The Importance of Trashy Light Novels
While I understand there are legitimately good light novels, a lot of the trashier ones get adapted for some reason, and eventually, a joke has eventually come about — in that we literally label these light novels as “trashy light novels”. However, today I’m going to argue the fact that these trashy light novels are important, and have a big influence on the light novel culture.
Before I go on, let’s have a look at a typical trashy light novel. Think ridiculously long titles that sell their archetypes blatantly, think super chuuni and over-ambitious light novel that uses kanji so complicated even local Japanese have problems reading. Stories are usually so bad you might as well watch them while wearing your favorite pair of Ray Ban sunglasses. Characters are so bad and one-dimensional you might as well visit pixiv or some image boards and look at pictures of your favorite character archetypes.
But regardless they have their place in light novels. For one, despite the infinite trashy comedy, these types of light novels are actually pretty good with one thing — fun. Yes, fun. These are the type of shows where you can watch while shutting off your mind, and enjoy the mindless entertainment that they present. Additionally, they are fun because it’s also “fun” to shit on these light novels, making shitty jokes and whatnot. But most importantly, they are fun because trashy light novels contribute a lot to fandom engagement — waifu, best girls (or other similar terms) being a major part of the light novel culture.
Honestly I had an inkling suspicion before, but after writing my Yearly Top Waifus list, that suspicion is proven to be true all along — “Waifu-caliber” characters are more common in light novels. Even in my list alone, 4 out of 5 entries are all characters from light novels. Why are they so commonly found in light novels though?
One underlying reason is the fact that most of these titles are, yes, you guessed it — trashy as all hell. In some of these shows, characters are pretty much literally walking one-dimensional archetypes, but when there is actually one good character among them, her positives are especially highlighted in contrast because except for her, the whole cast is just so… bad. I personally feel this is why waifu-caliber characters are so common in trashy light novels — because the good side of a character becomes even more pronounced in contrast to the bad cast. That’s why it’s easy to pick out a Best Girl. That’s why it’s easy to pick out a waifu. In fact, this was exactly the case with Megumi Kato — she was the shining beacon in a shitty show, so much that she even became my pick for 2015’s Waifu of the Year.
When I tried to pick out a waifu in some legitimately good shows, I actually had a harder time. Good shows mean they will have better written characters too. And because all these characters have such clear motives and reasons to act the way they do, it becomes a difficult endeavor to pick out a favorite among them. You can relate to their actions and feelings, you can sympathize with them all, so it becomes an almost unfair task to pick a favorite among them.
There’s also the fact that it’s not uncommon for romance stories to choose a completely different heroine than the one you expected. This doesn’t only apply to light novels but is still a frequent issue as well. But this ironically, also helps strengthen fandom engagement — people would engage in important discussions of Best Girls, they would invest emotionally in their own waifus, hell they could even ship their own favorite pairings too. Away from the “canonical” show and in the hands of the fandom, anything is possible. Furthermore, remember how I said earlier that people also have fun making shitty jokes on light novels? The most recent and obvious example would be KonoSuba, so many people made shitty memes on it that it actually becomes one of the most entertaining part of the show.
So what does this tells us? Imperfect works are good because they help emphasize the few good parts of a show. This is exactly the reason why waifus are common in light novels, because good characters with endearing personalities are accentuated by the show’s overall “trashy” nature. Furthermore, imperfect works also contribute in fandom engagement because of your heartfelt desire to see the direction you want the characters to take,
or rather because you just want to simply meme.
To encapsulate this post — trashy light novels are important as they are the main force that drive the waifu and shipping culture in light novels. This is important because it helps contribute to the fandom engagement, and makes everything, within and even outside of the shows, fun.