So You Want to Start Reading Japanese Light Novels?

We'll help you work out where you should start.


Many of the most popular anime series to have come out over the past few years have started their lives as Japanese light novel series. With more and more of them being translated into English and available for purchase in Australia, you might be considering taking the dive and starting your first light novel series. We’re here to help!

What are they?

Japanese light novels evolved from pulp fiction in the 1970’s. They’re pretty much the same as normal novels, except that they are a little shorter and are serialised, so instead of one large book you might end up with a few smaller ones.

Unlike western novels, release schedules for Japanese light novels resemble those for manga quite closely, with a new volume being released every few months, and many ongoing series reach over a dozen volumes before they’re finished. Most series also feature a handful of manga-style illustrations, which makes a lot of sense considering how many of them get adapted into anime or manga form, and which mean you get the occasional treat for the eyes as well as the brain while reading.

Due to the time restrictions of anime, many series can’t pack in as much information as the original light novels contain. Consequently, reading the original light novel series can be a great way to find out more about your favourite characters. You’ll find scenes, side-plots, and sometimes entire arcs that the anime or manga adaptation might have missed.

So, where should I start?

Is it Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon, RE: Zero, No Game No Life, The Devil is a Part Timer, and of course, juggernaut Sword Art Online all started off as light novels. If you’re particularly attached to any of these universes then they would make a great introduction into the world of light novels.

Fans of dark and brutal fantasy stories might wish to check out Overlord (which brings a darker twist to the whole ‘getting stuck in a fantasy/game world’ trope) or Goblin Slayer (which is just incredibly dark in general) while those who are looking for more of a laugh will find My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected, (yes, that is all one title) or Konosuba to be more their sort of thing.

If a mystery involving bootleggers, immortals, assassins and a train sounds up you’re alley, check out Baccano. Meanwhile Attack on Titan, Seraph of the End and Tokyo Ghoul have all received light novel tie-ins in the last couple of years, so if you’re a fan of any of those you might want to check out the new side stories you can find in the light novels.

Honestly, there is almost as much variety in light novels as there is in manga, and with more and more titles being translated into English there’s sure to be something out there for every manga and anime fan.

All advice and books supplied are by the helpful staff at Zombster who have a large selection of Japanese light novels available in store and online.