I've watched several of amazing anime series - many being light novel adaptations, sparking my personal interest of reading the original light novels of those franchises. After years of relying predominantly on fan translations, I recently was able to discover how a few light novels have made and are making their way to U.S. shores. Sadly, I still feel that may not be enough for the medium.
The U.S. is getting the manga releases for A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, but how about the original light novels?
For those unfamiliar with the concept of light novels, they are stories published in Japan typically ranging from 100-200+ pages. Like most anime, many light novels exist in series, some even having over twenty volumes! In Japan, they're easy reading for students and even serve to help those in high school learn the written language in more advanced forms. I'd say even the English translations are made such that young readers can potentially absorb more than just the story. I'm an undergraduate college student, and I still find light novels to be engaging, well-written reads. They could easily fill the shelves of the Young Adult
section in bookstores. Unfortunately, they don't.
Light novels are typically dumped in manga sections of stores in the U.S. and many casual bookstore browsers will miss these reads entirely. While light novels are properly recognized as literature
in Japan, U.S. retailers somehow feel that the Japanese illustrations on the covers are enough to confuse them with manga, a medium much more visual in nature. That is a shame.
Shakugan no Shana has up to 24 volumes in Japan. Only 2 have been publsiehd in the U.S. by Viz Media.
I've experienced much trouble finding light novels in bookstores for this reason. Most bookstores don't actually have them in recognizable numbers, and many are doomed to be buried among volumes and volumes of manga. While a Japanese bookstore in New York City that I frequent, Kinokuniya
, actually places light novels properly in the shelves of Young Adult
fiction, even their selection is limited. As a result, I'm typically forced to purchase light novels over the internet on Amazon.
I have not yet in my life even seen a complete
light novel series translated and published in the U.S. yet. Unfortunately, I don't think we will ever see too many light novel series licensed and released that way at the rate we are going. For example, the U.S. release of Shakugan no Shana
's second volume (of twenty-four
) was released on October 2007. Since then, there hasn't even been a hint
of any more U.S. releases of the light novel series.
Thankfully, there have at least been recent strides towards changing the approach on light novel releases in the U.S. Yen Press actually has a schedule for its Book Girl
in Japan) light novel releases over the next few years. By 2014, Book Girl
's main story volumes will all have been translated and published in the U.S. Too bad we'll be six years behind the Japanese releases, but it's a start!
Despite the potential exception of Book Girl
, the future for light novels in the U.S. as a whole looks bleak. This is a sad reality for fans like me, who wish to read these original works in print. Perhaps I will be forced to purchase a Kindle and find .pdf forms of fan translations, since that may be the closest I will ever get to having the light novels of my favorite franchises in my hands.