My Light Novel Title is Long as I Expected

[HorribleSubs] Gintama - 221 [720p].mkv_snapshot_07.06_[2014.12.23_19.00.46]

Light novels had been getting more and more attention; aside from manga, visual novels and even games, light novels nowadays had been a popular choice for anime adaption. However, have you ever wondered why some anime titles adapted from these light novels are just so damn long?

oreimo

In order to enlighten you, here are some of these light novel titles which already have their respective anime adaption (I’ll use both their English/Romaji names, and put up their official short alias too if available for easier reference):

– Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai / My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute (OreImo)
– Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru / My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected (OreGairu)
– Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru / My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend Fight Too Much (OreShura)
– Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai / I Don’t Have Many Friends (Haganai)
– Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? / Is This a Zombie?

And you haven’t even seen the end of it. If we were to include the rest of the light novels which aren’t adapted to anime; there are a lot more lengthier ones too, twice, or even thrice the length of the titles I mentioned here. You can check out this odd list ranking the light novels with the lengthiest title. You can also check out this post by Hinano too-a list of very lengthy light novel titles (which actually isn’t the point of the post, but it works).

So friendly

So friendly!

Let’s re-examine the titles I already mentioned here. As you can see from the English version of said light novel titles-they are extremely descriptive and straightforward. Oreimo, quite obviously from the title, you can expect, for the lack of better word-“wincest”, though the exploration of otaku culture is pleasantly unexpected. OreGairu, from the title, you can expect a cynical deconstruction of typical romcoms, and watching the anime, that’s exactly what we get. Note that I did not use the “SNAFU” version, because quite frankly, I have no idea what in the world that actually meant, and thus, becomes irrelevant to the topic at hand. From Haganai’s English title, we can expect an anime about a group of social misfits trying to make friends, and that’s what we get (obviously from the above screenshot). From the vague title Kore wa Zombie Desu ka? or Is This a Zombie?, there’s no way we can expect a classic zombie anime and in fact, something more aside from only just zombies, and we certainly get what we expected. I haven’t watch OreShura from the list, but I can already make some assumption from the English translated title alone.

Furthermore, all of the light novels in the list (with the exception of Kore wa Zombie), have titles where it is described in first-person. The “Ore” is a particular popular pronoun-which includes OreImo, OreGairu and OreShura from the list, and I assume many more outside of this list will use it as well. Haganai uses a “Boku”, which also means “I” but just a more polite alternative of saying it in Japanese. These also give hints that these light novels will tell the story in a first-person perspective.

Why are these light novels so long anyway? I can make some guesses; ranging from “The writers are lazy and just put up some random title” and “They ran out of creative ideas” and so on. But in the end, I think it is more of a marketing thing. The titles of the light novels are so straightforward, they can pretty much function as a plot synopsis-you can easily discern, at least, fundamentally, just what type of story you will be expecting. By doing this, you will be able to target the genres of your story to particular demographics. Tachibana, the author of Dakara Boku wa, H ga Dekinai, has something interesting to say about the matter:-

“I hadn’t received any awards, so I didn’t have that sort of selling point to draw in readers. At the very least, I wanted a title that was both attention-grabbing and catchy, and at the same time would let the reader know what sort of story they were getting. There’s no guarantee that someone will take the time to read the plot description of a book, so if the title is long and has its own descriptive meaning, it serves that purpose.”
~Tachibana Pan

oreimo cover

And it’s arguably quite a brilliant marketing strategy too. In the process of doing that, they are also very effectively advertising their own archetypes. I can’t remember much from my head at the moment, but if you browse a list of light novels, a number of them will likely have an “Osananajimi” in it’s name, or Imouto” (as you can see from Oreimo), “Onee-san”/”Onee-chan”, “Onii-san/Onii-chan and their respective variations, sometimes “Kanojo” even and so on and so forth. With this, one can expect what types of characters the series will feature. Additionally, most of the covers are illustrated in a way that they are blatantly advertising certain archetypes. Take the cover of Oreimo’s first volume for example (the image above), here we see Kirino folding her arms, her expression pouting and a bit grumpy (maybe a bit is an understatement, but whatever), which gives an obvious impression of a tsundere, although ironically, she spent more than 95% of the anime more tsun than dere, but that’s a discussion for another time. The cute, pouting look, also signifies and reinforces the imouto character archetype.

oreimo_oregairu_crossover

I think this is one of the reason why light novels can seem pretty otaku-pandering. Sometimes, they really sell their archetypes like crazy, visually, but also textually. Light novel titles have very strong hooks I assume to attract particular demographics, and the colorful, vibrant and expressive illustrations give them a good final touch to the effect. Maybe in the end, we are just in a comedy routine with the authors, with us as the funny man and the authors delivering their straight man comebacks via light novel titles (or vice versa).

