Visual Novels and Light Novels – Utilizing Their Own Medium Structures for Unique Storytelling
Each medium had their own unique ways in portraying their stories. One would portray via motions, colors and sounds. Others might portray through black and white pages. Because each medium tells their own respective stories in such different ways, I find certain plot and storytelling style seems to fit really well with certain medium, to the point that one would think it would be close to impossible to execute the same flair as the original’s on other media.
Standard visual novels tell their stories branched out in different routes. Visual novels are known for their different outcomes and plot, accordingly to the choices you picked. Once the route is finished, you can “reset” back to the branching point to pick another choice, to access into a different route, resulting in a different outcome and ending. There are other visual novel formats, where for example, all the routes, including even the main canon route, are all in one overarching plot, so in this case, there’s no “reset”. Visual novels like Grisaia no Kajitsu, Steins;Gate and G-Senjou no Maou are prime examples. Lastly, there are also linear visual novels like ef.
Because of it’s unique nature of having different outcomes and endings, there is one plot point where a lot of visual novels love to use in their storytelling – parallel world. To cut all the scientific jargon short, it describes a supernatural phenomena where more than a single world exist, and with it, lies different possibilities.
There are many visual novels that uses this parallel world concept, a phenomena still continually being studied and investigated in real life to this day, as a foundation for their storylines. Some of these very visual novels include Ever 17, Cross Channel, Steins;Gate, Muv-luv, and the list goes on. It depends on the way it is executed, but I think one reason why such plot point was used so heavily in visual novels is because there is a sense of completion; a sense of satisfaction after you played the last canon route, tying and interconnecting with all the different routes you played before which were seemingly detached. That, and the design and structure of visual novels just seem to work well with these kinds of stories.
Light novels on the other hand, are novels with a few illustrations in between. As you are literally reading books, there is a lack of pictures, motions nor sounds to convey information. There ARE illustrations in between the pages, but they are not enough to convey coherent information, the pictures only serve as a “break” from the wall of text.
Ironically, this lack of information creates a unique style in light novel’s storytelling, especially in the case of light novels with a first person perspective. Progressing the story mainly through text, the author has a lot of flexibility in conveying his story, they could even deliberately leave out a few important details too, for example, the identity of the first person. What this create is a sense of psychological disconnection with the characters, a character where you normally assumed you were immersed in, and chapters later, you begin to doubt whether or not if this is really the same person. The way he deals with his surroundings, his tone of speech, his thoughts; we are given a lot of hints but we just weren’t given his name. It’s uncanny, and a few light novels purposely went to such effort to create such an atmosphere. A few light novels, especially those of psychological, thriller and mystery; HakoMari and DDD being such notable examples of such style, but other light novels like the Monogatari series employed this trick too.
This is perhaps one of the reason why despite my lack of free time, I still don’t want to drop any hobbies in my pentalogy of otaku hobbies, if I can help it. Each of them has their own flair, their own magic, their own unique storytelling style which is just close to impossible to replicate in other media.
Have you came across any narrative which seems just as difficult to be adapted to other media?