Telling Stories Thu, 05 Aug 2021 19:18:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 27341674 The Modern Audio Drama virtual convention playlist is now up on YouTube! Thu, 05 Aug 2021 19:11:55 +0000

From July 24th-25th, a the Modern Audio Drama convention (MADcon) was held virtually this year, and the playlist of the sessions is now available on YouTube for anyone interested.

These 16 sessions are a how-to by experienced creators and podcasters which cover everything from writing audio dramas (aka radioplays), to setting up your production team, finding people to work on the production, and of course audio engineering.

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Unleash the Lord of Goblins Webtoon! Tue, 01 Jun 2021 16:00:38 +0000

In October 2020, by total accident, I saw that Moonquill Publishing was looking for a scripter to turn the popular light fantasy novel Lord of Goblins into a webtoon. (Webtoons are vertical webcomics designed for easy mobile reading in the Korean style.) Looking for a fun creative challenge, I signed on, and as they say- “the rest is history!”

The basic story is about a revolutionary leader from a future European setting who is assassinated and wakes up in the body of a goblin mining slave in a fantasy world. As you might suspect, he has no intention of remaining a slave, and sets out on a long quest to transform the world he’s found himself in.

With gorgeous art by award winning Vietnamese comic artist Vu Dinh Lan and his team, the webtoon has been a blast to work on, and it’s great to see it finally released. Working on a comic you can’t tell anyone about for nine months is no fun, but when you see the final product in glorious color, it’s all worth it.

Gherm commands you to click on his picture and check out his webtoon!

I’ll write more about the process of turning a novel into a webtoon later, but for now go check out the Lord of Goblins on Webtoon for free! And, don’t forget to subscribe at the end of chapter three, because it’s an amazing ride from here on out!


Five Ways for Pantsers to Plan Their Stories Tue, 11 May 2021 16:17:42 +0000

For some writers, the idea of plotting out a story is a nightmare.

To them, it just takes all the fun out of the writing.

For these people, known as Pantsers (as in “Fly by the Seat of your Pants”) or Discovery Writers, the whole point of the story is to go on an adventure with their characters and experience the story as it plays out with themselves as the story’s first audience.

So, planning the whole thing out first would defeat the purpose of writing the story in the first place.

However, this approach to writing comes with a cost.

While pantsing can produce stories which feel more fresh and original because they aren’t tied to some plot formula, it can also produce huge amounts of frustration. False starts, unfinished books, writer’s block, and expensive editing bills are also a common part of being a pantser.

It’s enough to make many of them want to quit writing.

But, what if there were a few ways a pantser could skip all that frustration while at the same time not having to go down the “dark path” and becoming one of “them” – a plotter?

This article is going to look at a few different ways to do exactly that – let pantsers have their discovery cake and eat it too!

Method #1: The Character Method

In this method, the writer doesn’t plan their story, but does plan their characters.

They take some time to write out character information sheets and make notes about who the different major characters are in the story before they start writing.

At the very least, for each character they write down as much as they can about…

  • Each character’s goals
  • Each character’s motivations
  • Each character’s personal flaws
  • Anything about the character’s history they can come up with

This doesn’t have to be pages or books of information, but anything the writer comes up with can help a lot because it will all factor into the story in some way.

Another suggestion to avoid a lot of editing later for consistency of character is to do an “interview” exercise with the characters before the writing begins. This is where the writer takes a list of character questions they find online, or makes some questions specifically related to the issues or themes of their story, and then “interviews” their characters in the first person on paper.

It looks a little like this…

Q: How do you feel about forgiveness?

A: Forgiveness is for the weak. Nobody ever forgave me for the mistakes I made in my life. Not my ma, or my pa, or my teachers. If I made a mistake, they punished me for it and I learned. It’s punishment, not forgiveness that drives people forward. Fear of it is a great motivator, and it makes your head clear. Forgiveness is something that religious types talk about, but that’s just them hiding their inner weakness because…

And on it goes, in a free-flowing style where the writer lets the character “speak” and answer however they want, and isn’t afraid to let them go off on tangents. They just let them say what they have to say on the subject, whether it’s a few words, or a small book.

This way of exploring the character’s relationship to the themes of the story will hopefully reveal the voice and manner of the characters before the story starts, and let the writer start to think about how all these characters will relate to that theme and come together in the actual story.

Method #2: The Forty Fires Method

In this method, the writer sits down and brainstorms at least forty different events that could happen in their story.

Why forty? It can really be any number, but it really needs to be enough to stretch the author’s imagination a little and give them enough time to get creative. Thirty might do, as would fifty or sixty, but forty is a good number to shoot for.

The idea here is that the writer looks at their story idea and then comes up with forty different big and small events that could happen in the story before they write it. Each one should be a bullet point of one or two sentences in length. They might be based on the genre of the story, the characters involved, what the writer would like to see happen, interesting ideas, or whatever else they can come up with.

Once they have those forty ideas, they can do a couple things with them.

If they see some ideas that they like and jump out at them, they can take those ideas and note them down in some kind of order, put them into spots in the 3-act structure, or even start to turn them into chapter outlines.

However, for most pantsers, that would probably be more than they want.

Instead, the best thing to do is to just take that list and put it away while they go write the story.

And then, when they find themselves getting stuck or facing writer’s block, they can just pull out the list and go over it, looking for ideas to get themselves moving again. As that’s what this list is really for, not just to think up some possibilities for the future, but to re-ignite the fire in the story when things are starting to burn low.

It’s a list of ideas the writer passes to their future self to use when they need it and to help guide the story without forcing an outline on it or limiting the writer’s creativity.

Method #3 The Timeline Method

In this method, the writer creates a timeline of events instead of a plot and uses that timeline as a rough guide.

On the surface, this might sound like plotting the story out, and if you get detailed enough it can become that, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead, this method is about making a timeline of events big and/or small that help to guide and shape the story without getting into the weeds.

For example, a timeline for a fantasy story might look like this…

1203 – Empress Lilula Ascends to the throne.

1204 – A war breaks out with the neighbouring kingdom of Mistonia.

1206 – Mistonia’s royal family is killed during the siege and the war ends with Mistonia joining the empire.

1213 – Empress Lilula goes into seclusion citing health issues.

1215 – Empress Lilula dies, replaced by her brother Emperor Desmon

1218 – Emperor Desmon goes into seclusion, leaving his concubine Lady Vass effectively ruling the empire as the sole speaker for the Emperor.

…And so on.

Once this dry historical record is concluded, the writer then acts like a real historian and weaves a story around the major events to explain why they happened when they did and how these events are connected to each other. Instead of a plot outline, the timeline acts as a set of guideposts that give the writer things they can play with and questions to answer as they write.

In the above timeline, why do the rulers of the empire keep going into seclusion? How is Mistonia’s fall connected to the fate of the imperial leaders? How did a concubine end up in charge?

There are many different ways those questions could be answered and the story could play out, and the timeline acts as a guide for creating the “true” history which lead to these events as the writer explores and has fun in the setting.

Method #4: The Race to the End Method

In this method, the writer figures out an ending before they begin, and then discovery writes the events which lead up to that ending.

This approach is similar to the timeline approach, but keeps thing down to a single event – the ending of the book itself (or series of books). The writer goes in knowing roughly where it all goes, but not how it reaches that ending, and then backs up far enough to give themselves room to explain why the story had the ending it did.

Of course, some people might see this as against the whole point of “discovery writing” and not knowing how it will all turn out. But just because a writer has an ending in mind when you start, doesn’t mean the story has to end up exactly in that place. The story might change and evolve as it goes to end up with a “better” ending that’s similar to the planned one, but only in a general sense.

Method #5: The Theme Method

In this method, the writer sits down and thinks about the theme of the story, and then uses that theme as the guiding principle for the story as they write it.

Sometimes just knowing the theme of a story (“motherhood,” “friendship,” “truth”) or knowing the thematic statement of a story (“motherhood is a lie,” “friendship conquers all,” “truth is relative”) is enough to let a writer find their way to the end of the story. A strong, clear theme connects all of the characters, events, situations, and even the setting of a story together and makes the parts of the story work together as a single whole.

When challenges come up in writing the story, the writer just needs to look back at their theme and ask how what happens next reflects that theme in some way.

When thinking about the theme, the simpler and more primal theme the better. It has to be a theme that most members of the audience can relate to and understand. So, something complex like “truth is relative” can make for a hard theme to work with for many writers, and can be challenging to convey to the audience well.

On the other hand, “friendship conquers all” is an easy theme to weave into most narratives. (Which is why it’s a theme which is used constantly, especially in young adult fiction for boys.)

In Conclusion

Whichever method you use to plan your stories that works is the right one for you, but there’s no harm in trying different ones and see if they work for you. Even with pantsers, there are more and less efficient ways for each writer to write, and a good writer is always looking for a way to up their game.

The only type of pre-planning which is best to avoid is detailed worldbuilding. A little bit of general worldbuilding is fine, but detailed worldbuilding is the quicksand pit of dreams which produces nothing but misery for the writer who goes down that path. Most of the details will never end up in the story, and the audience doesn’t care about the setting except as it relates to specific characters and their lives. As a result, detailed worldbuilding is a waste of time better spent writing fiction instead of notes.

A History of Light Novels: 2010 to 2015 Tue, 11 May 2021 02:42:01 +0000 The following is an unofficial English translation of a Japanese article about the history of light novels by a group called the Light Novel Research Institute. It is presented here for educational and research purposes only. The original Japanese text can be found here. This is an edited machine translation, so some titles or names may be incorrect.

Translator’s Notes: It seems like this attempt to create a chronology was largely abandoned by this point, which is why this document ends in 2015. Also, the writing style shifts to facts mixed with personal comments by the writers in this document with a number of “I” statements, unlike the previous entries. There are a number of opinions here which I’m translating from the original and leaving intact, but I want to note that these are the original writer’s comments, not my own in any way. You’ll understand why I want to make that clear when you read some of the comments.

Table of Contents:

Year 2010

Trends in the light novel world

She and I are the Demon King, the Hero, and the Student Council President Vol.1 Cover

“Ore to Kanojo ga Maou to Yusha de Shugakukai” (She and I are the Demon King, the Hero, and the Student Council President), published by Dengeki Bunko as a finalist for the 16th Dengeki Shosetsu Taisho (Dengeki Novel Award), it went out of print and was recalled for plagiarizing several pages of text from volume 2 of “Baka and Test Summoning” (Famitsu Bunko).

The reason behind this is thought to be the change in copyright awareness due to the spread of the Internet and the increase in the number of publications due to the boom in the number of novels, making it impossible for the reviewers to check whether or not a work is plagiarized.

Representative works

Archenemy and Hero Vol.1 Cover

In December 2009, Mamare Ogano’s “Maoyuu Maou Yuusha” [Archenemy and Hero] was published by Enterbrain. Originally, it was an improvised novel that originated from a thread on the giant bulletin board 2channel in September 2009: “The Demon King: ‘Be mine, hero! The main character is a demon king with big breasts, and he is a hero. The main character was the demon king, a mild-mannered girl with big breasts. The story was not only adapted into a light novel, but also into an anime, manga, drama CD, and other media mixes.

  • It can be said to be the spark that ignited the demon king hero story.

After this work, “Hataraku Maou-sama!” [The Devil is a Part-Timer] (published in February 2011), “I couldn’t become a hero, so I reluctantly decided to get a job,” (published in January 2012), and “The Demon King, the Princess, and the Book of Wisdom” (published in December 2013), the number of Maou Yusha stories exploded.

  • According to the book “How Bestselling Light Novels Work” published in 2012, Maou Yusha stories were not selling well, but even in 2013, the number of Maou Yusha stories continued to increase.
  • In 1990, a gag parody of the Dragon Quest series, “4 Koma Manga Gekijo,” was published, which is considered to be a precursor of “Maou Yusha Monogatari. The first issue of the label was published in 1990.

Launch of a label

Takarajimasha launched “This Light Novel is Amazing! Bunko.”

PHP Institute launches “Smash Bunko”.

  • Their catch phrase is a sister relationship with the “Miracle Novel of Love and Friendship (Shot)”
  • It was very surprising to see PHP Institute, a sister company of Matsushita Institute of Government and Management and a publisher of business and self-help books, enter the world of novels.

Visual Arts Inc. launched the “Kinetic Novel Award”.

  • The prize-winning work will be turned into a kinetic novel (novel game), and a novel version will be published by GA Bunko or Ichijinsha Bunko.

Newcomer’s Award

In October, Kodansha begins accepting applications for the “Kodansha Light Novel-Bunko Newcomer Award” for the new label to be launched the following year.

Newcomer’s Award

Fujimi Shobo’s annual award for newcomers to the world of romance, the Fantasia Award, added a new section for romance literature in the latter half of its 24th year, accepting submissions of works that fall somewhere between light novels and general literature, and that attracted a wide range of readers in their teens and twenties.

Like the “Media Works Bunko Award” of the Dengeki Novel Award, which was newly established in 2009, this award is an attempt to expand the target audience of light novels from middle and high school students to young people in their twenties. To quote from the official website, “We are looking for novels that have strong characters, are engrossing, and make you feel as if you have experienced a little bit of the world.”

In addition to the declining birthrate, the establishment of the Light Novel-Literature Division is thought to be related to the fact that the recent emphasis on moe in light novels and stupidly long titles are being shunned by some people in their 20s and older.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s “Non-existent Youth” Regulations

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government enacts an ordinance regulating the sexual depiction of two-dimensional characters that appear to be under the age of 18.

Because of the high concentration of publishing companies in Tokyo, this caused a huge uproar in the otaku content industry, as it would have the same effect as a new law.

However, it excludes live-action films and novels, and light novels are excluded from the restrictions for now.

The reason for this is that general literary novels have a history of artistic works with immoral content, such as the 2005 Akutagawa Prize-winning work “Grand Finale,” which features a pedophile as its protagonist. The emergence of light novelists as writers of general literary works, especially Naoki Prize-winning authors, suggests that the prejudice of the non-otaku population against novels was lower than that against manga and anime.

2011: The birth of a hit work from an online novel

Trends in the world of novels

Media Factory, publisher of MF Bunko J, was acquired by the Kadokawa Group.

  • With the acquisition of Media Factory, which publishes MF Bunko J, the Kadokawa Group took over all major labels such as Dengeki, Sneaker, Fujimi Fantasia, MF Bunko J, and Famitsu, and Kadokawa now has more than 80% of the light novel market share.

The number of works with long, colloquial titles increased.

Probably due to the success of “My sister can’t be this cute” (2008/8) and “If a high school baseball girl manager reads Drucker’s” Management” (2009/12), it is thought that long titles are considered to be a hit from a marketing standpoint.

“The Chairman Everyone Fears is Becoming My Personal Maid” (2011/11), “I did X for my childhood friend who pressured me to marry her” (2011/8), “When she gets flagged, I’m going to marry her after this transfer” (2011/12), etc.

According to the book, “How Bestselling Light Novels Work” ( published in April 2012), works with long titles were created as a result of the pursuit of “fun” and “good story”. In other words, at a glance, the title conveys that the work is “fun”, and it has the advantage of getting word of mouth on the Internet and among friends in real life.

Launch of a label

Kodansha launched “Ranobe [Light Novel] Bunko” on December 2, 2012, and is accepting submissions for a newcomer award for full-length novels targeting males in their mid-teens to early twenties. This is an attempt to broaden the target audience of light novels to include people in their twenties.

It is thought that this is in response to the declining economic power of teenage boys and girls, who have long been the bearers of otaku culture.

On November 10, Ringo Promotion launched Feather Library.

It intended to publish a collection of works published on the major novel submission site “Shosetsuka ni Narou” in book form. However, the company encountered some troubles at the start, such as the cancellation of the second and subsequent volumes of “The Magician Who Cannot Use Attack Magic” due to various reasons.

Representative works

The Irregular at Magic High School Vol.1

“The Irregular at Magic High School” by Tsutomu Sashima was published by Dengeki Bunko. It is a hit work with a circulation of over 4.53 million copies.

It was originally an online novel serialized on the website “Shosetsuka ni Narou” from 2008, and was the most popular work on the site. There were few examples of light novel authors making their debut by turning an online novel into a book, so this work attracted a lot of attention.

The characterization of a heretical older brother and an honor student younger sister who has more romantic feelings for him than one would for their immediate family was outstanding. 

The Devil is a Part-Timer Vol.1

In February, Soji Wagahara’s “Hataraku Maou-sama!” [The Devil is a Part-Timer] by Soji Wagayahara was published by Dengeki Bunko. The work won the Silver Prize at the 17th Dengeki Novel Awards.

Satan, the demon king who came close to conquering the world, was defeated by a hero and fled to modern Japan, but lost his source of magic power and became a human. It was a hit. The book was a hit, selling over 1.35 million copies.

The story is a gag comedy with a touch of humanity, in which a brave girl, Emilia, who has been chasing the Demon Lord, and a warrior girl, cooperate with each other to live in Japan in a difficult world. The demon king is such a good person that it’s hard to believe he was planning to take over the world, which makes me smile.

Lord Marksman and Vanadis Vol.1

In November, “Lord Marksman and Vanadis” by Takeshi Kawaguchi was published by MF Bunko J. It is a hit work with a total circulation of over one million copies.

It is an ensemble dramatic war story set in a fantasy world where dragons and demons exist, mixed with moe and sexy scenes unique to novels. The protagonist is popular with almost all of the seven warrior princesses who are the owners and lords of weapons with special powers called “dragon tools. I was very surprised when the protagonist, who belonged to an army that was badly defeated in a war, became a prisoner of war princess Eleonora and was told that “you are mine.” The idea of interpreting the position of prisoner of war to mean that you become the property of a beautiful girl is excellent.

Not only that, but it is an extremely royal heroic tale in which the protagonist, who is placed at an overwhelming disadvantage, gains Eleonora’s cooperation, saves the princess, and becomes a hero by ending the civil war of the nation. In addition, the story has a solid tactical structure, such as defeating 20,000 foreign troops who intervened in the civil war with only 2,000 men by using their wits.

It is one of the works that played a role in the revival of otherworldly fantasy, which had been in decline for a while.

No-Rin Vol.1 Cover

Shiratori Shiro’s “No-Rin” was published by GA Library.

It is a school love comedy set in an agricultural high school. The author was a novice at agriculture, but he gained knowledge by interviewing agricultural high schools and reading bank issues of the magazine “Gendai Kyouiku” for three years before writing the story. He thought that if he, as an amateur farmer, could find a story interesting, readers would also find it interesting.

The realistic depiction of agricultural work is one of the main selling points of the story, but with the readers of the novel in mind, he also included a lot of outrageous gags and parodies. In addition, the story integrates text and illustrations, and uses illustrations effectively in the “end” of the story, introducing a new method of expression.