What do you think of light novels and their lengthy titles?

Note: Please note that this post does not include ALL light novels. I’m well aware there are just as much titles which aren’t as long, though the long titles did occupy a portion of general light novels.

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This entry was posted by Kai.

19 thoughts on “My Light Novel Title is Long as I Expected

  1. All the long titles are probably for shock factor, lol. There are a period of time when all the anime have all these crazy long titles that drive me crazy. Those anime are probably based on these light novels. Anyway, I think these super long title are probably catchy for the native speakers and thus easier to remember. For us though, it’s a nightmare.

    • Maybe it’s a bit too much of a shock factor, lol. They are still anime released now which followed this template, lol. Should be, if you watched enough of them, at least of similar genres, it’s easy to distinguish them. Yea, for native speakers, probably, and for us, we would mostly use the short forms anyway >_>

  2. Aha. I myself often find it too bothersome to read the synopsis on the back cover of books, so I just usually decide whether I’ll read a book or not (if it isn’t a classic or widely recommended) based on its title and the cover art. The title’s very important for both the readers and the authors, and it has to be catchy and original to be easily remembered. Funnily enough, LN titles are damn long, but the readers/fans are so invested in these works that they (or is it the authors themselves?) even give the LNs endearing aliases. XD

    • So that means the light novels’ marketing is right on track.. :p I get catchy and original though I’m not sure about that length, lol. Maybe it just seems long to us but for Japanese it’s about right, since their language has a lot more pronunciations than normal if I’m not wrong, that, and for native Japanese it just feels more catchy and memorable. Actually, I’m not sure if it’s really the readers/fans who come up with the short aliases, since it’s an official alias as far as I noticed, that’s why the same alias is used with a consensus.

  3. My favorite light novels are Slayers and Spice and Wolf. I don’t see them as otaku pandering exactly: they’re fun fantasy novels in my book. It is interesting that the first person is used so much in light novels. Among the two listed above, Slayers is written in first person, and Spice and Wolf, which uses third person limited (i.e. Only Lawrence’s point of view), comes very close.

    By the way, SNAFU is military slag for a complete and utter failure. It’s kind of related to “you screwed the pooch” but suggests an even worse failure than that. The acronym stands for “Situation Normal: All F****d Up.”

    • Yes, I don’t see all light novels as otaku pandering, just a portion of them, as you can see in my note at the end. The two examples you mentioned are great ones which doesn’t follow the same template the light novel industry follows. I find it interesting how there are few light novels which uses first-person, and also some others which use a third-person, it seems to provide a different effect, and also seem to have different settings. Ones I had read that uses third person are Fate/Zero, Heavy Object, Index and presume most of other Kazuma Kamachi works (don’t really remember if the Simple series uses a first or third-person). Coincidentally, most of these light novels titles which use a third-person are actually short… not sure how it all ties together…

      About SNAFU, I knew about it sometime ago (this post was “pre-written” since a long time ago ^^”) and was too lazy to edit it. Still, thanks for telling me though!

  4. HakoMari~

    It’s the same reason why they put the heroines on covers instead of the male MC – for attention grabbing purposes. What Tachibana Pan said actually makes more sense when you consider how many LN’s there are in a real Japanese book store, as well as how many new ones get published. So i think other than for publicity, the titles also help in making a certain LN a bit more unique than another, despite having similar (imouto) premises.

    • Unfortunately, male MCs just aren’t good advertisers D: I also found out how even if the male MC were to be integrated into the cover, they will usually be behind the heroine and not really the main focus (Oreimo Vol.1 as you can see and Haganai vol.1 too) despite being a main character. Being a LN protagonist is suffering.

      It does, except that this marketing style isn’t particularly unique anymore, lol. Many titles are incorporating the same naming style so I’m not sure if the positive effects, if there are any, will last.

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