International fans often celebrate anime and manga but miss out on the light novels. With a few hundred pages per volume, these stories allow you to fall into a much deeper, richer world that the anime and manga can only touch on. Also light novel sales often drive anime and manga adaptations so if you love a series, the best thing you can do for it is buy and read the light novel.
Let’s take a deeper look at some popular anime that you can gain a richer world and continue the story within light novels.
Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash premiered in the Winter of 2016, easily becoming one of the most popular anime of the season. Unfortunately, the anime was only a 12 episode adaptation. Many fans around the world fell in love with the series unique take on the fantasy survival genre that asks the question what real life might be like within an RPG.
With the light novel, the author creates a vivid world in his writing. A true fantasy world with real, relatable characters. Everything is very human, and the emotions conveyed are more real than anything you might read in similar genre novels. Even the monsters have feelings which adds a new plot layer of survival for both our heroes and the monsters. The characters are overall more defined, and more relatable in the light novel than the anime counterpart.
Volumes: Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash adapted the first 2 volumes of the light novel and viewers of the anime can pick up the story at volume 3. It’s suggested to start the light novels from the beginning to get a more concise understanding of the world building elements. Other differences include the anime adaptation rearranging or even completely removing specific scenes. The Japanese light novels are currently up to volume 9 while the English have volume 1 out with volume 2 releasing on February 24th. Start Reading
Occultic;Nine is another light novel series written by Chiyomaru Shikura, the creator of Steins;Gate. Although not a part of the Science Adventure series, Occultic;Nine takes place in the same universe. The Science Adventure Series (Steins;Gate, Robotics;Notes, Chaos;Head) are essentially videogames within the Occultic;Nine world that the characters may or may not have played. This makes Occultic;Nine the real world and the Science Adventure Series a fictional world within Shikura’s universe.
The anime has turned into a cult classic that mainstream international fans passed over, however a passionate crowd fell in love with the constantly twisting turns in the mystery as everyone tries to understand the occult happenings around the world. It’s such an intricate story that it’s hard to talk about without spoiling anything. If you love mystery or stories in the Science Adventure series, this is a novel you’ll want to keep an eye on.
Volumes: The series is currently up to volume 2 in Japan and volume 1 is available in English. Start Reading
The Index series tops out as one of the longest and most complex series at 35 volumes. If you want to fall into an epic on the level of The Odyssey then this is it. The start of the series seems to focus on separate stories but the converge, bringing your favorite heroes into one mega adventure. A big bonus is the constant battle between the magic and scientific society, which feels like a broader allegory for modern day political parties, religions, and cults. You could spend years dissecting this story for it’s modern day parallels (and many fan forums do!).
Beyond just the expert writing that ties together this modern epic, there is deep character development that isn’t seen in the anime. Like with the protagonist, Kamijou Touma, you might have assumed Touma is another dense shounen hero. Inside the novels, you’re given a whole other perspective that breaks all the stereotypes.
Volumes: The Toaru Majutsu no Index light novel continues from where the anime stops at Volume 14 and currently the English volumes are released up to volume 9. Start Reading
54. Spice and Wolf
Spice and Wolf is a story about two people from different worlds coming together to form a unique bond. The interactions between Holo and Lawrence are what drives the series and you slowly start to fall in love with them as the story progresses. With the light novel, you can get an even better understanding of the character’s inner emotions and complexity.
Remember when I mentioned anime series being a source of marketing for the light novels? Well unfortunately Spice and Wolf is a prime candidate for a adaptation case study. The Spice and Wolf light novels completed in 2016 at volume 17 meaning there is currently no source material to advertise. This leaves the chances of a season 3 slim to none at best.
Volumes: Spice and Wolf’s anime adaptation ended on season 2 despite having plenty of source material left from the light novels. Season 1 covered volumes 1 and 2, while season 2 covered volumes 3 and 5. The light novel has been English translated up to volume 17 thus far. Start Reading
Danmachi was an instant success thanks to Hestia’s busty blue ribbon although some fans complained the ending was rushed with a hint of a Deus Ex Machina. The reality of adapting light novels into anime usually means there’s too much source material to animate everything. If you explore the world by reading the light novels, you gain a much deeper experience that fills in plot holes, explores the danger of the dungeons, and provides a much richer cast that isn’t totally defined by their appearance. Also the main hero, Bell, has one of the best depictions from the transition of being a scared child to becoming a young man who doesn’t run away even as his blood runs out.
Fans who love to see another side to story can fall even deeper into the city of Orario with a light novel spin-off that focuses on Bell’s crush, Aiz. The light novel, Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon? On the Side: Sword Oratoria, details how her encounter with Bell changes her life forever.
Overall, Danmachi’s light novels are like the Harry Potter books that go deep into the world building while the anime is like watching Harry Potter abridged.
22. No Game No Life
No Game No Life has been the top of the ‘most requested second season’ polls since the anime released in 2014. However it’s pretty unlikely that this controversy-clad story is going to ever get another season so there’s only one way to reach the story’s conclusion.
The light novels provide more ecchi content and the anime is a faithful adaptation to the first 3 volumes, although it does cut out some fun mini games. From volume 4 on, the story takes a darker turn as Jibril’s past is explored, the mystery of how Tet became the one true God is unearthed, and betrayal lurks around every corner. There’s still plenty of fun as the games get more complicated and the world gets deeper.
Volumes: The anime adapts the first 3 volumes faithfully so you can skip it if you’re low on time and up to volume 4 of the English light novel is available. Start Reading
The second season of the popular Re:Zero has concluded. However, the story is still progressing with regular updates from the Re:Zero light novel author who currently has written two volumes that continue the story after the second season of Re:Zero. Fans who are caught up in the Rem vs Emilia battle of best girl should of course start reading from the first volume since there’s enough relationship building in the novels to twist your heart all over again.
There’s also an elaborate universe scale that is not fully captured within the anime adaptation. For example, Subaru isn’t the only person summoned to the fantasy world.
(Spoiler Alert: Highlight to reveal)
Priscilla’s knight Aldebaran is also summoned to the fantasy land 18 years prior to Subaru’s appearance. Twists like this add richness to the story and will reshape how you see key plot points in both the anime and light novel.
Volumes: The anime adaptation ends at volume 9 and there are currently 11 Japanese volumes and 2 English volumes released as of this article. Start Reading
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If you’re a veteran light novel reader, share some recommendations for other light novel series that might interest new fans to the art form.