Otome nadeshiko koi techou | Anime Amino
Otome Nadeshiko Love Diary Cover

In November, “Otome Nadeshiko Koi Techo” [Otome Nadeshiko Love Diary] by Kunoe Fukayama was published by Lulu Bunko.

  • It was the first novel for girls to be released in a special edition with an anime DVD, and the short anime was included in the second volume released on January 26, 2012.
  • It is a love story set in the Taisho era (1912-1926), where people are at the mercy of the traditions around them.

Media Works Bunko’s first million-seller

Biblia Koshodo no Jiken Techo Novel Cover

The first million-selling book in the Media Works Collection, “Biblia Koshodo no Jiken Techo” by Nobu Miami was published by Media Works Bunko.

It is a light mystery novel in which Shioriko, the young and beautiful owner of “Biblia Koshodo”, has an extraordinary knowledge about old books, but is shy and cannot talk to strangers, and solves mysteries related to old books brought in by customers. The main character is a 23-year-old man, in line with the target audience of readers in their 20s or older, and the story is set in North Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, in August 2010, with the names of real places appearing.

  • The story was nominated for the 2012 Bookstore Award, and as of June 2012, when the third volume was released, the total number of copies sold exceeded 3 million.
  • Media Works Bunko is a label for people who have graduated from light novels, and this is the first example of ASCII Media Works’ (Kadokawa Group) strategy to attract light otaku in their 20s and above becoming a hit.

Trends in the animation industry

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Poster

The late-night anime “Puella Magi Madoka Magica” aired.

  • It became an exceptionally big hit and was regarded as a masterpiece second only to “Evangelion”.
  • An anime for adults that used the preconceived notions of magical girls to present an unpredictable and serious storyline. It is not something that girls would watch.
  • It was created with the aim of spreading secondary works and becoming a topic of conversation on the Internet, and it incorporates a structure such as a time loop in the story. The loop structure was also used in the “Evangelion” series that started in 2007.
  • A novel version of the story was published by Nitroplus Books in the same year.

Influential historical background

The Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011, a disaster of unprecedented scale.

  • Paper mills were damaged and the publishing industry was plagued by paper shortages.
  • In addition, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused an accident, leading to problems such as radioactive contamination of crops and power shortages.

Year 2012

Representative Works

No Game, No Life Vol.1

In April, Yu Enomiya’s “No Game, No Life” was published by Dengeki Bunko. It is a hit work that has sold over 1.35 million copies.

  • A brother and sister who are social misfits and game junkies are summoned by God as saviors of another world.
  • It was made into an anime in April 2014. The author is also a manga artist and illustrator, and is famous not only for his novels but also for his illustrations.

Launch of a label

The first issue of “Sakuranomori Bunko” was published by Ichinozumi Shobo on January 5.

On January 16, Sogeisha launched “Sogeisha Clear Bunko”. On January 16, Sogeisha launched “Sogeisha Clear Bunko,” releasing two books on the 15th of each month.

  • At the same time, “Sogeisha Clear Bunko Newcomer Award” and “Sogeisha Clear Bunko Illustration Award” are launched.

On September 28, Shufunotomo launched Hero Bunko, a label aimed at light novel fans in their teens and twenties.

  • At the same time, the company began accepting applications for its light novel newcomer award, the “Ranobe-shibunaro ni Narou Award.
  • With the catchphrase, “Is this the easiest newcomer award to become a romance author?” This is a tie-up with “Shosetsuka ni Narou,” the largest novel submission site on the Internet.
  • Submissions can be made by e-mail using the application form on the official website. A feature of the contest is that it comes with an evaluation sheet.

Trends in the publishing industry

Bookstores in the city began closing closing one after another.

  • The closing of Junkudo Shinjuku, a large bookstore in Shinjuku, Tokyo, in March was symbolic.
  • The number of bookstores nationwide on May 1 was 14,696. That’s 365 bookstores down from 15,061 in the same month last year, or one store per day.
  • This can be attributed to the presence of powerful rivals: manga cafes, new types of used bookstores such as Bookoff, online bookstores such as Amazon, and the rise of e-books.

On October 25, Amazon launched the Japanese version of Kindle Direct Publishing, which allows self-publishing on the Kindle e-book reader. The service allows users to sell their e-books to Kindle stores around the world and receive 35-70% of the sales as royalties (depending on the conditions). The service is attracting attention as a way to lower the threshold for self-publishing.

Newcomer’s Award

Shueisha Cobalt Library’s Romance Award and Novel Award are now accepting online submissions as well as paper submissions. This is a system where submissions are completed by sending the required information and text data from the official website.

The GA Bunko Grand Prix, which started in February 2008, does not require printed out manuscripts, and has been accepting submissions on recorded media containing text data, but this is the first time it has accepted submissions online. This was the first time that submissions were accepted online.

In the same year, Fujimi Shobo’s Fantasia Award also stopped accepting paper submissions and switched to online submissions. In the same year, Fujimihobo’s Fantasia Award also stopped accepting paper manuscript submissions and switched to online submissions, a system in which submissions are completed by registering as a member on the official website and sending text data.

Fujimi Shobo’s Light Novel-Bungei section became independent from the Fantasia Award, and the Light Novel-Bungei Award was launched. It is said that the reason for this is that there were many entries in the Light Novel Bungei Section.

  • The point of the works being accepted is that after reading a book, “you can like the characters in it.”

The revival of TRPG replay novels

In January 2012, a replay of the TRPG “Red Dragon” was released on the Seikaisha website. There are five players: Kinoko Nasu, Gen Urobuchi, Izuki Kohdama, Doriru Shimadori, and Ryogo Narita.

The story takes place in a world where two major powers are in a cold war. Nil Kamui, an island nation between the two countries, is the setting for this work. There are seven dragons in the world that is in a state of antagonism, and one of them, the “Red Dragon,” exists in Nil Kamui. The “Red Dragon” has suddenly gone insane for unknown reasons, and has become a threat to destroy multiple villages. Players will gather together as an unofficial force to defeat the “Red Dragon”.

2013/02/05 by Tsuki Saeyu

An anime script project by a group of novelists

Twists, Turns & Curves but not Confusing – Anime Review: ⌈K⌋ – And The Geek  Shall (Inherit the Earth)
K anime poster

From October to December 2012, the original anime “K”, written by the mysterious masked writer’s group “Gora,” was broadcasted.

  • Set in Japan in the year 201X, this is a mystery and action-packed story that revolves around seven “kingship” xenophobes.
  • A prequel manga and novel to the anime were serialized and published, and a sequel was announced right after the last episode.
  • The identity of the masked writer was also revealed just before the broadcast.

Titles in parentheses indicate representative works [from 2012.]

1.Hideyuki Furuhashi (Black Rod)

2. Suzuki Suzu (Vampire’s work)

3.Rairaku Rei (Chimera of Sorrow)


5.Yashichiro Takahashi (Shakugan no Shana)

6.Yukako KABUI (KIRI)

7. Tatsuo Miyazawa (Thou shalt not speak of monsters)

2013/02/05 by Tsuki Saeyu

Year 2013

Launch of a label

On February 26th, Ringo Promotion launched “Freedom Novel”.

MONS☆PANIC~妖怪大亂鬥~_翻譯輕小說_漫畫/ 輕小說| 台灣東販
Mons*Panic Light Novel Cover

“Mons☆Panic”, a light novel from Korea, will be published for the first time in Japan on May 24.

  • In Korea, the popularity of light novels is growing very rapidly, and this has led to the situation of reimportation of novels.

On April 25, Overwrap Inc. launched the “Overwrap Bunko”. The catchphrase is “Sekai is still interesting. An entertainment novel that rebuilds your daily life.” The latest edition (volume 8) of Yugen Izuru’s popular “IS (Infinite Stratos)”, previously published by MF Bunko J, has been transferred and released.

  • The Overlap Bunko Kickoff Award, a newcomer’s award for novels that closes on March 31, was also held the previous year.

On August 23, Media Factory (MF Bunko J), in collaboration with Frontier Works, launched MF Books, an entertainment novel label for men in their 30s and 40s.

The character novels target adult males who grew up familiar with games, anime, manga, and light novels, but have become detached from such content after entering the workforce. Three books were published on the same day, including “The Rising of the Shield Hero,” which recorded a cumulative PV of 51.7 million on the novel submission site “Shosetsuka ni Narou.”

Newcomer Awards

The first Overlap Bunko Grand Prize is held. The first Overlap Bunko Grand Prize was held, and the high prize money of 3 million yen caught the eye.

The application method is to register as a member of the website “Overlap Bunko Prize ONLINE” and submit text data from My Page. Paper submissions were not accepted.

E-book Newcomer Award

In November, e-book publisher Impress Quickbooks, in collaboration with Livedoor Blog, held the “Light Lover’s Book Contest” from November 6 to January 31, 2014.

  • This is the first attempt to use blogs as an entry for the Newcomer of the Year award for novels. It is also the first attempt to use blogs to enter a newcomer’s award for e-books.
  • Using the Livedoor Blog, a new blog was set up for the novel presentation. After that, set the blog’s category to “Light Novel Contest” and complete a novel of 30,000 words or less by January 31, 2014.


Newcomer’s Award

Shueisha’s Super Dash Bunko held the first Shueisha Light Novel Newcomer’s Award, accepting full-length novels with an intended audience of males in their mid-teens to twenties, with a deadline of April 25.

The grand prize is a hefty 3 million yen, web submissions are accepted, the award is held twice a year, and all finalists are guaranteed publication in e-book format. In addition to the rise of e-books and the generalization of web-based submissions, it is believed that the aim of the contest was to attract a large number of submissions in order to break the monopoly of the Dengeki Novel Award (6,554 submissions in the previous year’s 20th contest).

Papyrus, a company that operates an e-book platform, has announced the “1st upppi Light Novel Contest – From Office Love to Otherworldly Trip!” The submission period is May 2014. The application period is from 10:00 a.m. on May 28, 2014 to 10:00 a.m. on July 16, 2014. Works submitted to the e-book submission and editing platform “upppi” can be viewed by anyone, and during the contest period, the works can be revised based on readers’ opinions. During the contest period, authors can revise their works based on readers’ opinions, etc. Authors are also allowed to add their own covers and illustrations, and multiple authors are allowed to collaborate on a novel. The grand prize money is 100,000 yen. The grand prize is 100,000 yen, and the selected works will be distributed as e-books.

From January 8, Enterbrain, which owns Famitsu Bunko, and the web service Pixiv will collaborate to hold the “Next Generation Vocaloid Novel Contest.” The best works will be published as a Vocaloid novel anthology short story collection from “Beeslog Bunko”, “Famitsu Bunko” and “KCG Bunko”.

Tokyo’s “Youth Development Ordinance” regulates light novels for the first time

In May, the comic book “Sister Paradise! 2” released by KADOKAWA, which owns a major light novel label, was designated as an unhealthy book based on the new standards of the Tokyo Metropolitan Youth Development Ordinance that came into effect in 2011.  It was a cartoon version of the 18-only game, and the content that praised incest violated the ordinance. KADOKAWA voluntarily recalled this work, and sales were stopped on Amazon.

  • This was the first time that a book has been designated as an unsound book under the revised metropolitan ordinance.

Film adaptation of a light novel

5 Differences between Edge of Tomorrow and All You Need is Kill | Nerd-Base

On June 6, the science fiction film “Edge of Tomorrow” directed by Doug Liman was announced. It is based on the light novel “All You Need Is Kill” by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (published on December 18, 2004). The main character is a soldier who fights against aliens, and when he is killed, he is sent back in time to the morning of the day before his mission and comes back to life.

The characters and story have been changed to suit American tastes, for example, a beautiful tsundere girl has been replaced by a macho female soldier. Japanese people are pedophiles, while Americans prefer glamorous and macho characters.

Management integration of Kadokawa and Dwango

May 14, 2011. The Kadokawa Group, which controls the light novel industry, will announce a management integration with Dwango, an IT-related company known for Nico Nico Douga, etc. The joint holding company, KADOKAWA-DWANGO Inc. will be established on October 1.

The launch of a label

In July, Futabasha launched “Monster Bunko”.

In August, Shinchosha launched “Shincho Bunko nex”, which according to the official announcement is not a light novel label, but since it uses a light novel author and is a character-based novel, it is considered to be a border label between general martial arts and light novels.

On November 21, Shueisha launched “Dash X Bunko”. On November 21, Shueisha launched “Dash-X Bunko,” to which popular Super Dash Bunko titles such as “Red” and “Rokka no Yusha” were transferred. Also, a side story of “Terraformers,” which was popular in the manga magazine Young Jump, was published as a novel.

Trends in the Manga Industry

Shonen Jump+ Japanese Logo

On September 22, Shueisha launched Shonen Jump +, a webcomic distribution site and manga magazine application for smartphones and tablet devices. Shueisha’s manga, including Weekly Shonen Jump, will be distributed as e-books for free, averaging about five titles per day. The purpose of the launch was to find digital talent, with an emphasis on discovering and nurturing newcomers. The company hopes to attract Internet users who are less interested in print media as new readers.

It has become a hot topic of discussion as the largest company in the manga industry was one of the first to start distributing free manga in e-book format.


Launch of the label

On January 20th, Shueisha launched Orange Bunko. This is a label for women that deals with various genres such as horror, science fiction, and love romance, with a focus on light mysteries. The style is somewhere between general literature and light novels, which is why it is called the “light literature” genre. Misako Tega, the editor-in-chief of Orange Bunko, says that the definition of light literature is “characters that are attractive” and “characters that stand out.”

[End of the Original Document]

A History of Light Novels: The 2000s Mon, 03 May 2021 14:00:00 +0000 The following is an unofficial English translation of a Japanese article about the history of light novels by a group called the Light Novel Research Institute. It is presented here for educational and research purposes only. The original Japanese text can be found here. This is an edited machine translation, so some titles or names may be incorrect.

Summary of the 2000s

 In the first half of the decade, “Shakugan no Shana” and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” were popular for their stories that introduced the extraordinary into the ordinary. In the latter half of the period, “Student Council’s Discretion”, “My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!”, and “I Don’t Have Many Friends” became popular as everyday stories without fantasy elements.

The latter two works are based on very familiar themes such as rebuilding bonds with one’s sister and training to make friends, and are thought to reflect the fact that young people are having trouble forming good relationships with their families and friends.

In addition, works that mix fantasy and school stories, such as “Grimoire of Zero,” “Baka & Test – Summon the Beasts,” and “A Certain Magical Index,” have become hits. 

What can be said about these hits is that they all sell “fun,” “moe,” and “bonds with family and friends. As long as they can provide these elements, it doesn’t matter if there are no fantasy elements.

Since the 2000’s, novels have become all about “moe” and romantic comedy, and the covers of these novels have started to feature illustrations of beautiful girls with an emphasis on moe. Honestly speaking, when I pass by the light novel section of a bookstore, the aura of moe is so overwhelming that it’s almost unbearable.

On the other hand, light novels have become closer and closer to general literature, with light novelist Kazuki Sakuraba winning the Naoki Prize, and “If a High School Baseball Girl Manager Reads Drucker’s ‘Management’”, a general literature novel with a light novel-like cover, becoming a bestseller.

Also, with the appearance of novels that teach economics, such as “Spice and Wolf,” the perception of light novels as “something worth reading” became widespread. 

Table of Contents:


Influential Circumstances


The “Light Novel, Magazine, and Entertainment Board” was established on the giant anonymous bulletin board site 2chan.

  • A place to discuss light novels was created on the Internet, and the name “light novel” began to spread.

Representative works

Kino’s Journey Light Novel Cover

“Kino’s no Tabi: The Beautiful World” [Kino’s Journey] by Keiichi Shigurezawa is published by Dengeki Bunko.

The series was a hit, selling over 6 million copies in total.

It is a short story about a girl, Kino, who travels to various countries with her talking motorcycle, Hermes.

It is an allegorical story that progresses quietly and unhurriedly, without any elements of moe or adventure. Rather than calling it a light novel, the expression “fairy tale for adults” is more appropriate.

In the world of light novels, stories like “Kino’s Journey” and “Sword Art Online” (written in 2002), both of which are survival stories, blossomed in the early 2000s and have been popular until the 2010s. This reflects the reality of the 2000s, where people may be killed by others if they stay idle and do not make any decisions.

However, unlike manga and general literature, cruel depictions tend to be avoided in light novels, and cheerful, everyday stories are becoming more mainstream than savvy stories.

Launch of a label

Shueisha launched “Super Dash Bunko”.

  • When Super Fantasy Bunko was discontinued in 2001, the label expanded to include fantasy and science fiction.
  • It is a SF light novel label. Some works are reprinted as general literary novels, and the target age group is slightly higher than junior high and high school students, making it more of a general literary label.

Fujimi Shobo launched “Fujimi Mystery Bunko” (~2009).

  • At the same time, it started the Fujimi Young Mystery Award, a place to discover newcomers.
  • At the same time, Fujimi started the Fujimi Young Mystery Award, a place to discover newcomers, and published light mysteries with characters and romantic elements, rather than existing mystery novels.
  • He fostered famous writers such as Kazuki Sakuraba of “GOSICK” fame.

Honobu Yonezawa sent his debut novel “Hyouka” to the 5th Kadokawa Gakuen Novel Award in the Young Mystery & Horror category in 2001 because “I felt that the combination of light novels and mysteries had a future.

However, mysteries and light novels were not a good match, and the publication was discontinued after about eight and a half years. It is thought that this was because the heavy, difficult, and slow-developing style of mysteries did not match the “fun,” “exhilaration,” and “storytelling” demanded by readers of light novels.

After that, works that combine light novels and mysteries, such as “Mystery Solved at Dinner” (published on September 2, 2010) and “Biblia Koshodo no Jiken Techo” (published on March 25, 2011), which bridge the gap between light novels and general literature with the target age range set higher than that of the readers of novels, became hits. (March 25, 2011) were hits.

Trends in the Doujin Industry

Tsukihime PC Game Box Art

Kinoko Nasu’s doujin PC novel game “Tsukihime” was released.

  • The game became an exceptionally big hit for a doujin game, and became a commercial media mix.
  • It became an explosive boom with its detailed setting, unique worldview, and characterization. As a vampire story, it had a great influence on later works.

The protagonist had a unique ability called the “demon eye of direct death,” which allowed him to see the death of his target as tangible information and kill any monster by cutting it off. This setting became popular, and “Shakugan no Shana”, “Toaru Majutsu no Index”, and other works that are called modern school xenobiotics became popular in light novels.

Nasu’s style can be traced back to the 80’s biographical novels of Hideyuki Kikuchi (Magic City (Shinjuku)) and Baku Yumemakura (Chimera Roar).

Crossing over into general literature

Case of a Dragon Slayer Cover

Kohei Kaidono, who has become a signature author of Dengeki Bunko, publishes the first installment of his case series, “The Case of the Dragon Slayer,” from Kodansha Novels.

This work is a fusion of fantasy and mystery. It is somewhere between light novels and general literature.

