I Can’t Believe My Light Novel Is This Ambitious

Shakugan no Shana, one of the most unique series ever.

Shakugan no Shana, one of the most “unique” series ever…

Back when I first watched Shakugan no Shana, I thought it’s an unique anime, but now not so much-this was also at a time where I didn’t even realize the series is based from light novels. I also love the Index series a lot when I first stumbled upon it. Fast forward to the present, I had begun to feel that it’s harder to appreciate these types of light novels-in particular, these types of action/supernatural-themed light novels and their over-ambitious natures.

These days, I realized I had begun to prefer a niche in the light novel industry. I mostly prefer light novels if they are slice of life or if they really want to be supernatural-themed, make it a parody (Ore Twintails) or a subversion (Inou Battle), these types makes it more fun and endearing naturally instead of forcing themselves to be over-ambitious. The reason for this is because it’s mostly very difficult to take light novels seriously otherwise, and some light novel authors just love to make their stories excessively ambitious for no reason. It’s not even uncommon for a series to introduce you with a moe girl at first, then few episodes after that, the world is in peril, and you need to save it.

A few examples I could give here would be series like Black Bullet, Strike the Blood, Absolute Duo, Seirei Tsukai and the aforementioned Shakugan no Shana and Index. Most of these series are incredibly ambitious and sometimes, unnecessarily expand their universes beyond their own scopes. Additionally, there are also A LOT of internal terminologies for these light novels which usually consist of cool, complicated, chuuni-esque names.

Look at all these names, chuuni as fuck.

Look at all these names, chuuni as fuck.

I think light novels’ general amateurish writing plays a major part in this too, sometimes, when I see these light novels narratives, I can’t help but feel that the authors are just cramming in whatever archetypes they think are cool, but in the end, it just makes the story a mess. Furthermore, drama for these stories are usually pretty forced.

Hilariously, a light novel about zombie ended up having a magical girl, ninja and necromancer in it as well (*ahem*). A story about a vampire ended up also having shaman, mages, espers and so on. It’s fine to expand your universe, of course, but most light novels I came across do such a poor job of tying the knots together that I ended up finding it hilarious instead. Light novels relied heavily on concept, but I feel in this direction, they are just committing a narrative suicide by fitting in too much at once. Oddly enough, I find that in general, light novel authors seem to have a more focused narrative and thematic direction when writing a simple slice of life story-I love Sakurasou, Hyouka and OreGairu, for one.

Black Bullet-A loli harem amidst the dark setting.

Black Bullet-A loli harem amidst the dark setting.

Furthermore, there’s the fact that light novels sell their archetypes like crazy, and can sometimes be extremely pandering, which unfortunately, is a culture transitioned to the anime adaptions. A lot of these visual designs are mostly colorful, vibrant and even cute, but sometimes, these kind of designs just don’t make sense in the settings of said light novels. The visuals for Shingeki no Kyojin works because it’s dark and gritty, the visuals for Usagi Drop works because it’s emulating a family show, the visuals for Kill la Kill works because of it’s over-the-top nature. In comparison, light novels just look “pretty” and pandering without any aesthetic/thematic purpose.

[HorribleSubs] Mahouka - 01 [720p].mkv_snapshot_00.32_[2015.10.13_13.56.56]

yk0b8wA Mahouka PLEASE. How do you expect me to take this seriously?

Of course, just like every medium, there are exceptions. I still like HakoMari, and I think DDD has a promising potential. None of these are adapted though (DDD is still very new too, I think), and the fact that I can decipher such a pattern from the light novels that ARE adapted is kinda bad already. Unfortunately, the best light novels are simple slice of life ones, or the meta ones which poke fun at their own stereotypes, or just generally, ones which stay away from drama as far as possible-which really tells you the current culture of light novels. Most light novels I see, even serious ones, are being taken comically instead of seriously. It’s like how Kirito becomes the butt of the entire SAO fandom’s jokes, or Slaine similarly with the Aldnoah Zero fandom (I’m actually surprised Aldnoah Zero isn’t a light novel). But over the time, I guess this ironically becomes another fun part of the light novel culture-making jokes on characters you really should be sympathizing.

What do you think of light novels and their over-ambitious natures?

This entry was posted by Kai.

21 thoughts on “I Can’t Believe My Light Novel Is This Ambitious

  1. Interesting thoughts of you, a few years ago Light Novels were something considered to be the most elaborate source of anime culture media, what happened? Constantly expanding a setting to be able to write more content is a tricky thing, when an author is trying to hard to get an ambitious story. I think the main problem is to end a story when many sideplots were opened. A bad example of expanding a setting is Shakugan no Shana, the change of Yuji was only an annoying plot twist that just made everything forcefully longer.

    I don’t know if my high consume of anime is mainly at fault that I grow tired of certain archetypes and settings that feel very familiar with after all these years. Refreshing ideas are rather rare these days. Highschool settings involving battles are so overused among other things, are there so many authors with a lack of talent?

    • I think at first, the formula worked perfectly and sold really well, so other authors copied it and the formula is really stretched thin right now. There’s however, definitely light novels that stay away from such formula, and I can certainly name some titles, but unfortunately these titles are mostly not adapted and showed no signs of having an adaption-so they are mostly unheard of. Yea, that thing about Shana reminds me of SAO’s Fairy Dance arc :p

      Actually, I sound really critical here but when I think about it again, it honestly isn’t that bad. I think to just put a long story short, most light novels are just dumb, and dumb stories are great to watch when you’re too tired to think, lol.

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  3. I think the nature of light novel adaptations has always been a challenge for me to appreciate because they always cut out the detailed explanations, and to think the novels themselves hardly do that already. You can’t do anything about those Chuuni names thou hahaha.

    It depends on the genre. I’ve noticed that often times LNs would rely heavily to character interactions to drive across the story just like the Monogatari series. They hardly ever expound on building the universe. If you find one with LNs – such as Gundam Unicorn – you’ll notice that these are the hardcore scifi ones. But since these are called /Light/ novels, I don’t think you should expect for the deep stuff most of the time. They make do with the execution and plot since these days high school academy with something fishy going on is one hell of an overused setting.

    Mahouka is overly detailed in the novel and it’s actually refreshing to see the anime not beating around the bush. But just like I mentioned, universe building is one of the weakness of light novels. A paragraph saying that world war three lasted for 20 yrs is nothing unless portrayed immensely, and I have to agree that the anime version never covered that. The novel barely touches on it as well.

    • “LNs would rely heavily to character interactions to drive across the story”
      This is LN’s style in general, which I admit, is definitely unique. Though yeah, they rarely focused on actually building the universe, which is why over ambitious stories in LN is kinda hard to do, not saying that it’s impossible though, just hard. And I’m not expecting anything deep from light novels, that’s why I generally prefer simple slice of life from LNs nowadays :p Or ones that are parodies.

      “high school academy with something fishy going on is one hell of an overused setting.”
      Which a lot of LN anime had already been using.. :\

      Well at this rate, I can never treat Mahouka seriously anyway, and seeing some LN spoilers from twitter, even more so, lol. My views on Mahouka is already ruined regardless or not :\

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