Light novel

Light novel
"Ranobe" redirects here. For the Madagascar locality, see Berevo-Ranobe.

A light novel (ライトノベル raito noberu?) is a style of Japanese novel primarily targeting junior high and high school students (young adult demographic).[1][verification needed] The term "light novel" is a wasei-eigo, or a Japanese term formed from words in the English language. Light novels are often called ranobe (ラノベ ranobe?) or rainobe (ライノベ rainobe?) for short.[2] They are typically not more than 40,000–50,000 words long (the shorter ones being equivalent to a novella in US publishing terms), rarely exceed 200 pages, are usually published in bunkobon size, and are often illustrated.[3] The text is often serialized in anthology magazines prior to collection in book form.



In recent years, light novel stories have been popular choices for adaptation into manga, anime, and live-action films. Light novels are often serialized in literary magazines such as Faust, Gekkan Dragon Magazine, The Sneaker and Dengeki hp, or media franchise magazines like Comptiq and Dengeki G's Magazine.

Light novels have become very popular in Japan, and the publishing companies are constantly searching for new talent with annual contests, many of which earn the winner a cash prize and publication of their novel. The Dengeki Novel Prize is the largest, with over 2000 submissions annually. They are all clearly labeled as "light novels" and are published as low-priced paperbacks. For example, the price for The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in Japan is ¥514 (plus 5% tax), similar to the normal price for paperbacks - light novels and general literature - sold in Japan. In 2007 it was estimated (according to a web site funded by the Japanese government) that the market for light novels was about ¥20 billion ($166.7 million at ¥120 to the dollar) and about 30 million copies published annually.[2] Kadokawa Group Holdings, which owns major labels like Kadokawa Sneaker Books and Dengeki Books, has a 70% to 80% share of the market.

There are currently many licensed English translations of Japanese light novels available. These have generally been published in the physical dimensions of standard mass market paperbacks or similar to manga tankōbon, but starting in April 2007, Seven Seas Entertainment was the first English publisher to print light novels in their original, Japanese format of 10.5 cm × 15 cm.[4] Other English-language publishers that produce light novels are Tokyopop, Viz, DMP, Dark Horse, and Del Rey Manga.

Writing style

Light novels are written as popular entertainment, so the writing style for light novels is often very different from that of literary novels aimed solely at adults. Light novels sometimes use a short style with paragraphs of one to three sentences in length. They are usually driven by dialogue. Light novel authors make use of literary minimalism.

The major difference between light novels and other forms of literature is that light novels are marked by play with language. They frequently use more furigana than is normally used in adult fiction, for two main reasons. First, furigana help younger readers who do not have a strong command of kanji. However, light-novel writers popularized a second way of using furigana which has a long history in Japan. Writers will make use of unusual kanji readings which are not in common use in Japanese, or simply create new readings for kanji. These readings might be borrowed from foreign-language words or they might be completely fictional invented names for existing things. This exploits the fact that each kanji character is associated with both a meaning, and a set of sounds. Authors manipulate the various meanings and sounds of kanji in order to give words several layers of meaning. This gives light novels additional layers of complexity, in contrast to their sometimes simplistic writing. Unfortunately, some aspects of this writing style are lost in the process of translation.

See also

Book collection.jpg Novels portal


  1. ^ 榎本秋 (Aki Enomoto) (October 2008) (in Japanese). ライトノベル文学論 [Light Novel Criticism]. Japan: NTT Shutsuban. ISBN 978-4-7571-4199-5. 
  2. ^ a b Light Reading, Pop Culture, Trends in Japan, Web Japan, .
  3. ^ Yegulalp, Serdar (July 30, 2009). "Vertical Vednesday In NYC: Lighten Up!". Advanced Media Network. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  4. ^ "Seven Seas Entertainment Launches New "Light Novel" Imprint". 2006-09-13. Retrieved 2007-05-08. 

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