In the Taisho and early Showa periods, Ryunosuke Akutagawa left behind works such as “Yabu no Naka” (a ghost talks about an incident) and “Kappa” (a man who wanders into another world), which can be regarded as an extension of general literary novels with fantasy elements.

The beginning of book publishing of online novels

Yusuke Kajimoto establishes AlphaPolis Co., Ltd., a platform site for registering and reading online novels, and began to publish books of popular works registered on the site.

In November 2006, the company launched a light novel label, AlphaPolis Bunko, which has produced hit titles such as Takumi Yoshino’s “Rain” (published in October 2005), which sold a total of one million copies, and Takumi Yanai’s “Gate” (published in April 2010), which sold a total of 500,000 copies. Both of these works were published on the Internet.

Alpha Police Yukiuchi Takemi ◎ Gate Self Defense Force at his place, so  fighting Himono 5 | MANDARAKE 在线商店
GATE light novel cover

In November 2010, he also launched Eternity Bunko, a romance novel label targeting women in their 20s from junior and senior high school students.

With the development of the Internet, a trend of turning online novels into books was established.

The birth of Otome Road in Higashi-Ikebukuro

In May and June, KAC SHOP, a store specializing in new coterie magazines for women, and Volks, a store selling Super Dollfie ball-jointed dolls for women, opened in Higashi-Ikebukuro. In the fall, K-BOOKS, which deals in anime goods and doujinshi, declared it will no longer have doujinshi for men, but only for women. As a result, Higashi-Ikebukuro’s stores specializing in manga and anime began to focus more on women, and the area became known as “Otome Road,” a mecca for fujoshi.

The reason for this was that the concentration of male otaku products in Akihabara forced the stores to send their staff to Akihabara, who were familiar with these products, and as a result, it became difficult to handle products for men, so they had to focus on women. As a result, it became difficult to sell products for men, and the stores had to be geared toward women. Originally, Ikebukuro had many female customers.

2001 Moe’s Influence

Representative works

Maburaho light novel cover.

“Maburaho” by Toshihiko Tsukiji is published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko.

In a parallel world where magic exists in Japan, three beautiful girls pursue the protagonist, an inferior student at a wizard training school. In fact, the protagonist has the blood of a famous wizard, and the three girls fight for the title of his wife in order to obtain his genes in this crazy love comedy. It was a harem story that pushed moe to the limit.

From this time on, a tendency to emphasize moe was born.

Trends in the novel world

The illustrator Komato Eji, who had been doing one-shot work for the bishojo game magazine “PC Paradise,” made his debut as a light novel illustrator with “Maburaho.”

Instead of the usual anime pictures, illustrations created by CG were used for the cover. However, the use of CG illustrations did not take root after that, probably because of the high cost.

One of the characteristics of Eji Komato’s illustrations is that he does not depict underwear on beautiful girls, even though their skirts are flipped up so much that it would be easy to see their underwear. This is commonly known as “pantyless”.

Toshihiko Tsukiji, the author of “Maburaho”, says in the afterword that the success of “Maburaho” was largely due to the work of Eji Komato.

Since then, it has been said that “the first volume of a light novel is sold by its cover illustration, and from the second volume on, it is sold by its contents.”

After his appearance, the covers of light novels became more and more moe-oriented in order to stimulate the subscriber base, and by the late 2000s, some fans began to complain that it had become difficult to buy novels.

Newcomer’s Award

Shueisha started the “Super Dash Novel Newcomer Award”. Award-winning works are published in the Super Dash Collection.

  • The first grand prize winner was Akira Kamishiro’s “World Domination Story: Yuma’s Great Adventure” (published in 2002).
  • The story is about a high school girl, Yuma, who enters the world of books and works hard to revive the demon gods (warumono). She is not a hero, but an agent of the demon god, and this work breaks the mold of the fantasy light novels of the 1990s.

Launch of a label

Kadokawa Shoten launched “Kadokawa Beans Bunko”.

  • It is a fantasy label for girls. It started with the catchphrase, “The door to a story, the key to another world.”

Trends in otaku-related industries

Maid cafes were born.

The first permanent cosplay cafe in Akihabara, “Cafe de Cospa,” was relaunched as “Cure Maid Cafe,” the first maid cafe in Japan to unify waitresses’ uniforms with maid uniforms, after character content production company Broccoli transferred the management rights to cosplay costume production company Cospa. The café was renovated into “CURE MAID CAFE”.

The origin of “Cafe de Cospa” is “Pia Carrot Restaurant,” a coffee shop modeled after the restaurant in the popular 18-bit PC bishojo game “Welcome to Pia Carrot! The origin of maid moe is said to be the 18-forbidden PC bishojo game “Forbidden Bloodline” released in 1993. Maid moe has been gradually expanding its influence in light novels such as “Full Metal Panic!” (published in 1998), “Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu” (published in 2007), and “Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai” (published in 2008).

Influential historical background

On September 11, the terrorist attacks on the United States occurred. Commonly known as “9/11”.

A terrorist organization hijacked an airplane, rammed it into an American skyscraper, and caused it to collapse, just like in a Hollywood movie. This led the U.S. to push forward with the war against terrorism, with no way out in sight, and Japan came to support it. A new war between nations and terrorist organizations has arrived.


Launch of a label

Media Factory launches “MF Bunko J”.

  • It was created as a sub-label of “MF Bunko”, which has been dealing with translated works from overseas.
  • Initially, it dealt with novelized works of anime and games, but after the hit of “Zero no Ususama” in 2004, it became a label for original novels.
  • The label’s colors, which fully emphasized “romantic comedies” and “moe” that read the times, gained popularity, and the company began to boast a large market share.
  • In 2011, it became a member of the Kadokawa Group.

Representative works

Kubikiri Cycle cover

“KUBIKIRI CYCLE”, the first book in Ishin Nishio’s “Zaregoto Series”, was published by Kodansha Novels.

  • Winner of the 23rd Mephisto Prize. It was recommended by the mystery novelist Seiryoin Ryusui.
  • This work aims to combine “moe” and “mystery”, but with each series, the battle-like elements increase.
  • The jokes mixed with the clever use of language and the attractive characters full of individuality made it popular.
Shakugan no Shana, vol. 22 light novel cover

Yashichiro Takahashi’s “Shakugan no Shana” [Burning-Eyed Shana] published by Dengeki Bunko.

  • The series has sold more than 8.5 million copies.
  • A high school boy leading an ordinary life gets caught up in a battle between monsters from another world and Shana, a beautiful girl who destroys them.
  • This is a work that contrasts the ordinary with the extraordinary. The story is noteworthy for its moe elements, but the world view is hard, as the main character is eaten by a monster and dies at the beginning.
Welcome to the NHK novel cover

Takimoto Tatsuhiko’s “NHK ni Yokoso!” [Welcome to the NHK!] was published by Kadokawa Shoten.

Originally serialized on the website “Boiled Eggs Online” from January 29 to April 16, 2001, it was later made into a manga and anime.

The main character, Tatsuhiro Sato, who has been a shut-in for four years, is under the delusion that his situation is all the work of the evil organization NHK (Japan Shut-in Association), when a beautiful yandere girl, Misaki Nakahara, appears and starts a project to help him recover. This work is categorized as Sekaikei. The author, Takimoto Tatsuhiko, has experience as a recluse, and this is reflected in the setting of the main character.

Withdrawal among young people has been a social problem since the late 1990s, and psychiatrist Tamaki Saito published a new book titled “Shakai-teki Hikikomori” (Social Withdrawal) in 1998, which attracted a lot of public attention. It can be said that this work became a hit due to this historical background.

Trends in the Doujin Industry

In 2002, the doujin circle “07thExpantion” released “Higurashi no Naku Koro ni” to the world. It is the first work in a series of mysteries about a series of mysterious deaths and disappearances in a village that still retains the atmosphere of an old-fashioned village society. The heroine and heroine change, and the unique perspective and sound of sound novels are used to incite fear in the readers, making them think that it is actually a horror story rather than a mystery. The story is not a mystery but a horror story.

2013/04/12 by Tsukisae Yu

A pioneer of light novels about practical learning

In 2002, “The Case Book of a Female College Student Accountant” by Shinya Yamada, an accountant, was published in book form. Momi Fujiwara, an accountant specializing in corporate accounting and an active university student, uncovers the corporate fraud hidden behind the numbers. The book was originally serialized in the free paper of TAC, a preparatory school for CPA qualifications, and was self-published by the author. When it was published in paperback, many publishers offered to publish it, but Mr. Yamada, who has a deep knowledge of subcultures, decided to publish it at Kadokawa Shoten.

Mr. Yamada has since published several books on accounting from familiar situations, such as “Why doesn’t Saotakeya go out of business?” and many other non-fiction books that teach about accounting from familiar situations.

It may be said that he is the pioneer of light novels such as “Spice and Wolf” and “Moshi Dora” that teach real-life lessons.

April 12, 2013 by Tsukisae Yu

Trends in the Game Industry

.hack//Infection box art

In 2002, the Kyushu-based game company CyberConnect2 released “.hack//Infection,” an action RPG set in the world of online games.

A very ordinary junior high school boy is invited by his friend to play the online game “TheWorld” for the first time, and encounters the mysterious NPC Aura, who irregularly obtains his power. The main character plays the character “Kite” and makes many friends to solve the mystery of “TheWorld” in order to save his friend who was attacked by an unidentified enemy and became unconscious.

The game was made up of a four-part series, and was released every three months in a serial drama-like structure. Before and after the release of the game, a prequel anime was aired, a manga depicting the story several years later was serialized, and a special magazine was published. It may have been the beginning of cross-media.

2013/04/12 by Tsukisae Yu

Light novels are exported to Korea

A Korean publisher, Daewon C.I. Co., Ltd. will publish Korean-language versions of Japanese novels under the NT Novel label.

“Full Metal Panic!” “Sorcerer Orphen,” “The Chronicles of Delfinia,” and “Kino’s Journey” were sold in Korea that year, but they did not attract much attention due to the popularity of Korean fantasy novels in Korea at the time.

However, when the “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” series was introduced in Korea in 2006, it became a huge hit, and the popularity of romance novels skyrocketed. Perhaps in response to this, Korean authors began to produce Korean-made novels in 2006.

One of the reasons for the popularity of Korean novels is thought to be that the manga and anime industries in Korea were not growing due to government regulations and copyright infringement issues, and people were importing Japanese manga and anime to become familiar with Japanese otaku culture.

Surrounding circumstances that had an impact

The arrival of the cell phone novel boom.

“Deep Love”, a cell phone novel serialized on Yoshi’s personal website “Zabun”, was published by Starts Publishing. The series becomes a hit, selling a total of 2.7 million copies.


Representative works

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya vol.1 cover

“The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, the first book in Nagaru Tanigawa’s “Haruhi Suzumiya” series, was published by Sneaker Bunko.

It won the Grand Prize at the 8th Sneaker Awards. Released in 15 countries around the world, the series sold over 16.4 million copies in total, making it a record-breaking hit in the 2000s. Although it did not attract much attention when it was first published, it gradually gained popularity and became a big hit when it was made into a TV anime in April 2006.

Haruhi Suzumiya, a high school girl, spends her days in a festive atmosphere, involving the main character and creating the SOS Club to find and play with aliens, future people, and psychics. The story contains both science fiction and philosophical elements, and depicts the contrast between the ordinary and the extraordinary. The humorous first-person narrative of the protagonist (narrator) Kyon was also appealing.

With the success of the Haruhi series, the idea of the heroine creating a strange club activity and involving the hero in it became one of the mainstays of novels.

The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” was also released in China and became a hit, leading to the spread of light novels in China from the late 2000s. In China, light novels are called “light novels”. [軽小説 / 輕小說]

Narita Ryogo’s “Baccano! was published by Dengeki Bunko.

It won the Gold Prize at the 9th Dengeki Game Novel Award in 2002, and the series was launched the following year in 2003.

Set against the backdrop of the 1930’s, a time when prohibition was in effect and the mafia was running rampant, this is an ensemble drama with an alchemist, a homunculus, a couple of robbers, a terrorist, and other characters with their own quirks.

He also likes ensemble dramas with unique characters and B-movies, and seems to have adopted them into his style.

With the same worldview, “Durarara! Vamp” is also a continuing series, and has been adapted into comics and films.

Narita has also written spin-offs of properties such as “Fate/StayNight”, BLEACH, and “Toaru Kagaku no Railgun”.

Dances with the Dragons light novel cover

Asai Labo’s “Saredo Tsumibito Wa Ryuu To Odoru” [Dances with the Dragons] published by Sneaker Bunko. The work won the 7th Sneaker Grand Prix.

The story has attracted a lot of attention for its descriptions of spells (magic) using chemical jargon, its settings, and the tongue-in-cheek exchanges between the characters.

It is also characterized by a storyline that is hardly suitable for junior high and high school students, with hard descriptions of cruelty, sexual expression, and depressing developments. It has also been called the “originator of dark light novels.”

In 2008, he moved his works to Gaga Bunko.

Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-Chan novel cover

“Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-Chan” by Masaki Okayu was published by Dengeki Bunko.

Initially, the editorial department considered it a problematic work, but when it was published as a short story in Dengeki hp, it was voted by readers as a favorite and was published as a paperback.

The story is a parody of Doraemon, in which the main character is harmed by the skull-chan, who is originally a savior.

Crossing the border into general literature

Mardock Scramble novel covers

Ubukata Tow’s “Mardock Scramble” is published by Hayakawa Bunko JA. It won the 24th Japan Science Fiction Award.

Ballot, a young prostitute, is almost killed by Shell, a gambler who uses her for his crimes. Severely injured, Barot is saved by a technological body modification forbidden by the Mardock Scramble 09 law. This gives her special abilities, and she pursues Shell’s crimes with Ufcock and the Doctor who saved her.

It is a cyberpunk worldview, but deals with themes directly related to social issues of the time, such as money laundering, abuse, and family breakdown. It’s a heavy story for a light novel.

For this reason, Ubukata tried to get it published by several light novel labels, but they were not interested in it.

Books related to light novels

The first light novel how-to book, “How to Make a Character Novel” by Eiji Otsuka, is published.

  • In this book, the term “light novel” was not yet used.

First issue of a magazine

Kodansha publishes the first issue of “Faust,” an irregularly published literary magazine. The catchphrase was “Fighting Illustrated Novels Magazine.”

The magazine starts with three Mephisto Award winners, Otaro Maijo, Tomoya Sato, and Ishin Nishio. Critic Hiroki Azuma and critic Tamaki Saito will also be featured. In addition, writers such as Otsuichi, Takimoto Tatsuhiko, and Kitayama Takekuni, as well as highly acclaimed scenario writers in the bishojo game industry, Nasukinoko and Ryuukishi07, also participated in the magazine, making it popular as a comprehensive magazine by popular young writers in the fields of authentic mystery, light novels, bishojo games, and criticism. Light novelist Kohei Kamieno had a great influence on the establishment of Faust.

In 2008’s Vol. 7, science fiction giant Yasutaka Tsutsui wrote a light novel called “Bianca Overstudy,” which had the catchphrase “a girl who leaps through time in the 21st century.”

It became a bridge between light novels and general literature, and is said to have been one of the factors behind the light novel boom.

Trends in the Manga Industry

Basilisk Koga Ninpocho Full Decoding Book(KC Delux) (2004) Import From  Japan | eBay
Basilisk light novel cover

The manga “Basilisk: The Koga Ninja Scrolls” by Masaki Sesegawa was serialized in “Young Magazine Uppers” (Kodansha) from 2003 to 2004, and was made into an anime in 2005.

Based on the novel “Koga Ninpocho” by Futaro Yamada, which was serialized in “Hakuho Club” (Kobunsha) from December 1958 to November 1958, and published in book form in 1959. Ten ninja from the Iga and the Kouga clans face off to decide who will be the third shogun of the Tokugawa family. Oboro, granddaughter of the head of the Iga clan, and Gennosuke, grandson of the head of the Kouga clan, are in love with each other and have even talked about marriage, but they are forced to fight each other as sworn enemies.

Author Baku Yumemakura said, “Yamada Futaro was the first to include an element of team confrontation in his stories, and his influence on the manga world is immeasurable.

Not only that, but the techniques of the ninjas in this work have reached the realm of what could be called extraordinary abilities, and it can be said to be the originator of ability battles in which victory or defeat is determined by the compatibility of the abilities of the ninjas. Oboro, for example, has no physical skills as a ninja, but he was born with the “eyes of destruction” that nullify all ninja techniques just by looking at them. Gennosuke possesses the “Pupil Technique” which allows him to return the techniques of those who attack him with harmful intentions to their opponents. For this reason, it was said in the manga that Oboro was the only one who could defeat Gennosuke. However, in reality, Gennosuke is poisoned by the shimmering fire that Gennosuke is in love with, and this shows the unexpected weakness of the pupil technique that was thought to be invincible.

The original work is a historical novel, but the interesting team battle and ability battle is still relevant in the 2000s, and it won the 28th Kodansha Manga Award in the general category.

2004: The advent of the light novel boom

Representative works

List of A Certain Magical Index chapters - Wikipedia
A Certain Magical Index vol.1 novel cover

In April, “A Certain Magical Index” by Kazuma Kamaike was published by Dengeki Bunko. It was a huge hit with a total circulation of over 13.4 million copies.

It is a shonen manga-style battle action story with a hot-blooded protagonist that packs science fiction and fantasy elements into a school city setting. The protagonist is a psychic of the lowest rank, but in his right hand, he has the “Imagine Breaker,” a power that cancels out all psychic and magical powers. He is famous for his line, “I’ll kill that illusion.” However, he can never erase the fantasy that a beautiful sister will fall from the sky and start living with him.

There have been works that combine science fiction and fantasy, but this work is the culmination of them all.

Grimoire of Zero novel cover

Yamaguchino Noboru’s “Zero no Tsukaima” [Grimoire of Zero] is now being published by MF Bunko J. The series has sold a total of 4.5 million copies.

The protagonist, a young boy named Sight, is summoned to another world as a messenger demon. He is summoned by a beautiful girl, Ruiz, who is an inferior student at a magic school. She calls him “dog” and treats him like a servant, and soon he is involved in battles and adventures that shake the world.

Compared to the fantasy novels of the 90’s, the world view and magic settings are designed to be easy to understand, and the romantic comedy and light-hearted story are appealing. The main character is irresistible to all the girls.

Garden of Sinners novel cover

Kinoko Nasu’s “Kara no Kyoukai” [The Garden of Sinners] was published by Kodansha Novels and became a hit, selling over 700,000 copies.

  • It was originally a web novel that was published on the website of a doujin circle in 1998. Later, it was sold as a doujin magazine at Comiket and became popular, catching the attention of the editors of Kodansha.
  • This is the first novel to be turned from a doujin or web novel into a commercial work and a hit.
  • It shares the same worldview with “Tsukihime” and “Fate/stay night”.

