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.

Namely, visual novels and light novels.


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?

This entry was posted by Kai.

10 thoughts on “Visual Novels and Light Novels – Utilizing Their Own Medium Structures for Unique Storytelling

  1. Well, I’ve almost always been disappointed with any sort of film adaptation (live action or animated) of any novel/series I’ve read. Mostly because they are rarely given the *time* required to cover the story in its original content. There are exceptions, but that’s the general rule. (Though anime has limitations as you mention elsewhere, it is interesting to note that even a 12 episode anime is at least twice as long as a single Harry Potter movie)

    I also could never get into computer based role playing games. I was a teen when D&D was first published. A computer was something most people only saw in sci fi TV series and movies, and “personal computers” were years in the future. Role Playing meant six or seven people sitting around a table with pencils and paper pushing around little plastic miniatures and such – it was profoundly a social experience. I just can’t bring myself to play computer based RPGs.

    • Pacing issues are common, especially if they are from medium with a massive contents to adapt. Books especially are tough since you’re adapting pages and pages of content into visual medium, restricted to about an hour+ in a film adaption. Now that when you mention it. But since they are of completely different structures (structure differences in plot between Western and Japanese), I’m not sure if that’s a fair comparison.

      It’s always interesting to hear the thoughts and influence on the game culture from a person born in a different time (not saying you’re old, mind you :p), and it’s also a topic that had been hacking away in my mind. When I was born, PSone was just released, and since it was such a perfect timing, I was able to slowly and gradually become a Playstation person along the years from the very first original Playstation model. If I were to be born at a later time, I’m not sure how I would had keep up – PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii, Wii U, Gamecube, etc… There are just so many games exclusive to so many consoles, and that doesn’t even include any portable ones, lol.

  2. I wholly believe that a Light Novel is its own genre when talking about literature. Something about the writing style, regardless if the themes are different or not, deliver a certain level of – as you said – detachment, owing to how often LN authors like to utilize internal monologue.

    I would think that narrative in video games is probably the hardest to adapt into any form of full animation.

    • While I do agree with you, I think some (or perhaps even a lot) may not :\ Especially since a lot just doesn’t sit right with light novels being counted as literature.

      I written post about it somewhere but adapting video games take a bit of creativity and planning. Since you will be adapting the gameplay into the anime too, it’s all up to the studio’s creativity to make the gameplay segment work in the anime. Able to do this right was the reason why I like Persona 4 Animation, and is so far the only game-based anime that I’m ever satisfied with, lol.

      • I can see see that yeah xD but it really is technically literature since it’s a written work (less they don’t consider stuff like Young Adult novels as literature). Then again, it wouldn’t sit right with /me/ if people started associating Light Novels with Young Adult.

        Yeah, P4 The Animation is probably the best of ’em so far (though I haven’t played P4 myself, lol)

        • I think It’s because there’s that different style of writing between light novels and literature that they tend to make that distinction. Then again, I can’t speak for them much since I’m on the side of light novels being literatures. Unless someone who disagree with our views would come share his opinion Dx
          I had played the original PS2 version and if I had a Vita, P4 Golden’s going to be one of the game I prioritize ^^

      • As far as game adapations go they do seem to have trouble going to anime format. I didn’t much care for P4. Not sure why. On the other hand, I did like the anime Zettai Bouei Leviathan. It was a little silly, but fun. (I fully realize I am in the minority there).

        Not sure why people would not consider “light novels” as literature. Admittedly I’ve only read the Suzumiya books (eight so far), but they look like any other type of book to me.

        • Don’t think I had ever played Zettai Bouei Leviathan but from a quick googling, it looks like some sort of social card game on smartphone.. I think that’s why.. >_>

  3. Pingback: Kai’s History with Visual Novels | deluscar

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