on SAO (season 1) and Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash this week and when I read the title of this post and the first paragraph I was a little worried that we were diving into another SAO bashing session. Instead, I found a thoughtful, reasonably balanced attempt at comparing how the two stories dealt with their premises and built up  their characters and the danger in the worlds. I really enjoyed reading this and it made think about all the things I loved about both anime as well as acknowledge the flaws they have. Absolutely great read, though clearly spoilers for both anime in the post so if you haven’t watched them and you are worried about that, probably give it a miss.

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Karandi James
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