After this, bishojo game scenario writers began to attract attention as light novelists with immediate ability, and famous scenario writers such as Romeo Tanaka and Gen Urobuchi made their debut.

Secrets of Haruka Nogizaka novel cover

The “Secrets of Haruka Nogizaka” by Yusaku Igarashi was published by Dengeki Bunko.

The story is about a beautiful young girl heroine who is an Akiba-style otaku and is desperately trying to hide it.

This setup was later used in “Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai” (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!), and produced one of the most popular heroines.

Books related to light novels

The first book on light novels, “Light Novel Complete Reader” was published by Nikkei BP.

The first light novel commentary book, “Light Novel Complete Reader,” was published by Nikkei BP, and the name “light novel” became a household name.

Since then, light novel commentaries and how-to books have been published one after another, accelerating the light novel boom.

Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! - Wikipedia
Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! First Issue Cover

Takarajimasha published the 2005 edition of the light novel guidebook “Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi!” (This Light Novel is Amazing!) The 2005 edition will be published in December.

The 2005 edition of the guidebook was published by Takarajimasha in December 2005, attracting attention for its ranking of light novels in terms of popularity.

It became a series and was published once a year in December.

Launch of a new label

Gakken launched “Megami Bunko”.

  • The catchphrase was “Read and Moe! It started as a label for anime novelization works with the catchphrase “Read and Moe!
  • In 2008, the “Megami Novel Award”, a newcomer award for light novels, was launched, and the label began to focus on publishing original novels.
  • In 2008, the label started the “Megami Novel Award”, a newcomer award for light novels.

Mag Garden launched “Mag-Garden Novels”.

  • Mag Garden launched “Mag-Garden Novels”, a light novel label for new books.
  • Mainly novelizes manga works from “Monthly Comic Blade”.

Trends in the light novel industry

Media Works President Tatsuo Sato, who founded Dengeki Bunko, said in an interview for the book “The Complete Light Novel Reader” that “I have the impression that a large number of teenage girls are entering the market these days,” and that the number of teenage female readers is increasing at Dengeki Bunko.

On July 15, Nao Yoshida, who published the popular “Trinity Blood” series at Sneaker Bunko, passed away due to a pulmonary infarction. As the series was published under the strict condition that it would be terminated immediately if its popularity declined, there were whispers that he died of exhaustion.

Light novelists work very hard, and it is not uncommon for popular authors with huge workloads to fall ill.

Trends in the manga industry

Lucky Star manga cover

The four-frame manga “Lucky Star” by Kagami Mimizu was published in the game magazine “Comptiq”.

This is a gag manga depicting the loose routines of otaku high school girls. The manga was so popular that it became a problem for fans who made a pilgrimage to the shrine where it was set.

The style of beautiful girls having a good time talking about otaku culture has also influenced light novels, giving birth to such hits as “Student Council”, “My sister can’t be this cute!”, and “Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai”.

However, since this style can be copied by anyone, it became saturated in manga and light novels in the 2010s.

(The novelization “Lucky Star Murder” was published by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko in September 2007.)

Trends in the Bishojo Game Industry

Fate/stay Night game art

The PC novel game “Fate/stay night,” for which Kinoko Nasu was in charge of the scenario, was released.

The game is about a battle royale to obtain the Holy Grail, with the main character supporting a messenger of a beautiful girl. The game was an explosive hit and became a media mix.

During this period, stories with a structure in which girls fight and the main character, a boy, assists them became popular, such as “Shakugan no Shana,” “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya,” and the manga “Rozen Maiden” (published in 2003).

The protagonist of this work was initially powerless and dragged the girls down, but eventually grew to the level of defeating the last boss in a one-on-one battle, which was innovative.

Trends in the publishing industry

List of Densha Otoko chapters - Wikipedia
Train Man book cover

Shinchosha published “Densha Otoko” (Train Man), a bestseller that sold over a million copies and was made into a manga, a movie, and a TV drama.

It is a love story that begins when an Akiba-style otaku rescues a woman from a drunk driver on a train. There was no specific author, and the story unfolded as the residents of 2channel wrote advice to help the awkward “Densha Otoko” achieve romance, and the Densha Otoko reported the progress of his love life and asked for more advice. This story became an explosive boom on the Internet from the end of May, and was published as a book in October.

This is the first example of a content-oriented media being born from a communication-oriented media. It is pointed out that the fact that advice on the Internet is influencing real-life relationships is a sign that young people are enjoying the Internet as a natural part of their lives and building a new worldview.

However, “Densha Otoko” contains a message that it is right to graduate from being an otaku and become a popular guy, and Toru Honda, who was repulsed by this message, criticized it fiercely in his book “Denpa Otoko” the following year.


Launch of a label

Konami Digital Entertainment launched “KONAMI NOVELS”.

  • It is a light novel label.
  • It publishes novelizations of games, anime, special effects, and original novels.
  • It is characterized by the use of speech balloons and panel divisions in its illustrations.

Trends in the novelization industry

Tohru Honda, the administrator of the otaku website Shirohata, publishes a book titled “Denpa Otoko” from Sansae Books. In the book, Toru Honda says that modern society has been poisoned by the idea of “love capitalism” since the 1980s, and that “moe culture” has developed as a counterculture to it.

Love capitalism is a system in which both men and women must spend money to be popular with the opposite sex throughout their lives, and those who fall out of this system are discriminated against as otaku, kimo-men, or NEETs. There is no love there, and true love is found in romance with two-dimensional beautiful girls who are the embodiment of ideas.

In this book, Toru Honda complained, “I wanted to be a romance writer more than I wanted to have a girlfriend. This desire came true, and in October of the same year, Super Dash Bunko published “Astro! Otome Juku!” in October of the same year.

This book and author symbolizes the fact that light novels have somehow come to be associated with moe.

Trends in the Otaku Industry

Nomura Research Institute is publishing a book titled “Research on the Otaku Market” from Toyo Keizai Inc.

The otaku market has grown into a huge industry worth 410 billion yen, and is even forming overseas markets. This is the first book by Nomura Research Institute to seriously analyze the otaku market, noticing that Japanese culture is now characterized by “wabi”, “sabi” and “moe”. Until then, the otaku market had been ignored as a niche existence.


Launch of a new label

Softbank Creative launches “GA Bunko”.

  • The catchphrase was “Super Generation Adventure.”
  • It publishes not only novels for boys, but also those classified as girls books.
  • It is also unique in that it publishes books based on online novels.

Hobby Japan launched “HJ Bunko”.

  • Hobby Japan launched “HJ Bunko” and at the same time started “Novel Japan Award” (renamed to HJ Bunko Award in 2011) as a place to discover newcomers.
  • It also started “Novel JAPAN” as a related magazine, but it ceased publication after the March 2009 issue.
  • The first issue of the magazine was immediately followed by overseas expansion, and an exclusive contract was signed with Taiwan’s Dongli Publishing House.
  • It is a label with an erotic moe line, incorporating many authors from juvenile pornography.

Enterbrain launched “B’s-LOG Bunko” (B’s-Log Bunko).

  • It is a label for girls.

Takeshobo launched “Zeta Bunko”. (~2007)

  • It was an original novel-only label with a different policy from the company’s “Gamma Bunko”, which was discontinued in 1997.
  • It was discontinued the following year.

Newcomer’s Award

Shogakukan established the “Shogakukan Light Novel Award,” a newcomer award for light novels.

It was a newcomer’s award to discover newcomers for “Gaga Bunko” and “Lulu Bunko,” which were to be launched the following year.

Representative works

Spice and Wolf novel cover

“Spice and Wolf” by Isuna Hasekura was published by Dengeki Bunko. The work won the Silver Prize of the 12th Dengeki Novel Award. The series became a hit, selling more than 4 million copies in total.

With a peddler as the main character, this is a “light novel that you can study” where you can learn about bargaining among merchants and economics. I was very surprised at the time that exchange rates were heavily involved in the story. The witty conversations between the main character and Holo, a beautiful girl with wolf ears and tail, are fascinating. Many of Holo’s wise words can be applied in the real world.

Light novels have been thought of as a useless hobby to pass the time, but this is the first time that a story that uses moe to teach us “practical learning” has appeared.

Bungaku Shoujo - Baka-Tsuki
Book Girl vol.1 cover

The first book in Mizuki Nomura’s “Bungaku Shoujo” (Book Girl) series, “‘Bungaku Shoujo’ and the Clown Who Wants to Die,” will be published by Famitsu Bunko.

The story centers on a literary novel, and unfolds as if following it. In the first volume, Osamu Dazai’s “Ningen Shikkaku” has been chosen as the theme, so that readers can learn about literature while reading the novel.

The main character and Tohko Amano, a genuine literature girl who loves books, get involved in various cases and solve them.

Toradora Vol.1 cover

In March, Yuyuko Takemiya’s “Toradora! was published by Dengeki Bunko. The series has sold over 3 million copies.

It is a romantic comedy that depicts the pain and sadness of heartbreak. It was pointed out in the book “Light Novel Literature Theory” by Aki Enomoto that this work brought the story structure of shoujo manga into light novels for boys.

The main character, Ryuji Takasu, is misunderstood as a delinquent because of his father’s scary eyes, and he has a complex about this. This setting is thought to have influenced the 2009 hit “Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai.”

Chrome Shelled Regios novel cover

Amagi Shusuke’s “Chrome Shelled Regios” was published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko. The series is a hit, selling over 4 million copies.

It is a “school action fantasy” set in the mobile city of “Regios,” which moves through the contaminated land that has become uninhabitable for living creatures. The apocalyptic science fiction worldview is interwoven with Western fantasy elements such as monsters and spirits, and Eastern fantasy elements such as a martial artist who manipulates “kei.”

The protagonist, a young boy named Rayfon, used to be one of the best martial artists in the world, but he was expelled from his hometown for committing a crime. In order to find a new path, he enrolls in the school city and once again wields his power as a martial artist to protect his friends.

The story is heavy, but it is also filled with harem-like school romantic comedy elements, funny conversations, friendship with friends, and exhilarating battles. It is a work that takes all of the elements that have been present in novels for boys and blends them well.

Surrounding circumstances that influenced this work

The cell phone novel boom was at its peak.

Love Sky novel cover

Mika’s cell phone novel “Koizora” [Love Sky] was published by Starts Publishing and became a bestseller, selling over 1.4 million copies.

The mobile phone novel boom continued until about 2008, when a number of other books were published and attracted much attention.

During the boom, it was seen as a rival to light novels, and the romance world was worried that it would compete for customers, but since the readership consisted of yankee teenage girls who were not into the habit of reading books, it did not have much of an impact.

In the 1990s, the publishing industry thought that geeks did not read books, but light novels became widely popular. The same can be said for mobile novels, which opened up a new audience that the publishing industry had not seen before.

Since the boom, the number of mobile novels with fantasy elements has been increasing, and it is pointed out that the boundaries between them and light novels have become blurred.


Launch of a label

Shogakukan launched “Gaga Bunko”. For boys.

  • This is a label with a challenging spirit that will take up works with an experimental style.
  • It is said that the label emphasizes the development of newcomers.

Shogakukan launched “Lulu Bunko”. It is a sister label of Gaga Bunko and is aimed at girls.

  • It is the successor to the discontinued Palette Bunko, Canvas Bunko, and Super Quest Bunko.

Harvest Publishing launched “Nagomi Bunko”.

  • It publishes gaiden novels of bishojo games. This is an “all ages” paperback.

Gakken Publishing launched “Moegi Bunko Pureri”.

  • A light BL and Otome-type (shoujo-ish) paperback for teenage girls.

Fujimi Shobo launched “Style-F”.

  • Fujimi Shobo launched Style-F, a light novel label that uses soft covers instead of paperbacks. There are no illustrations, and the target age range is slightly higher.
  • Initially, a newcomer’s award was planned to be held, but in the end it was not held.

Houbunsha launched Houbunsha KR Bunko.

  • It published novelizations of manga serialized in the company’s moe four-frame manga magazine, Manga Time Kirara.
  • However, the company stopped its activities after only half a year, and as of April 2012, there has been no new publication.

Representative works

“Baka to Test to Shokanjuu” [Baka & Test – Summon the Beasts] by Kenji Inoue was published by Famitsu Bunko. The series was a hit, selling over 5.3 million copies in total.

The strength of the summoned beast is determined by the test scores, and winning the summoned beast battle between the classes results in a “facility swap” with the opposing class, a novel setting that gained popularity. The protagonist is an inferior student in Class F, where all the failures of the school are gathered, but in order to improve the worst facilities into something gorgeous for the girl he loves, he fires up his bad friend, the leader of the class, and challenges the superior students to a battle.

The protagonists use their wiles and energy to win against an unwinnable enemy. The way they do so is very interesting, and the book is full of gags and humor that will make you laugh. An unusually funny gag novel. 

Literature Award

Dengeki, Sneaker, Fujimi Fantasia, and Famitsu, which are all affiliated with the Kadokawa Group, hold the Light Novel Award, a literary award for light novels. There were three categories: romantic comedy, school, action, mystery, and novelization, and the grand prize was decided by readers’ votes.

It is interesting to note that there is no “Science Fiction Division” or “Fantasy Division.”


Representative works

My Little Sister Can’t be This Cute! vol.1 cover

“Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai” (My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!) by Tsukasa Fushimi was published by Dengeki Bunko in August, and became a hit, selling over 4.1 million copies, and was developed into a media mix.

It is different from the traditional moe-oriented sister stories in that it depicts a realistic relationship between siblings. The theme of the story is about rebuilding trust with a younger sister who has grown cold.

The character of Kirino, the heroine, who is a junior high school girl but loves erotic games featuring younger sisters, stands out.

This work was a breakthrough in the technique of having a beautiful girl who is a serious otaku and makes the protagonist, who is a light otaku, lose his mind.

After this work, the number of titles with the word “sister” in the title and colloquial titles increased. (2010/8), “It’s my brother, but it doesn’t matter as long as we love each other” (2010/12), “Ore ga kanojo ni sore ni sore desu?” (2012/2), etc.

Student Council’s Discretion vol.1 novel cover

In January, Aoi Sekina’s “Student Council no Ichizou” [Student Council’s Discretion] was published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko.

This work combines a harem story with a gag parody and a metafictional device. It is characterized by a comical short story format that will not bore readers, making it easy to read and enjoy even when you are tired.

It was an adventurous work for the editorial department, but it turned out to be an unexpected hit.

High School DxD vol.1 novel cover

In September, “High School DxD” by Isakae Ishitani was published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko.

The protagonist, Issei Hyodo, is a high school boy who is stupid and loves boobs. When he finds out he has a girlfriend for the first time in his life, she is an assassin of a fallen angel who has appeared to eliminate the dangerous divine device that resides in Issei’s body. After being killed, Issei is resurrected as a servant of the beautiful demon Rias Gremory, and joins the occult research club headed by her, where he and his friends face various enemies.

For a light novel, there is a lot of eroticism, but the story is a royal shonen manga of friendship, hard work, and victory. Issei makes full use of the Red Dragon Emperor’s Baskets, his most powerful weapon, but with many flaws and side effects, to face enemies far more powerful than himself.

After this work, the erotic expressions in light novels (especially the illustrations) became more extreme. In the first volume of this book, an illustration of a naked girl is proudly depicted, which probably means that it was decided that it was okay to go this far.

Crossing the border to famous authors and general literary fiction

Kazuki Sakuraba won the 138th Naoki Prize for his novel “My Man.”

He was the first writer from a light novel background to win the Naoki Prize, which attracted much attention.

Since then, light novels have been treated as a training ground to become a general literary writer, and are often mentioned in newspapers.

Newcomer’s Award

In February, GA Bunko launched the “GA Bunko Grand Prize,” a new light novelist award.

Printed out manuscripts were no longer required, and submissions were accepted in the form of recorded media containing text data.

The first grand prize winner, Manta Aizora’s “Crawling! Nyaruko-san,” which won the first grand prize, became a hit and became a representative work of the label.

At the same time, the GA Bunko Theme Grand Prix was established to accept short stories based on keywords, but this competition ended after the first issue.

Launch of a label

Visual Arts, a game company, launches VA Bunko, which mainly deals with novelization of romance games. 

Ichijinsha launched the Ichijinsha Bunko.

  • It mainly focuses on original novels, but also publishes novelizations of manga, games, and anime.
  • At the same time, the light novel newcomer award “Ichijinsha Bunko Taisho” is launched. At the same time, it started the light novel newcomer award “Ichijinsha Bunko Grand Prix”, which also serves as the newcomer award for its sister label, Ichijinsha Iris Bunko, and has two divisions: the Ichijinsha Bunko division and the Ichijinsha Bunko Iris division.

Ichijinsha launched the Ichijinsha Iris Bunko.

  • A light novel label for girls.
  • It mainly focuses on original novels, but also publishes novelizations of manga and games.

Influential historical background

The iPhone 3G, a smartphone manufactured by Apple Inc. was released in Japan in July, and smartphones became widespread.

Smartphone applications, social games provided by smartphones and cell phones such as Mobage (launched in 2006) and GREE (launched in 2005), and web services such as Nico Nico Douga (launched in 2007) grew, and became a threat to light novels as competitors to manga, anime, and games.

Smartphones have also been attracting attention as “e-book terminals” since the early summer of 2010.


I Don’t Have Many Friends vol.1 cover

Representative works

“Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai” [aka Haganai, or “I Don’t Have Many Friends”] by Yomi Hirasaka is published by MF Bunko J. It is a hit work that has sold over 4 million copies.

The story is about a group of characters who are not good at human relations, who form a club to make friends, and play together despite repeated conflicts. The catchphrase was “regrettable adolescent romantic comedy,” and it was an innovative work that reflected the current situation where young people are struggling to build relationships.

It was characterized by a lot of somewhat vulgar vulgar jokes.

After this, more and more works were categorized as “disappointing youth romantic comedies.”

Reki Kawahara’s “Sword Art Online” was published by Dengeki Bunko and became a hit, selling over 2.3 million copies.

This is a book version of an online novel that has been serialized on the author’s website since 2002. The author won the grand prize of the 15th Dengeki Novel Award in 2008 with “Accel World”, which caught the attention of the editor and led to the commercialization of the work.

The story is set in an online game in the near future. The story is set in an online game in the near future, and depicts a death game where death in the game leads to death in real life.

Infinite Stratos vol.1 novel cover

In May, Yugen Izuru’s “IS [Infinite Stratos]” was published by MF Bunko J. It was a hit, selling over 1.35 million copies (at the time of the release of the 7th volume).

The main character is Ichika Orima, the only boy in the world who can pilot the ultimate weapon “IS,” which can only be piloted by women. He enters the IS Academy, a school for training IS pilots where only girls are allowed, and leads an extremely popular life where he spends his days battling as an IS pilot with the strongest attack power.

Crossing over from general literature

If a High School Baseball Girl Manager Reads Drucker’s Management book cover.

Natsumi Iwasaki’s “Moshi Koukou Yakyuu no Joshi Manager ga Drucker no ‘Management’ wo Yomoto Datara” (‘If a High School Baseball Girl Manager Reads Drucker’s ‘Management’) was published by Diamond Inc. and became a bestseller, selling over 2.55 million copies, and was made into a live-action movie and anime.

It is a general literary novel with a cover illustration of a beautiful girl with a touch of moe in the style of light novels. Gorgeous color illustrations are also inserted inside the book.

The story is about a high school girl who reads “Management”, a compilation of Drucker’s business administration, and applies it to her high school baseball team to make their activities stronger and aim for the Koshien Championship. The story was supported by a wide range of readers because it had material that could be accepted by the older generation, such as baseball, and also because it could be read as an introductory book on business administration with beautiful moe girls.

Some readers saw this work as a light novel, and it can be said that this work crossed the border from general literature to light novels and introduced new techniques.

Launch of a new label

In December, ASCII Media Works (Kadokawa Group), which owns Dengeki Bunko, launched “Media Works Bunko”.

This is a paperback for people who have graduated from light novels. It will publish works that are somewhere between general literature and light novels. The cover is an anime-style illustration in the style of light novels, although it has almost no moe elements, and there is one color illustration on the front cover. At the same time, the “Media Works Bunko Award” was newly established as a division of the Dengeki Novel Award starting with the 16th edition.

It is predicted that the number of teenage boys and girls, the main target of novels, will decrease due to the declining birthrate and non-marriage rate among young people. Poverty is also spreading among children (a new book titled “Kodomo no Hinkoku: Nihon no Inequity wo Kangaeru” was published in 2008).

Newcomer’s Award

Takarajimasha started the Light Novel Newcomer Award and the “Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi! Grand Prize.”

  • This award was created from the mook “Kono Light Novel ga Sugoi!”
  • The award-winning works will be published in “This Light Novel is Amazing! Bunko,” which was first published in 2010.
  • The inclusion of light novel-related website operators on the final selection committee was a novelty.
A History of Light Novels: The 1990s Tue, 27 Apr 2021 01:48:02 +0000 The following is an unofficial English translation of a Japanese article about the history of light novels by a group called the Light Novel Research Institute. It is presented here for educational and research purposes only. The original Japanese text can be found here. This is an edited machine translation, so some titles or names may be incorrect.

Summary of the 1990s

In the first half of the decade, we were in the midst of a fantasy bubble, but after “Sorcerer Orphen”, people began to get tired of the sword and sorcery otherworldly fantasy and gradually demanded new innovations.

The major turning point came in 1998, when “Boogie Pop Doesn’t Laugh”, “Full Metal Panic!” “Maria-sama ga mitaru” [“The Virgin Mary Is Watching” or “Maria Watches Over Us”] and other school hits were born.

Otherworldly fantasies continued to enjoy strong popularity, but as fantasy could no longer compete on its own, works that fused science fiction and fantasy or crossed over into other genres, such as school stories and science fiction, were created, and light novels became “anything goes.”

In 1998, the anime “Cardcaptor Sakura” was broadcasted, and the otaku term “moe” spread rapidly through the Internet. The term “boys’ love” was also born in the mid-1990s, and it can be said that otaku culture reached its peak of perfection in the latter half of the 1990s.

However, the popularity of TRPGs, which produced authors such as Ryo Mizuno of “Record of Lodoss War,” rapidly declined in the late 1990s. It was said that playing TRPGs as a GM (Game Master) was an effective way to train writers, so those who were interested should give it a try.

In the latter half of the 1990s, bishojo games that emphasized scenarios such as “To Heart” and “Kanon” were born and became hits. The rise of the bishojo game industry also had a strong impact on the world of novels, and in the 2000s, novels began to take the “moe” and “romantic comedy” route.

Table of Contents:

1990: The First Year of Light Novels

Surrounding circumstances that influenced it

Nifty redeems "NIFTY-Serve (Nifty Serve)" for a limited time as a 25th  anniversary content - GIGAZINE

A meeting room called the “Light Novel MeeHa Club” was created in the “SF Fantasy Forum” on the NIFTY-Serve PC communication service to discuss new types of novels. The name “light novel” was born. However, the name did not spread immediately, and in the book “How to Make a Character Novel” by Eiji Otsuka published in 2003, it was called “a novel like a Sneaker paperback”. [This is a reference to light novel publishing label Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko, not the shoes.]

The name “light novel” did not become popular until 2004, when many books related to light novels were released.

Representative works

Cover art of the first Slayers novel, featuring Lina Inverse. the main character.

“Slayers” by Hajime Kamisaka was published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko.

It was the winner of the first Fantasia Full-length Novel Award (second prize). After that, the series was produced for more than 20 years, and became a historical blockbuster that was made into a TV anime three times.

It is a work that combines gags that parody the fantasy world of “Dragon Quest” and “Record of Lodoss War”, but is presented as a serious story with a twist. The protagonist, Lina, is the strongest mage who has mastered magic at the age of 15, and also has an extreme personality as a beautiful girl who robs bandits of their money and goods.

Slayers is considered to be the originator of light novels and contains all the elements of a light novel. The only thing missing is the romantic comedy and moe elements, as although Lina is a beautiful girl, she is not seen as a woman by her party members. On the contrary, this has worked well, and Lina has become an independent female figure who is not dependent on men, which has made her popular among women and accepted by a wide range of people.

In addition, this work established the method of alternating the release of serious stories and short stories full of gags.

Trends in the novel industry

After the success of “Slayers”, the number of published novels exploded. As a result, publishers could not keep up with the number of illustrators needed, and began to order illustrations from anime creators, which led to the use of anime-style illustrations for covers. 

Launch of the label

Tairiku Shobo launched Tairiku Neo Fantasy Bunko. (~1992)

  • This label mainly focused on fantasy novels, but ceased to exist due to the bankruptcy of Tairiku Shobo in 1992.

Asahi Sonorama launched Pumpkin Bunko. (~1990)

  • It had a very short lifespan and was discontinued in the same year.

The Dawn of Akihabara, the City of Moe

Laox’s flasgship store.

A large six-story building specializing in computer-related products, Laox the Computer Store, opens in Akihabara.

Until the 80’s, Akihabara had been a town of home electronics for families, but this led to the opening of one computer-related shop after another, transforming it into a town for young male computer enthusiasts.

Naturally, PC software and games for PC enthusiasts also began to be sold, and with the rise of adults only bishojo games for PCs from around 1992, the town gradually began to transform into a town of otaku. PC enthusiasts were representative of otaku, and tended to like manga, anime, and games as well. For this reason, adults only bishojo (beautiful girl) games for PCs became the ultimate in otaku hobbies, featuring two-dimensional beautiful girls in anime pictures, unlike adult videos. As consumer electronics stopped selling, the town became a place for PC enthusiasts, which led to the creation of Akihabara, a world-famous mecca for otaku.


Representative works

Gokudo-kun Light Novel Cover

“Gokudo-kun Manyuuki” by Usagi Nakamura was published by Sneaker Bunko.

The protagonist, Gokudo-kun, is a character born from a column article in the computer game magazine “Comptiq”.

The story takes place in a medieval European fantasy world where the main character, Gokudo, is a self-centered villain who does whatever he wants, but ends up saving his country from a crisis. It was a comical story full of gags and beautiful girls.

Comptiq has also produced several other famous light novelists, including Ryo Mizuno (Record of Lodoss War) and Mishio Fukazawa (Fortune Quest).

Nakamura Usagi has since written manga and other works, but has quit writing light novels and is now active as an essayist. 

Launch of a label

Kodansha launched “Kodansha X Bunko White Heart”, a label for women that targets a higher age group than Kodansha X Bunko Teen’s Heart.

  • Mainly fantasy and boys’ love works.

Shogakukan launched “Palette Bunko”. (-2007)

  • This is a label for girls based on the novel magazine “Palette,” which had been published since 1988.
  • Its catchphrase was “Love you can buy at bookstores,” and it started out as a romance novel line, but switched to a boys’ love line midway through.
  • After its discontinuation, “Lulu Bunko” became its successor.

Shueisha launched “Super Fantasy Bunko”. (-2001)

  • In the previous year, fantasy RPGs were flourishing with the release of blockbuster games “Dragon Quest IV” and “Final Fantasy III”. Against this background, the company started as a label to publish fantasy light novels.
  • From the latter half of the 1990s, as the otherworldly fantasy fever cooled down, SF and mysteries also began to be published.

Influential historical background

The Soviet Union collapsed on December 25, 1945.

This marked the complete end of the Cold War that had been raging around the world since the end of World War II in 1945.

The Cold War was an ideological confrontation between “communism and socialism” with the Soviet Union as its allies and “capitalism and liberalism” with the U.S. as its allies, and after this, the world was stained with the colors of the victorious capitalism and liberalism.

In the world of light novels, the hit series “Full Metal Panic!” was set in a world in which the Soviet Union had not yet collapsed, but in the 2000s, the number of readers who did not know about the Soviet Union increased, causing problems, according to the author, Choji Gaito.


Appearance of works that cross the border into general literary fiction

Twelve Kingdoms - Novel Updates
Twelve Kingdoms novel cover.

The Chinese-set fantasy “Twelve Kingdoms” by Ayumi Ono was published by Kodansha X Bunko White Heart, and became so popular that it became the representative work of the label.

Despite being aimed at girls, it had no romantic elements at all, and depicted the harsh experiences and growth of a girl thrown into another world.

Later, in 2000, it was published in Kodansha’s paperback collection for the general public because it was suitable for the general public to read.

It was the first light novel to be reprinted as a general literary novel. This is the first time that a light novel is reprinted as a general literary novel, and writers who cross the border between light novels and general literature begin to appear.

Launch of a label

Kadokawa Shoten launches “Kadokawa Ruby Bunko”.

  • The term “BL” was not yet used at this time, and it was called “indulgence,” “june,” and “yaoi.” The term “BL” came into use in the late 1990s.
  • The term “BL” has been used since the late 90’s.

Shogakukan launched the “Super Quest Bunko” (~2001).

  • The label mainly focuses on novelizations of manga, anime, and games.
  • One of its main features was that it had novels based on tokusatsu (special effects TV programs), something that no other label had.

Influential historical background

The collapse of the bubble economy. The end of the myth of economic growth. Gradual recognition of the deterioration of the Japanese economy.

The collapse of the bubble economy in terms of data (economic trend index) is said to have started around November 1990.

However, at that time, people were optimistic that the economic downturn was only temporary.

The collapse of the bubble economy and the end of the Cold War were absolute values for Japanese people until then.

  • We’ll do our best to get richer!
  • Japan is a member of the U.S. camp, fighting against the evil communism!
  • Japan is a member of the American camp and fights against the evil communism!

This is called the “loss of the big story.”

The world has become overwhelmingly free, but it has created a situation where people are too free to know what to do and are unsure of themselves.

In the post-modern world after this, male otaku who lost their place in their hearts tried to gain self-approval by falling in love with two-dimensional beautiful girls, leading to the moe and romantic comedy boom. The movement to gain approval not from the state or society, but within a small community of family (sister), friends, and lovers is called “small stories.”

Trends in the Bishojo Game Industry

The game company ELF released its first 18-only romance adventure game, “Classmate,” which became a hit, selling over 100,000 copies.

It was a ground-breaking work that changed the nature of adults-only games, which until then had only adult scenes, into a love story.

The Fall of SF and the Influx of Talent

The Hayakawa SF Contest, an award for new SF novels run by Hayakawa Shobo’s SF Magazine, is suspended.

The popularity of SF novels began to decline in the late 1980s, and many SF magazines were forced to cease publication one after another.

Aspiring SF writers who had nowhere else to go sought out light novels as a place to publish their works. It can be said that light novels became even bigger by taking in the declining SF novels.

Princess of the Empire (Seikai no Monshou, #1) by Hiroyuki Morioka
Crest of the Stars Light Novel, Vol.1

Hiroyuki Morioka’s “The Crest of the Stars” (1996) is a successful light novel adaptation of a full-fledged SF novel.

The reason for the decline of science fiction is that the illusion that science and technology can take us to a dreamlike world has broken down in the age of advanced science, and the scientific studies and settings of science fiction have become so complicated that they are incomprehensible to all but science fiction enthusiasts.

1993 Birth of Dengeki Bunko

Launch of a label

Media Works launched “Dengeki Bunko”.

  • Dengeki Bunko entered the light novel industry for boys, which was dominated by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko and Sneaker Bunko, and with the number and diversity of its publications, it became the industry leader by the end of the 1990s after a fierce pursuit. Dengeki Bunko became the Shonen Jump of the romance world.

Shueisha launches “Jump j-Books”.

  • JUMP j-BOOKS is a new light novel label, not a bunko.
  • In addition to novelizing Shonen Jump manga, it also publishes novelizations of video games. It also has original novels.
  • The most famous author from this label is Otoichi, who later became a general literary writer.

Aspect launched the Logout Adventure Collection. (~1998)

  • It was a label based on the TRPG magazine “Logout”.
  • It mainly published novelized works of games such as “Wizardry” and “Ys.”
  • In 1997, it was renamed and renewed as Logout Bunko, but was discontinued the following year.
  • It was renamed Logout Bunko in 1997, but was discontinued the following year, and Famitsu Bunko became its successor.

Shogakukan launched “Canvas Bunko”. (~2000)

  • It was a label for girls.
  • Kay Shimojima’s “Feudal Demon” is a representative work. This work was succeeded by the successor label “Lulu Bunko”, which was launched in 2007, and the second part started.

The first publication of a romance magazine

Kadokawa Shoten launched the bimonthly light novel magazine “The Sneaker”. (~2011)

Character goods such as undershirts, posters, and figures were occasionally included in the magazine.

The magazine is the mother magazine of Sneaker Bunko, and started as an additional issue of the entertainment novel magazine “Wild Age” published by Kadokawa Shoten. The first issue featured Isao Hiura’s “Mirai Wandering Gardeen”. The cover illustration is of the main character of the story, Princess Corona “Muscle Girl” Flayer.

Unlike “Dragon Magazine,” the cover was illustrated in an anime style from the beginning. Unlike manga magazines, the cover of a light novel magazine is not a gravure idol in a swimsuit, but an anime-style illustration, which is the standard.

Below is the cover of the first issue. It’s hard to tell from this image, but in the upper right corner is written in small letters “Wild Age April issue extra issue”.

The Sneaker, 1993, Spring Edition

Representative works and trends in the light novel industry

Tenchi Muyo, Vol.1 Cover

Nahoko Hasegawa’s “Tenchi Muyo! The Ryo-Ohki” by Nahoko Hasegawa is published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko.

The work was designed from the beginning to be a media mix, with the OVA version released in 1992. Since then, it has been adapted not only for light novels but also for manga, games, radio dramas, and TV anime.

It is a pioneer in the light novel genre of bishoujo harem stories, in which a group of beautiful alien girls come to a high school boy’s life one after another, causing havoc.

The origins of the beauty girl harem story can be traced back to the 1988 manga “Oh My Goddess Sama”, for which Nahoko Hasegawa also wrote the script for the OVA version. If we go back further, we can find Rumiko Takahashi’s manga “Urusei Yatsura” (1978), and “Tenchi Muyo” is considered to have been influenced by “Urusei Yatsura”.

Akahori Satoru’s “Bakuretsu Hunter” [Sorcerer Hunter] was also published by Dengeki Bunko.

At the same time, a manga version [of Sorcerer Hunter] was published by Dengeki Comics, and in 1995, it was made into an anime, aiming to increase sales through media mix.

This was the beginning of the technique of not mixing hit works with media, but rather using media mixes to raise awareness of the work and push it to become a hit.

However, this method became less effective after “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” became a hit in 2003, probably due to the increase in the amount of entertainment content in circulation.


Representative works

Sorcerous Stabber Orphen Rogue Journey - Novel Updates
Orphen novel cover

“Sorcerer Orphen” [aka Sorcerous Stabber Orphen] by Teishin Akita was published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko.

It became one of Fujimi Fantasia’s representative works along with Slayers, and the total number of copies sold in the series reached 10 million.

The worldview is European, with magic, but the level of civilization is modern, with gas lights, running water, and firearms.

The setting of magic is also more elaborate than in the past, with human mages being able to use “voice magic,” which is a form of magic that uses the voice as a medium, and its effects only reach as far as the voice can reach. The dragon race can use a more powerful form of magic that is mediated by gaze and text.

The story has some gags, but it is more serious and heavy than Slayers.

Newcomer Award

Dengeki Bunko established the “Dengeki Game Novel Award” (renamed the Dengeki Novel Award in 2004).

  • The first grand prize winner was Hiroyuki Domon’s “Five Spirit Fighter Orchids”.

Launch of a label

Dengeki Game Bunko”, a sub-label of Dengeki Bunko, is launched.

  • It deals with novels based on games.

Trends in the Bishojo Game Industry

Tokimeki Memorial cover art

“Tokimeki Memorial”, a love simulation game for all ages, was released by Konami.

  • The game became explosively popular and sold out in many stores.
  • The structure of the game, in which multiple beautiful girls appear and the protagonist develops individual relationships with them, has been imported into light novels.

Trends in the game industry

The RPG “Final Fantasy VI” was released by Square (now Square Enix).

This is the sixth installment of the great fantasy RPG game series, which is one of the twin peaks of fantasy RPGs along with Dragon Quest.

From this work, Final Fantasy will no longer be an otherworldly fantasy of swords and sorcery, but a world with a mixture of mechanical civilization and magic. From the next game onward, the worldview will change to one that focuses more on science fiction elements than fantasy.

There was a tendency for people to be bored with the sword and sorcery fantasy, and to want to add a twist or something extra to it.

Approach of children’s literature to light novels

In 1994, the “Detective Yumemizu Seishiro no Jikenbo” (The Case Files of Detective Yumemizu Seishiro) series by juvenile author Hayamine Kaoru was launched.

It is a mystery for children in which a former university professor, who has no common sense or memory, solves the mystery of a case just by listening to the story. Not only the protagonist, but also the main characters such as the triplet sisters, their classmates, and the detectives are full of humanity, and the interaction between the characters with rich personalities is similar to that of a novel. The series was completed, but a second season has started with all new main characters except for Yumemizu.

Mr. Hayamine has also published a full-fledged mystery novel for adults, “Akai Yume Labyrinth,” under the name “Kaoru Yume.” Unlike the Seishiro series, this one is a work where people really do die, and even after the ending, you feel as if you are still wandering in a nightmare.

Added 2013/04/15 by Tsukisayu


Trends in the Anime Industry

Evangelion poster

The TV animation “Neon Genesis Evangelion” was broadcasted.

As a science fiction robot anime, it became a historic hit, second only to Gundam. It was picked up by newspapers, general discourse magazines, thought magazines, TV programs, and other media not normally associated with otaku content, and many books related to it were released, making it a social phenomenon and catapulting otaku content from the shadows into the realm of culture. As a result, otaku content, which had been in the shadows, has been catapulted into the cultural realm.

In his book, “What is Sekaikei? The Otaku History of Post Eva,” writer Ken Maejima describes the second half of the story as “Otaku literature” in which the main character Shinji Ikari’s self-conscious monologue and the many foreshadowings are abandoned in favor of depicting the inner lives of the characters. This latter part of the story caused controversy, but as a result, Eva became a mega-hit, which led to the rise of novels as a medium suitable for portraying the inner lives of the characters, and to the rise of school light novels. Eva was the beginning of an era in which stories about everyday boys and girls who are students were more popular than stories about heroes in a fantasy world.

Eva was a work that was received by both the second generation of otaku (the anime generation represented by Gundam) and the third generation of otaku (bishojo games and the Internet generation), and it is thought to have played a bridging role between the two.

After Eva, a genre called “Sekaikei” emerged, in which the personal relationships surrounding the main character are directly related to the state of the world, and “Suzumiya Haruhi Series” (published in 2003), one of the most popular light novel hits of the 2000s, also belongs to Sekaikei and is said to have been influenced by Eva.

The term “Sekaikei” was first coined on the website “Purunie Bookmark” in 2002, but it had already become outdated by then, with “Suzumiya Haruhi Series” being the critical point, and has since disappeared. In summary, Sekaikei is a passive machoism in which the weak protagonist is completely affirmed by the menhera [mentally unstable] girl who is responsible for the fate of the world, and is saved by becoming co-dependent with her. Critic Shuichiro Sarashina refers to Sekaikei as “the Eva that doesn’t get dumped by Asuka at the end.”

Representative works

“Time Leap: Tomorrow is Yesterday” by Kyoichiro Takahata was published by Media Works.

It was highly acclaimed as a science fiction novel about time travel, and was made into a live-action movie (released in 1997). This was the first live-action adaptation of a light novel. A paperback version is published by Dengeki Bunko in the same year.

Launch of a new label

Shinsei-sha launched “Gamest Zeta Bunko” (~1996).

It produced novelizations of the popular arcade game “Street Fighter 2” and other works, but its sales did not increase and it was discontinued the following year.

Trends in the manga industry

“Dragon Ball”, the flagship manga of Shonen Jump, ceased its serialization.

As a result, Shonen Jump, which had been the king of the manga world, entered an era of stagnation, and was overtaken in circulation by Weekly Shonen Magazine in the 48th issue of 1997.

In his book “Imagination in the Zero Age” (published in 2008), critic Tsuneharu Uno says that 1995 marked the beginning of a shift from “tournament battle/pyramid-type stories” to “card game/battle royale type stories.” “Dragon Ball” is a fighting manga in a world dominated by a single value, “combat power,” where those with low combat power can never beat those with high. However, in “One Piece,” the new flagship manga of Shonen Jump, which began serialization in 1997, shows how those who excel in one skill but have a fatal flaw (represented by those who have the ability of the devil’s fruit) combine strengths with each other to achieve their goals, and combat power is no longer the only factor that determines victory or defeat.

In other words, Yamcha can never beat Goku, but Usopp might be able to give Luffy a good fight or even win depending on how he fights. Not only power, but also different abilities and wisdom will become important factors in the future of manga.

Also, unlike “Dragon Ball,” which was supported by a single big story of protecting the earth, the characters in “One Piece” are adventuring of their own volition, deciding on different dreams and goals, which really reflects the worldview from the 2000s.

The idea that even if you are weak, you can beat a strong opponent depending on your compatibility and fighting style, and that even the strongest abilities have flaws, has been inherited by the hit light novel of the 2000s, “Toaru Majutsu no Index” (published in 2004).

Influential historical background

Microsoft released Windows 95, a personal computer OS.

  • This excellent OS led to the popularization of personal computers as the general public began to purchase them.
  • This led to the spread of the Internet, and 1995 is called the first year of the Internet.
  • In 1995, the first year of the Internet, writers began to use computers instead of word processors for their work.

The PHS (Personal Handyphone System) mobile voice communication service was launched, and the number of cell phone subscriptions exploded in 1995.

Aum Shinrikyo (Aum Shinrikyo) launches the sarin gas attack on the subway.

  • Aum Shinrikyō (Aum Shinrikyo) launched a Sarin gas attack on the subway, the largest terrorist attack in Japan, in which a large number of people were killed or injured by the poisonous gas Sarin.
  • After this incident, the image of religion as something fishy took root, and religious groups appearing in subculture works usually became dangerous groups.
  • After this incident, TV stations began to refrain from making occult programs such as psychic specials.

The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake strikes.

  • The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake strikes, and many novels, comics, movies, and dramas are produced based on the disaster.


Newcomer’s Award

Kadokawa Shoten begins accepting applications for its light novel newcomer award, the Sneaker Grand Prize.

  • Hitomi Fujimoto, Ryo Mizuno, Joji Iida, and Satoru Akahori served on the selection committee (until the 10th award).
  • The results were announced in the magazine The Sneaker, the parent magazine of Sneaker Bunko.
  • Since The Sneaker ceased publication in 2011, the results have been announced on the official website instead.
  • The winners of the first Gold Award were Tow Ubukata for “Black Season” and Akira Nanao for “God Crisis”.

Ubukata went on to win the Japan Science Fiction Award, the Yoshikawa Eiji Literary Newcomer Award, the Bookstore Award, the Northeast Literary Award, and was nominated for the 143rd Naoki Award. He is an author who transcends the boundaries of light novelists. He is said to have been particularly influenced by Baku Yumemakura and Kaoru Kurimoto.

The peak of the otherworldly fantasy boom

Slayers set a new record for the highest number of copies sold in a first printing with the 11th volume, “Crimson Delusion,” published in July. The author, Hajime Kamisaka, appeared on the list of the longest-selling authors from 1995 to 1999. According to one theory, the sales of Slayers alone were enough to support all the employees of Fujimi Shobo.

From the above, it can be said that the boom of other-worldly fantasy peaked around 1996, and although it temporarily revived with the appearance of “Ragnarok” in 1998, it declined after 1999, pushed down by school stories.

Later, the children’s fantasy “Harry Potter,” published in Japan in 1999, and the live-action “Lord of the Rings” movie, released in Japan in 2002, triggered what could be called a second fantasy boom among the general public who do not read light novels. At the same time, Kohei Katono’s “Boogie Pop Doesn’t Laugh” became a hit in 1998 and was highly acclaimed by general literary readers, and light novels began to be valued by the light novelist Otoichi, who won the 3rd Real Mystery Award in 2002. This led to the recognition of fantasy light novels such as “Kaze no Tairiku” [“The Weathering Continent”] (1988) and “Delphinia Senki” (1993), which can be appreciated by adults, and is thought to have led to the light novel boom after 2004.

Representative works

Hideyuki Furuhashi’s “Black Rod,” winner of the 2nd Dengeki Game Novel Award, was published.

It is characterized by a decadent worldview that fuses the occult and science fiction. It is said that this work was the beginning of the “anything goes” trend in light novels.

However, the fusion of fantasy and science fiction had already been done in “Vampire Hunter D” published in 1983, so it can be said to be a rediscovery of the technique.

Launch of a label

“Gamma Bunko” was launched by Takeshobo. (~1997)

  • Began producing manga works for Takeshobo’s manga magazine “Comic Gamma,” as well as novelizations for video games.
  • It was short-lived when Comic Gamma ceased publication.

Aspect launched “Famitsu Game Bunko”. (~1998)

  • The successor label to Logout Bunko. It deals with novelized game works and gamebooks.
  • In 1998, it was relaunched as “Famitsu Bunko”, which also published original novels.

Kadokawa Shoten launched “Kadokawa mini Bunko”. (-2000)

  • It was a small paperback label, half the size of a new book, and was mainly published at the low price of 200 yen per book. It dealt with gaiden stories of popular light novels.

Trends in the Bishojo Game Industry

Leaf, a PC game company, released “Shizuku”, a bishojo [beautiful girl] game for 18-and up.

This is a beautiful school girl game created based on the concept of creating an adult game using the method of the original novel game “Otokirigusa,” which was released on the Super Famicom in March, 1992. The format is closer to a novel than a game. It is a combination of a novel, illustrations, and sound, which broadens the range of expression. [This is the birth of what is today called Visual Novels.]

You read the text and follow the story, and when you choose an option that appears, the story develops and the ending changes accordingly.

The low production cost of this format made it easy for newcomers to enter the market, and it became the main stream of bishojo games.

The rise of novel-like games also had a major impact on light novels. Critic Hiroki Azuma points out that the readers of light novels overlapped with those who played bishojo games in novel game format.

Improving the status of otaku

Toshio Okada, the otaku king who founded the anime production company Gainax, holds a seminar on otaku culture at the University of Tokyo’s College of Liberal Arts in Japan. In the early 1990s, however, Japanese manga and anime culture began to be recognized overseas as cool, and with the success of Eva, there was a growing movement to market otaku content as Japanese culture. Toshio Okada took advantage of this background and worked to improve the social status of otaku. 

As personal computers began to spread, expectations grew that otaku would be the next leaders of the IT society, and the negative and positive images of otaku became mixed.

Trends in the video game industry

What the weird world of Pokémon can teach us about storytelling | Games |  The Guardian

Nintendo’s “Pokémon” was released on the Game Boy. A historical super-hit game software.

It was the first game to incorporate the fun of communication into computer games by allowing players to exchange monsters they had acquired with friends through a communication cable.

In October 1997, a novelization of the TV anime version, “Pocket Monsters: The Animation,” was published by Shogakukan Super Quest Bunko.

Pokémon was aimed at elementary school children and has been made into anime, manga, and picture books, but it has not been made into many light novels and has not had much influence on the history of light novels.


Trends in the world of Light Novels

In 1997, Dengeki Bunko published 77 titles and had 54 authors, nearly double the number of titles and authors published in the previous year. With this increase, Dengeki Bunko surpassed Fujimi Fantasia and Sneaker to take the top share of the industry.

However, there was still no work that could be called a signature work with outstanding name recognition, and in terms of name recognition, Dengeki Bunko had not yet reached the level of the two preceding labels.

Influential historical background

The beginning of the publishing recession.

From this year onward, publishing companies went bankrupt one after another, bookstores began to disappear from the streets, and the publishing industry’s market began to shrink.

There were cries of “young people are losing interest in the printed word.” Light novels began to attract attention as a way to get young people to read books.

Launch of a new label

Hakusensha launches “Hakusensha Hanamaru Bunko.

  • Hakusensha is a company that publishes girls’ manga magazines such as Hana to Yume, but Hanamaru Bunko is a label specializing in boys’ love.

Tokuma Shoten launched “Tokuma Chara Bunko”.

  • Tokuma Shoten launched “Tokuma Chara Bunko”, which deals with boys’ love light novels.

Media Works launched “Dengeki G’s Bunko”. (-2003)

  • A derivative label of Dengeki Bunko. It publishes novelizations of gal games for all ages, as well as novels aimed at bishoujo moe.

Representative works

Real Bout High School Light Novel Cover, Vol.1

In January, “Summoning Teacher Real Bout High School” by Reiji Saiga was published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko.

It is a unique combination of otherworldly fantasy, school story, and fighting action, and is a hit series that has sold over 2 million copies.

The main character is Keiichiro Nagumo, a high school teacher who is summoned to the other world as a demon god. He is 29 years old and boasts the strongest and most complete strength in the series. This work can be said to be the forerunner of the hit school story.

It had a hardcore style with almost no moe elements or romantic comedy elements (this is probably the reason why it did not become a big hit).

Newcomer’s Award

Kadokawa Shoten started the “Kadokawa Gakuen Novel Award”. (~2010)

  • The award-winning works were published by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko.
  • There was no selection committee system, and the judging was done by the Animation and Comic Division of Kadokawa Shoten.
  • It can be said that he was one of the first to read the current trend of school stories becoming popular.
  • In 2001, the Young Mystery and Horror Division was established, but it was closed in 2006, probably because light novels, mystery, and horror were incompatible.

Trends in the Anime Industry

GaoGaiGar poster

The last robot animation produced by Sunrise, “GaoGaiGar, the King of Heroes,” was broadcasted.

After this, the popularity of robot animation declined, and with the exception of the Gundam series, robot animation was rarely produced anymore.

The decline of robot anime and the rise of light novels proceeded at the same time, and perhaps because of this, although there are many light novels with science fiction elements, there are almost no works with giant robots, except for the novelization of Gundam.

(It is thought that this is partly because robot animation is not aimed at middle and high school students, but at elementary school students.)

In July, “Princess Mononoke,” a feature-length animated film by Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, was released. The film depicts the exploits of San, a girl called Princess Mononoke who is raised by wolves, and Ashitaka, a boy who is cursed by the goddess Tatari.

The protagonist is Ashitaka, and it is said that Hayao Miyazaki insisted on using a title named after Ashitaka, but for commercial reasons decided on Princess Mononoke. It is considered to be a symbolic event in which it was switched to a girl instead of a boy who became the signboard of the story and led the story.

Since then, more and more light novels have been written with the heroine’s name instead of the boy’s, such as “Shakugan no Shana” (published in 2002) and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” (published in 2003). 

A turning point in the game industry

According to the book “Bokutachi no Game Shi” (Our History of Games) written by narrative critic Sayawaka, the following changes took place in 1997, a year that marked a turning point in the game industry.

In 1997, the following changes occurred in the game industry:

  • The recording medium for game software switched from semiconductor ROM to optical ROM (from cartridges to CD-ROMs).
  • Image rendering technology shifted from 2D (two-dimensional) to 3D (three-dimensional).

These two factors greatly expanded the range of game expression, and games with cartoon-like characters moving around like animation began to emerge. A symbolic example of this was “Final Fantasy VII,” which was released that year on PlayStation. It was a game with 3D graphics recorded in optical ROM, different from the previous FF series.

Japanese games had always emphasized narrative, but this shift allowed for increasingly sophisticated narrative expression and increased affinity with manga and anime.

However, after peaking in this year, the sales of game software in Japan began to decline. In 2003, Nintendo president Satoshi Iwata said at the Tokyo Game Show, “The Japanese game market is moving away from games.

As narrative-driven games do not sell well overseas, Japanese game makers are forced to struggle both in Japan and overseas.

The decline in game sales can be attributed to the fact that games have become otaku content with a high affinity to manga and anime. Games like Nintendo’s Super Mario are easy for the general public to play, but with the hit of the 18-only bishojo game “To Heart” that year, bishojo characters and moe expressions are frequently used in games. This trend may have caused the general public to turn away from games.

The Birth of Akihabara, a City of Moe

The huge success of the TV anime Neon Genesis Evangelion led to an increase in demand for otaku-related industries, and stores specializing in garage kits and doujin manga began to appear in the prime locations of Akihabara. This year, the Eva fever was at its peak with the release of the Eva movie version. It is said that the economic impact of Eva was about 30 billion yen.

With the unprecedented sales of these stores in Akihabara, an avalanche of anime, game, manga, and other otaku-related industries gathered in Akihabara, and from 1998 onwards, stores specializing in game software, manga and anime goods, garage kits, trading cards, etc., began to move into Radio Kaikan one after another. These stores were originally close to the otaku hobby.

Originally, Akihabara had become a town of otaku, thanks to the concentration of young male computer enthusiasts with a high affinity for otaku hobbies, and the special demand for Eva.

1998 A shift to school stories

Representative works

Boogiepop Novel Cover

Kouhei Kadono’s “Boogie Pop Doesn’t Laugh” was published by Dengeki Bunko.

  • It won the “Grand Prize” at the 4th Dengeki Game Novel Awards. The series became a hit, selling over 4.2 million copies, and made the name of Dengeki Bunko famous.
  • It has also had a great influence on later authors such as Ishin Nishio, Kinoko Nasu, and Keiichi Shigurezawa.
  • It is a mixture of mystery, horror, and science fiction, and the story is told from several characters’ points of view. It is a masterpiece that is not only entertaining but also literary.
  • It was a turning point for light novels to move away from the traditional fantasy genre to the school genre.
9784086016315: マリア様がみてる フェアウェル ブーケ [Mariasama ga Miteru: Farewell Bouquet]  - AbeBooks - Oyuki Konno;: 4086016311
Maria is Watching Light Novel Cover

“Maria-sama ga mitaru” by Oyuki Konno was published by Cobalt Bunko.

  • It is a school story set in a Catholic mission school, Lillian School for Girls.
  • Although it is aimed at girls, it is a rare work that has garnered tremendous support from men.
  • It is not unusual for women to read light novels for boys, but the opposite is rarely the case.
  • It is thought that the yuri-like story of a young lady with a deep window and the sisterhood system called the “Soule System” by a female author hit a chord with men.
  • The greeting “Gokigen yo” in Lillian’s school became very famous and often appeared as a parody in her later works.
フルメタル・パニック! 1_戦うボーイ・ミーツ・ガール_フルメタル・パニック! (富士見ファンタジア文庫) | 賀東 招二 |本 | 通販 |  Amazon
Full Metal Panic Light Novel Cover

“Full Metal Panic!” by Shouji Gato is published by Fujimi Fantasia Bunko.

  • A boy meets girl story that mixes military, school, and science fiction elements. The series became a hit, selling more than 10 million copies in total.
  • A boy, a skilled mercenary who has grown up in a war zone overseas, transfers to a high school to protect a girl. However, because he doesn’t have Japanese common sense, he repeats insane actions such as blowing up a shoe box with a bomb, and is beaten up by the girl. The series is also famous for its Gundam-like robot weapons.
  • In 2011, a spin-out work “Full Metal Panic! Another” was published in 2011.

“Ragnarok” by Kentaro Yasui was published by Sneaker Bunko.

  • It won the Grand Prize at the 3rd Sneaker Awards.
  • It was the last otherworldly fantasy hit of the 90s, and it hadn’t been published since “Sorcerer Orphen.”
  • This is a battle action fantasy about Ragnarok, a sword that speaks, and Leroy, a skilled mercenary.
  • The mystery of Leroy’s origins is at the core of the story, but its most distinctive feature is the speed with which it depicts fighting, which is said to be which is said to be the best in the light novel world.

Trends and representative works in the romance world

Dengeki Bunko published “To Heart-Multi, Ganbarimasu! To Heart” was published by Dengeki Bunko.

  • “To Heart” is a hit 18-only bishojo game for the PC that was released in 1997.
  • It was the first time an 18-only bishojo game was rewritten and published for all ages.
  • From this time on, bishojo games began to emphasize story and characterization, and became more and more compatible with light novels.

The first publication of a light novel magazine

Media Works started publishing the light novel magazine “Dengeki hp”. (~2007)

  • It became the parent magazine of the “Dengeki hp Short Story Award” which started in 2000.
  • It also published the finalists of the Dengeki Novel Award, and produced authors such as Keiichi Shigurezawa of “Kino’s Journey” and Masaki Okayu of “Sumo Killer Angel Dokuro-chan”.

Launch of a label

Shinshokan launched “Shinshokan Wings Bunko”.

  • It was a label for girls.

Asahi Sonorama launched “Sonorama Bunko NEXT”. (-2000)

  • It had writers such as Hideyuki Kikuchi, but it was short-lived. The number of publications is also very small.

Trends in the animation industry

Cowboy Bebop Poster

In 1998, TV Tokyo aired “Cowboy Bebop,” a hard-boiled space opera about bounty hunters traveling on a spaceship in the solar system of 2071. In addition to the use of music rarely used in science fiction works, such as jazz, blues, rock, and techno, the comical interactions between the characters created a unique atmosphere.

The main characters include Spike, a former mafia member who is skilled with guns and martial arts, Jet, an ex-cop captain, Fay, an amnesiac heroine who woke up from a cold sleep, and Ed, a genius hacker with a boyish appearance. These are all characters that could be considered templates for later manga and light novels.

This work had a shocking ending in the last episode, but it was later made into a movie in 2001.

2013/04/13 by Tsuki Saeyu

Influential Historical Background

The annual number of suicides in Japan exceeds 30,000.

The number of suicides increased by about 8,000 from the previous year, and since then, the number of suicides has continued to stay at a high level of over 30,000 per year. In addition, the number of non-regular employment has been increasing since then, accounting for 25% of the total in 1999.


First publication of a label

Kadokawa Shoten launched “Kadokawa Teens Ruby Bunko”. (-2001)

  • A label for girls that targeted a younger age group than Ruby Bunko. It also published boy’s love-like works.
  • Kadokawa Beans Bunko became the successor label.

Newcomer Award

Enterbrain established the “Enterbrain Entame Award Novel Division” (originally called the “Famitsu Entertainment Award Novel Division”).

  • Award-winning works will be published by Famitsu Bunko.
  • Kazuki Sakuraba, who won an honorable mention in the first edition and later became a Naoki Prize winner, makes his debut.

Trends in the Bishojo Game Industry

Key, a PC game company, released “Kanon,” an 18-bit bishojo game.

  • The game was a big hit and became a media mix, as it incorporated “emotional” and “crying” elements into the scenario.
  • It became a big hit and was mixed with other media. It created a genre called “Crying Game”.
  • In 2009, an all-ages version of the novelization was published by VA Bunko.

Literary works that have had an influence on Light Novels

“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, the first book in the Harry Potter series by British author J.K. Rowling, was published by Seizansha. (Original language edition 1997).

“Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” is an international best-selling children’s book. A movie series was also made, and even adults were enthralled by its charm.

Harry, a bullied boy, receives an invitation to enter a magic school. Harry learns the secret of his birth and grows up in an unknown world, eventually confronting the evil wizard who killed his parents. That’s the story.

 he idea of living in a magic school seems to have influenced novels as well, and in the 2000s, works that mixed fantasy and school stories became popular.

Pioneering general literature of the times

Battle Royale English Novel Cover

The novel “Battle Royale” by Hiroharu Takami was published by Ota Shuppan.

It is a novel about junior high school students who are forced to participate in a murder game planned by the government and kill each other to survive. It was shortlisted for the 5th Japan Horror Novel Award, but the judges disapproved of it and it was not selected, but it was judged to be interesting and would sell well, so it was published.

This is a pioneer of the high-risk, high-return survivor stories, where the winner is guaranteed a lifetime of living, but everyone else dies. It is a work that reflects the social situation from the late 1990s, where people are forced to participate in the capitalist game from birth, and defeat means death or ruin.

From the 2000s, savvy stories became a hit in manga and bishojo games. These include the manga “Death Note” (2003), the bishojo game “Fate/stay night” (2004), and the manga “Mirai Nikki” (2006), a fusion of Sekaikei and Savage styles. In the world of manga, “Gambling Apocalypse: Kaiji”, a save-type story that depicts the violence of capitalism through gambling, was published as a book in 1996.

However, since cruelty and violence are inherent in survival stories, “Sword Art Online” (2009), which sanitized these elements with the world of online games, became a hit in the light novel genre, where lightness and fun are the main selling points.

Sister Moe Boom Arrives

“Sister Princess”, a reader-participation project, was launched in Dengeki G’s Magazine, a game and manga magazine published by Media Works.

It was an unexpected explosion of popularity, and was made into a manga, anime, game, and light novel.

In 2002, “Sister Princess Re-Pure Selection”, a novelization of the TV anime version, was published by Dengeki Bunko. It can be said that this is one of the works that illustrates the trend of the times towards “moe”.

Sister moe in light novels was imported from the bishojo game industry with “Sister Princess”, and then ignited with “Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai!” [My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!] published in 2008.

Influential historical background

The “Great Nostradamus Prophecy” that the human race would be destroyed failed to come true.

  • After this, occult content such as psychic powers, aliens, and psychic phenomena declined.

The otaku term “Chunibyou” was born. It is a slang term that makes fun of the self-conscious behavior of adolescent boys and girls. It refers to a situation in which a person yearns for mysterious abilities or believes that he or she is a reincarnated warrior from another world.

  • The term was coined by the radio program “UP’S Midnight Baka Power of Ijuin Hikari”.

The giant anonymous bulletin board site “2channel” is founded by Hiroyuki Nishimura.

A History of Light Novels: The 1980s Mon, 19 Apr 2021 14:00:00 +0000 The following is an unofficial English translation of a Japanese article about the history of light novels by a group called the Light Novel Research Institute. It is presented here for educational and research purposes only. The original Japanese text can be found here. This is an edited machine translation, so some titles or names may be incorrect.

Summary of the 1980s

The 1980s was a time when TRPGs, such as Dungeons & Dragons, and fantasy RPGs, such as Dragon Quest, exploded in popularity. Against this background, TRPG replay novels such as “Record of Lodoss War” and the masterpiece “Fortune Quest,” which adopted a game-like worldview, were born.

In the late 80’s, fantasy novels replaced science fiction novels, and from then until the late 90’s, light novels were all about otherworldly fantasy with swords and magic, entering what could be called a fantasy bubble.

Also, during this era, writers from anime scriptwriters and game magazines like “Comptiq” were used to create novels for middle and high school students. It was hard to secure writers, and publishers struggled to keep up with the growing demand for novels, forcing fast writers to use multiple pen names and publish more than two books a month, or asking male writers to write novels for girls.

Cobalt Bunko and Fujimi Fantasia Bunko were among the first to hold the Light Novel Newcomer Award, a gateway to success for newcomers, and to focus on discovering promising newcomers.

In the latter half of the 20th century, many labels for girls started up, perhaps following the success of Cobalt Bunko, but all of them ended up being short-lived except for Kodansha X Bunko Teen’s Heart. This shows how tough it is to succeed in the light novel industry, even in a booming economy.

Table of Contents:


First publication of a label

  • The publishing company Bunka Publishing Bureau launches the “Pocket Mates” label (~1982).
  • The label’s focus was the novelization of anime. This was probably a response to the success of the Gundam novelization.

Representative works

☆ Dirty Pair - bandai namco franchises .. Info | About | Wh
The Dirty Pair’s Great Adventure, Original Cover
  • The first book in the Dirty Pair series, “The Dirty Pair’s Great Adventure”, a science fiction adventure story by Takachiho Haruka, was published by Hayakawa Bunko JA.
  • The heroines are 19 years old, which is older than most modern (as of 2012) novels, and the image of the heroine is more sexy than moe.
  • This work shared the same worldview as “Crusher Joe,” which was also illustrated by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.

The Birth of Sister Moe

Miyuki Manga Cover

“Miyuki”, a manga by Mitsuru Adachi, was serialized in the shonen manga magazine “Shonen Big Comic”.

It is a coming-of-age love comedy that depicts a love triangle between the protagonist, his classmate Miyuki, a beautiful girl he admires, and his sister Miyuki, a non-blood related girl he has not seen in six years. The protagonist, who is now living alone with his younger sister Miyuki, becomes aware of her as the opposite sex and is troubled.

The protagonist is a mirror image of a sis-con man who eventually marries his non-blood related sister. 


Trends in the game industry

Wizardry I - Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord |
  • The first computer-based fantasy RPG, Wizardry, was released by Sir-Tech in the United States.
  • The concept of this game was to recreate the TRPG (Table Top RPG) game “Dungeons & Dragons” on the computer.
  • The Japanese version was released for the PC in 1985, and since then it has been so popular that it has become a series.  


First publication of several labels

Tokuma Shoten launches “Anime Bunko”. Abbreviated as AM Bunko (~1998)

  • The label was based on the anime boom and mainly focused on anime novelization, employing anime scriptwriters as writers.
  • It also novelized Hayao Miyazaki’s “Castle in the Sky” (1986/5) and “My Neighbor Totoro” (1988/4).
  • The company closed its doors in 1998 in favor of newer labels, but would return in July 2009.

Shueisha launches “Cobalt,” a bimonthly magazine for girls, which is a revival of the magazine “Shosetsu Junior”. It publishes novels for girls.

Kodansha launches “Kodansha Novels”. It is a new book label that mainly publishes mystery novels represented by Jiro Akagawa, but it later publishes novels classified as light novels, such as Kinoko Nasu’s “Kara no Kyoukai” (2004/6) and Ishin Nishio’s “Shojo Sufficient” (2011/9).

Representative works

Galactic Heroes Novel Cover

The “Legend of the Galactic Heroes” series of science fiction novels by Yoshiki Tanaka was launched.

The series has sold over 15 million copies in total and continues to be a super long seller as of 2012.

A space opera about a war between two major powers, the Galactic Empire and the Alliance of Free Planets, set in a far future universe, depicting the exploits of many heroes with the two main characters, Reinhard von Loengram and Yang Wenli, at the center.

The story is like a medieval tale in space, with Reinhardt, a war genius, overthrowing the corrupt Galactic Empire from within and usurping the throne. On the other hand, the story depicts the exploits of Yang, a wise general who is forced to fight against the Galactic Empire as a victim of dirty democratic politics, and the fatal battle between himself and Reinhardt.

The covers of the books were mainly depicting spaceships and weapons with a touch of anime. The illustrations were also few, and were cartoon-style illustrations with a realistic touch.

However, the content was too advanced for teenage boys and girls to read, with difficult themes such as “Which is better, a clean dictatorship or a corrupt democracy?” It required a certain level of education to enjoy the difficult themes of Machiavellianism, economics, and ironic black humor. The target age group is over 20 years old. It has been made into animated feature films and OVAs.

The characterization of Yang as a genius in strategy and tactics, but as a totally useless person with no selfishness other than that, has influenced later novels and anime such as “Irresponsible Captain Tyler” (a novella published in January 1989) and “Mobile Battleship Nadesico” (an anime broadcast in October 1996).

Demon City Shinjuku Original Cover

Hideyuki Kikuchi’s debut novel “Demon City Shinjuku” was published by Sonorama Bunko.

While set in the real world, it is a forerunner of modern urban fantasy with fantasy elements such as demons, strange phenomena, and mages in a modern setting.

The first book in Baku Yumemakura’s “Kimaira Kou” series, “Genjyū Shōnen Kimaira” [Beast Boy Chimera] is published by Sonorama Bunko.

This is a magnificent novel that depicts the strange fate of Taiho Roark, a weak and beautiful boy who has a body that turns into a chimera. It is a novel for late teens with “erotic” and “violent” elements, and is said to be the origin of the school genre.

Trends in the Bishojo Game Industry

  • The birth of bishojo games (eroge) for PCs.
  • The first bishojo game (eroge) for PCs was “Night Life” developed by Koei Microcomputer System (now Koei Tecmo Games).
  • Since then, bishojo games have had a close influence on light novels.

1983 Birth of the Term “Otaku”

Newcomer Award

Shueisha launches its first light novel newcomer award, the “Cobalt Novel Award”.

  • The final selection was announced in the spring 1983 issue of Cobalt magazine.
  • No work was selected, but an honorable mention was given to Yoshiko Hitotsugi (age 21), author of “For example, in my album when I was 19.” Also, the author of “Saint Vegetable Day”, Katayama Mitsuhisa (age 17), was a young woman, just like the target readership.
  • The proximity of the age groups of the new writers and the readers has been a trend seen in the light novel newcomer awards since then, and is one of the characteristics of novels.

Representative works

Vampire Hunter D Vol.1 - Japanese Edition by HIdeyuki Kikuchi, Saiko Takaki  | NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble®
Re-issue Novel Cover

Hideyuki Kikuchi’s “Vampire Hunter “D”” was published by Sonorama Bunko.

It is a vampire story set in the future, and features a world view where super-science, super-power, and demons are mixed together.

It was the first fusion of science fiction and fantasy, and had a great influence on later vampire stories.

As of 2012, the series is still being published and is an extremely long seller.

Trends in the gaming industry

  • The Japanese version of the TRPG “Starquest” was released, and the TRPG boom gradually accelerated.
  • The first home video game console, the Family Computer, was released by Nintendo on July 15, 1983.

Birth of the term “otaku”

The term “otaku” was coined after Akio Nakamori wrote a series of articles called “A Study of ‘Otaku'” in the bishojo comic magazine Manga Brikko, in which adult men who liked anime, manga, and other children’s content referred to each other by using the word “Otaku.” At the time, the term “otaku” was written in hiragana.


Representative works

Fairy Operation Original Cover

Yuichi Sasamoto’s “Fairy Operation” was published by Sonorama Bunko.

It is a royal “boy meets girl” story in which the main character, a high school boy, meets a beautiful girl with supernatural powers who is being chased by a mysterious supranational organization, and struggles to save her. It is characterized by a fast-paced writing style that mainly uses conversational text.

For these reasons, it has been called the “origin of light novels,” and the author himself calls himself “the oldest active light novelist.”

This work was reprinted by Sogen SF Bunko in 2011, and its charm has not faded even after nearly 30 years.

Launch of a label

Kodansha launched “Kodansha X Bunko” (~1987).

  • It was a label that published novelizations of manga and movies, as well as talent books, but it was short-lived.

Trends in the animation industry

Nausicaa Movie Poster

Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” was released.

The original manga work was serialized in Animage from the February 1982 to March 1994 issues.

It is immensely popular, and even in the 2010s, it has been rerun on TV, and each time it gets high ratings.

However, according to Kazuma Shinjo’s book “Light Novel “Cho” Nyumon” (April 2006), Hayao Miyazaki’s series of anime works have had very little influence on light novels, and the reasons for this are unknown.

In my opinion, the reason may be that the protagonists of Miyazaki’s works are feminine girls who fight. With few exceptions, the protagonists of shonen labels are boys. This is because male readers are less likely to get emotionally involved if the main character is a girl. The main character of the smash hit “Slayers” (1990) is a girl named Lina, but she is a man inside. However, the character of Nausicaa in “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” is infinitely feminine and resolves conflicts peacefully. Also, the heroine of Miyazaki’s anime “Castle in the Sky” (released in August 1986) is a weak and passive princess type, in contrast to the strong heroines of novels who get involved with the hero. This is not in line with the tastes of romance readers who want the girl to approach the hero.

In labels for girls, battles and wars are not depicted like in Nausicaa, and romance is the main focus. This is in contrast to Nausicaa, which is about war and has almost no romantic elements.

Miyazaki’s works may have had little influence because they did not match the tastes of light novel readers.

The reason for the lack of influence in the area of illustration is that Miyazaki’s animations were too famous and his designs were too unique to be copied poorly.

Roman's Movie Reviews and Musings: Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer  (1984)
Beautiful Dreamer Movie Poster

The second original feature film version of Rumiko Takahashi’s manga “Urusei Yatsura”, “Urusei Yatsura 2: Beautiful Dreamer”, was released on February 11 at Toho. The script was written by Oshii Mamoru.

It is a pioneering work in the time-loop genre where the day before the school festival is repeated.

Originally, “Urusei Yatsura” was a work that depicted a maternal utopia where the characters do not age forever, in contrast to the paternalistic robot anime that was popular from the 70s to the early 90s. The heroine Lum’s desire to keep her loved ones and happy days locked away forever creates a closed space-time, from which the hero tries to escape.

In contrast to Miyazaki’s anime, which has had little influence on light novels, this one has had a great influence. The structure of time looping became popular in bishojo games in the 2000s, and was also used in novels such as “Suzumiya Haruhi Series” (published in 2003) and “All you need is kill” (published in 2004).


Trends in the novel industry

“Dirty Pair” was made into a TV anime by Sunrise Japan (now Sunrise).

This was the first TV anime adaptation of a light novel.

This work was made into an OVA in the same year, and a movie version was released in 1987. In 1987, a theatrical version was released, and the work was made into a video game, creating a media mix that led to a boom.

Kadokawa Shoten launched the anime magazine “Monthly Newtype” (aka Newtype).

Cover of the First Issue of Newtype Magazine
  • It is a general culture magazine that includes information on music and live-action movies in addition to anime, as well as manga and light novels.
  • Gaia Gear” (April 1987 to December 1991), a Gundam novel written by Mobile Suit Gundam director Yoshiyuki Tomino, was serialized and published as a book by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko, which was later established.
  • The first issue featured the sequel to Gundam, Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, which was broadcasted from that year. The name of the magazine is also derived from the concept of Newtype, a new species that appears in Gundam.

The following is the cover image of the first issue. It is decorated with a close-up of Gundam MK-II.

Trends in the Manga Industry

Saint Seiya Manga Cover

In December, Masami Kurumada’s “Saint Seiya” begins serialization in Shonen Jump.

Based on Greek mythology, the story of two beautiful boys fighting each other wearing armor with special abilities has attracted not only boys but also girls, causing a boom in “yaoi doujinshi”, a genre that became the foundation for the rise of doujin anthology comics and BL in the 1990s.

It was also popular in China, and turned many women on to BL, leading to the birth of Fujoshi (腐女子, lit. “spoiled girl”) culture in China.

The concept of this work influenced the debut work “Tenku Senki Surato” [Legend of Heavenly Sphere Shurato] by Satoru Akahori, who created the “battlesuit” genre and is considered to be one of the founders of light novels.


Influential Circumstances

Comptiq - Video Game Magazines - Retromags Community
First Issue of Comptiq Magzine

The computer game magazine “Comptiq” published a replay of a “Dungeons & Dragons” campaign session, “Record of Lodoss War”, as an article introducing TRPGs. A replay was a record of a conversation between a game master and a player to introduce TRPGs, but it came to be enjoyed as reading material because of the various devices, direction, and editing that were used to make the content more interesting.

Representative works

First Edition Cover

In March, “Digital Devil Story: Goddess Reincarnation”, a bizarre SF novel by Aya Nishitani, was published by Animage Bunko.

The story is about a boy who is a genius programmer who summons a demon from his computer, and the people who are the reincarnation of the gods of Japanese mythology who fight against it. The story is dark and irredeemable, and is said to be the origin of dark light novels.

The series has sold over 800,000 copies in total. It has been made into a game as “Megami Tensei Series”, and the game series has been released in the 2010s. In addition to the Shin Megami Tensei series, it has influenced many other games such as Persona, Devil Summoner, Digital Devil Saga and Devil Survivor.

Trends in the gaming industry

Dragon Quest Box Art

“Dragon Quest”, the first fantasy RPG for the family computer, was released and became a huge hit. It is an orthodox mythological story in which a brave hero rescues a princess kidnapped by the Dragon King, the master of demons, and defeats the Dragon King.

This led to a fantasy boom.

“Dragon Quest” was also made into a novel by Enix in 1989, and became the forerunner of game novelization. There are hardcover and paperback editions.


First publication of a label

Kodansha launched “Kodansha X Bunko Teen’s Heart” (~2006).

  • A light novel label for girls, targeting middle and high school students, a slightly younger age group than Cobalt Bunko.
  • The spine was pink, and the cover featured a gorgeous illustration by a shoujo manga artist, which was designed with the subscriber base in mind.
  • The representative author was Aiko Hanai, who participated in the planning of the first issue. She was the “Queen of Girls Novels” who used three different pen names and published two books a month at a high pace.
  • She became popular for her easy-to-understand stories filled with a girl’s dreams, and for her style that emphasized readability with many line breaks and margins on the bottom half of the page, laying the foundation for the modern light novel.

Trends in the Manga Industry

Pin on JoJo's Bizarre Adventure Covers
Jojo’s Bizzare Adventure Manga Collection Cover, Vol.1

“JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” by Hirohiko Araki began serialization in Shonen Jump.

The first part depicts the confrontation between Dio, who has turned into a vampire, and JoJo, the head of the Joestar family, who has acquired the ability of ripple to fight the vampire. The second part depicts the battle against a transcendent race that surpasses vampires.

However, from the third part in 1989, the story shifts to a battle of different abilities using stands (yūwamon), which are guardian spirit-like beings with their own unique psychic abilities. Stand battles have rules based on the nature of the stands, and tactics are required to find out the abilities of the enemy’s stands, counteract their strengths, and exploit their weaknesses.

  • This is the forerunner of the “card game/battle royale type stories” that would flourish from the late 1990s.
  • JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure” was groundbreaking in that it avoided the inflation of combat power and gave the characters abilities directly related to their personalities.
  • The lineage of different ability battles would later give birth to the hit light novel of the 2000s, “Toaru Majutsu no Index” (published in 2004).
  • (It is also said that the originator of the different ability battle is Masami Kurumada’s ninja manga “Fuuma no Kojiro” (1982).)

The first novelization of a game

Dragon Buster original novel cover

In January, the game novelization “Dragon Buster” by Motohiko Izawa was published by Kadokawa Bunko.

Based on an action game for Namco’s arcades that came out in January 1985. It was later ported to the Famicom in January 1987.

The novel version is about Clovis, a master swordsman, who goes to Dragon Mountain to save Princess Celia, who was kidnapped by the Dragon People on the anniversary of the establishment of the Kingdom of Lawrence. It was a royal mythology-style story.

This is considered to be the first novelization of the game. The novel was very high quality.

Trends in the game industry

Ys II Box Shot for NES - GameFAQs
Ys II RPG Box Cover

The PC game software company Nihon Falcom released the fantasy action RPG “Ys”.

This is the first installment of a very popular series that has become Falcom’s signature work, and the latest installment is still being released in the 2010s.

Lilia, the heroine of the sequel “Ys II” released in 1988, is known as the first character-based heroine in the history of PC RPGs. Lilia became so popular that a contest to find the image girl of “Lilia” called Miss Lilia Contest was held at Falcom Festival ’90 held at Shinjuku Lumine ACT on March 26, 1990. In “Ys II”, the emphasis was also placed on romance with beautiful girls, and the main character, Adol, had a loving relationship with the goddess Fina in addition to Lilia. It was one of the first games to introduce moe elements into fantasy and pioneered the moe genre.

Final Fantasy 1 Box Art

In December of the same year, “Final Fantasy”, one of Japan’s most popular fantasy RPGs, was released by Square (now Square Enix). The second game in the series, “Final Fantasy II,” was released at the end of the following year, and the novel version, “Final Fantasy 2: Labyrinth of Dreamers,” was published by Sneaker Bunko in 1989.

The first Final Fantasy game book was published by Keibunsha Adventure Hero Books in December 1987 under the title “Final Fantasy: Crystal Inheritance Legend”. The story is set in a time before the game version, and leads up to the main game.

1988 Birth of a Label for Boys

First publication of a label

In September, Kadokawa Shoten launches “Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko”, which includes writers such as Yoshiyuki Tomino of the “Gundam Series”, Yusa Watanabe of “Heavy Metal L-gaim”, and Yukihiro Tomita of the “Macross Series”.

Fujimi Shobo launched “Fujimi Fantasia Bunko”.

Shakunetsu no Ryuukihei (Light Novel) Manga | Anime-Planet
Red Hot Dragoon Novel Cover

The first work published was “Red Hot Dragoon,” a science fiction novel by Yoshiki Tanaka, famous for “Legend of the Galactic Heroes.”

The Fantasia Full-length Novel Award (now the Fantasia Award) is launched.

The first monthly light novel magazine, Dragon Magazine (DM), begins publication.

In the early days of publication, there were many articles related to idols, and the ratio of novels to articles was about 50-50, with idols wearing cosplay on the cover. Below is the cover image of the first issue. After that, the cover was changed to an anime-style illustration, similar to the cover of a light novel style book.

Dragon Magazine

Keibunsha launches “Geibunsha Bunko Cosmo Teens”. (-89)

  • It was a label for girls, but it was discontinued the following year. 

Shogakukan published Palette, a quarterly magazine of novels for girls.

  • The catchphrase was “A magazine of love stories for cute girls.

Representative works

Record of Lodoss War - Novel Updates
Record of Lodoss War Novel Cover

Ryo Mizuno published the first novel “Record of Lodoss War: The Gray Witch” from Sneaker Bunko (strictly speaking, Kadokawa Bunko, as this was published before Sneaker Bunko’s inauguration), which was based on a TRPG replay. It was a big hit and became a series. This was the start of the fantasy novel boom. 

“Record of Lodoss War” became so popular that it was ranked in the top five in paperback sales until the late 1990s. This was followed by a TV anime in April 1998.

Ryo Mizuno (along with Hajime Kamisaka (Slayers) and Satoru Akahori (Sorcerer Hunter) is the founder of the light novel genre and one of the biggest sellers of the 1990s. The three of them are sometimes referred to as the “Three Gods of Creation.”

“Ys: The Lost Kingdom”, a novelization of Nihon Falcom’s popular fantasy action RPG “Ys”, was published by Kadokawa Bunko (before the launch of Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko). The author is Yoh Tobihino, who made his debut with this work.

  • This work was a pioneer in game novelization.
  • However, the novel version of Ys is known as a completely different work that ignores the original work, and is regarded as black history among fans.

Trends in the manga industry

Bastard! Vol.5 Collection Cover
  • The fantasy manga by Kazushi Hagiwara, “BASTARD! -The God of Dark Destruction” began serialization in Shonen Jump.
  • In 1987, the reading version “WIZARD!!!” was published as a manga with a world view that pays homage to fantasy RPGs. ~The Conqueror of Explosive Flames” was first published in 1987. The monthly anime magazine Newtype (May 1988 issue) introduced this work, the third in the series, in the “Takaru Saki’s Guide to Easy Manga” section. According to the article, it was rare for a fantasy manga to be serialized in a major shonen magazine, and it was pointed out that the boom of fantasy RPGs such as “Dragon Quest,” “Wizardry,” and “Ultima” created a groundwork for the acceptance of stories with this kind of world view. There had been fantasy manga before, but they were the hobby of the artists, and this work was born out of the demands of the times.
  • The birth of “Record of Lodoss War” coincided with the arrival of a fantasy boom in the manga world.
  • The 1990 hit light novel “Slayers” is also thought to have been influenced by this work. Both novels feature attack magic powerful enough to annihilate a dragon with a single blow. The protagonist is the strongest wizard with a boisterous personality. The story is a mixture of seriousness and gags, and the world setting is surprisingly detailed.

1989 First Year of the Heisei Era

Representative Works

Manga: Fortune Quest
Fortune Question vol. 1 Novel Cover

“Fortune Quest”, a fantasy light novel by Mishio Fukazawa, was published by Sneaker Bunko.

It features a game-like world where each character has a set level, and as they defeat monsters, they accumulate experience to level up. The protagonist is a 16-year-old girl who is a fledgling adventurer, and she is a realistic character with no special abilities.

An author who had a great impact on otaku culture

Satoru Akahori, an anime scriptwriter, made his debut as a light novelist with the novelization of “Tenku Senki Shurato” from Enix Bunko. Since then, he has been actively involved in media mix strategies, such as adapting the novels he wrote into anime, and has become one of the leading subcultures of the 1990s.

His novels are characterized by the extensive use of onomatopoeic sounds in manga and anime, and by the use of line breaks to create spaces on the page. He was ridiculed by people saying, “The bottom half of the page can be used as a notepad.” According to Akahori’s book, “Otaku Seikin,” his aim was to attract people who don’t usually read books.

Launch of a label

ENIX launched “Enix Bunko” (-1997)

  • Led the way with gamebooks such as the Dragon Quest series.
  • ENIX launched “Enix Bunko” (-1997), a leading publisher of gamebooks such as the Dragon Quest series, and also focused on novelizing anime, with few original novels.

Gakken launched “Lemon Bunko” (-1996).

  • It was a label that published novels for girls, and its representative author was Natsuko Mori, who became famous for her “Ojousama series”.
  • However, the series was abruptly discontinued when Lemon Bunko withdrew from the market.
  • After that, Natsuko Mori moved on to general literature, but she said, “I didn’t graduate from the light novel world, I was thrown out. I didn’t abandon light novels, but light novels abandoned me.”

Futabasha launched “Ichigo Bunko Teen’s Mate” (-1990).

  • It was a label for girls.

MOE Publishing launched “MOE Bunko Sweetheart” (-1991).

  • It was a label for girls, and put a lot of effort into discovering new writers, but sales did not increase and the publication was discontinued after two years.
  • MOE has nothing to do with the otaku term “moe”. The term “moe” was not yet widely used at that time.

Newcomer’s Award

Shogakukan holds the “Palette Novel Award,” a newcomer award for light novels for girls.

  • Author Takashi Kitajima is a member of the selection committee.

Incidents that cast a large shadow on otaku culture


Miyazaki Tsutomu, the perpetrator of the Tokyo-Saitama serial kidnapping and murderer of young girls (1988-1989), is arrested.

A bizarre murder case that left its mark in the history of crime in which young girls were the victims. The murderer attracted the attention of the whole country with his unusual behavior, such as sending a statement of his crime to a newspaper and sending the remains of the victim to her family.

In addition, Tsutomu Miyazaki was a pedophile and a horror fanatic, which led to the bashing of otaku with the same hobby. This led to the image of “otaku” = “pre-criminal” and “otaku” = “Tsutomu Miyazaki”, and it is said that the media who went to the Comic Market to cover the event reported that “there are 100,000 Tsutomu Miyazaki’s here”.

This gave momentum to the “media effect theory” that otaku content has a negative impact on human beings, and led to the movement to restrict harmful comics.

The effects of the Miyazaki incident lingered for a long time afterwards, and in the light novel “Ore no Imouto ga Konnani Kawaii Wake ga Nai” [My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute!] published in 2008, the otaku heroine Kirino, who loves bishojo games featuring younger sisters, is tormented by this prejudice.

However, perhaps because light novels were completely unrecognized at this time, and because they were in the form of novels, they were not the target of bashing.

A History of Light Novels: The 1970s Mon, 12 Apr 2021 12:00:00 +0000 The following is an unofficial English translation of a Japanese article about the history of light novels by a group called the Light Novel Research Institute. It is presented here for educational and research purposes only. The original Japanese text can be found here. This is an edited machine translation, so some titles or names may be incorrect.

Summary of the 1970s

Japan was in the midst of a period of high economic growth, when industrialization was advancing and there was a dream that science and technology would lead us to a wonderful future. Against this background, science fiction and robot animations such as “Space Battleship Yamato” and “Mobile Suit Gundam” were created and became popular.

As symbolized by the word “post-war,” the subculture of this era strongly reflects the memories of World War II, and “Space Battleship Yamato” is said to be the story of Japan’s victory in World War II. The Principality of Zeon in “Mobile Suit Gundam” is modeled after Nazi Germany.

Early novels started out as science fiction novels or novelizations of science fiction anime, using paperback books as a medium that could be picked up by boys and girls.

In addition, fantasy novels imported from overseas such as “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Wizard of Earthsea” became hits, leading to the later fantasy boom.

Table of Contents:


First publication of the label Hayakawa Shobo launched Hayakawa SF Bunko (now Hayakawa Bunko SF) in August 1970.

  • It mainly translated and published SF novels from overseas.
  • Since then, several sub-labels have been launched under the name “Hayakawa Bunko XX” (with some exceptions). As a unified name, it is called Hayakawa Bunko.
  • Hayakawa Bunko is primarily a label for science fiction and mystery novels, but it also handles essays, manga, and romance for women.
  • It will also publish some works classified as light novels.


Representative works

Super Revolutionary Jr. High School Group Book Cover

Kazumasa Hirai’s “Super Revolutionary Junior High School Group” was published by Sun Young (Asahi Sonorama).

In this slapstick comedy, six junior high school boys are kidnapped by aliens, given super powers, and ordered to use them for the sake of world peace. At the same time, Go Nagai was serializing the popular manga “Harenchi Gakuen” [Shameless School] in Shonen Jump, which was considered a problem by the PTA [of the time for its nudity and scandalous behaving students].

Based on the above, Nozomu Omori’s book, “Light Novel Mekutekiri!” which was published in 2004, refers to this work as the first light novel.

Wolf Guy Book Covers

Kazumasa Hirai’s “Wolf Guy” series, “Wolf’s Crest,” is published by Hayakawa SF Library.

The story features Akira Inugami, a werewolf junior high school student who displays immortal powers when the full moon approaches. His power is targeted by the intelligence agencies of various countries to create enhanced humans, and the story is very much like a shonen manga.

The original manga was also written by Kazumasa Hirai, and was serialized in the manga magazine “Weekly Bokura Magazine” (Kodansha) from issue #43 in 1970 to issue #23 in 1971. It can be considered the first manga novelization.

Kazumasa Hirai is the original author of the manga “8-Man” (serialized in Weekly Shonen Magazine since May 1963), and he’s also in charge of the script for the TV anime version. This makes him the first writer who was able to write a novel with the feel of a manga or anime, and can be considered the origin of light novel writers.

1972: The Advent of the Fantasy Novel

Representative works

Lord of the Rings Japanese Edition

The Lord of the Rings, a high fantasy novel by J. R. R. Tolkien, was translated by Seiji Seta and published in Japanese by Hyoronsha between 1972 and 1975. Six volumes. (Original language edition 1954)

The Lord of the Rings is considered to be the originator of otherworldly fantasy novels, and had a tremendous influence on later works. It sparked the fantasy boom.

The story is said to be the result of an exploration of linguistics, religion, fairy tales, Norse mythology, and Celtic mythology.

Trends in the animation industry

Mazinger Z, Vol.1

On December 3, “Mazinger Z,” the original super robot anime in which the main character gets in and controls the robot, was broadcast.

It had a great influence on subsequent works and triggered a robot animation boom.

Based on Go Nagai’s manga that was serialized in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine from October of the same year, Mazinger Z became a media mix success in collaboration with toy manufacturers.

There is an interpretation that the robot anime is a metaphor for the mainland battle that failed in World War II, because the main character’s organization claims to protect the earth, but the members of the organization are exclusively Japanese, and the enemy attacks only the city where the main character is located. Critic Hiroki Azuma sees this as a reconstruction of Japan’s identity in response to the cultural invasion of the United States.

The Birth of “Moe”

Triton of the Sea Vol.1

In April, “Triton of the Sea,” an anime based on Osamu Tezuka’s manga, was aired.

Female fans of the anime voluntarily formed a fan club called “TRITON”, which published a newsletter and held regular meetings. This is the first time in history that anime fans have formed a fan club. The main character, a beautiful boy named Triton, became an idol for the female fans. Some female fans even went so far as to chase the voice actor who played Triton.

At this moment, the phenomenon of “moe” was born, where people fell in love with the characters in anime, just like celebrities and idols, and became enthusiastic about their words and actions.

Moe was born as women fell in love with the “beautiful boys” and “beautiful girls” of manga and anime, and spread to men with the romantic comedy boom of the 1980s.

The first use of idol photos in manga magazines

The manga magazine “Shonen Magazine” used a photo of the idol Saori Minami on its cover.

This led to an increase in the number of copies sold, and manga magazines began to use pictures of female idols on their covers, which had nothing to do with the content of the magazine, and eventually it became standard to have a swimsuit gal on the cover.

The fact that sales were largely determined not by the quality of the manga, but by whether or not the cover was a girl in a swimsuit, was a huge shock to manga editors.

The covers of light novels for boys, with their large anime drawings of girls, were a precursor of this trend. The process of changing from mere mug shots to swimsuits coincided with the drastic increase in the level of moe on the covers of novels since the early 2000s.

1973 The Birth of Paperback Novels for Junior High and High School Students

First publication of a label

The first edition of Akimoto Bunko, an entertainment novel for junior high and high school students, is published by Akimoto Shobo. (~1986)

At the time, there was a boom in paperback books, and paperbacks, which were cheaper than hardcovers, were gaining popularity. Against this backdrop, inexpensive paperbacks were chosen as the medium for novels for junior high and high school students, which they could buy with their pocket money.

The Akimoto Junior series, published from around 1955, was the mother of these paperbacks, which were mainly novels for girls that dealt with humor and youth.

Trends in the manga industry

Osamu Tezuka’s manga “Black Jack” was serialized in “Weekly Shonen Champion” (~1978).

Tezuka grew up in Takarazuka City, where the Takarazuka Revue is located, and his mother was a big Takarazuka fan, so he was taken to Takarazuka plays many times from an early age and became a fan himself. This led him to think of characters as actors, and he invented the “Star System,” in which characters from past works appear in other works.

Black Jack is the culmination of the Star System, with guest characters such as Atom from Astro Boy, Sapphire from Princess Knight, and Melmo from Fushigi na Melmo. In the secondary works represented by comics, the characters from the original works are depicted in a different worldview and in a different story, but it was Osamu Tezuka who established the independence of these characters from the story and their independence.

Light novels, also known as character novels, are created so that the characters leave a lasting impression rather than the story, and this origin can be considered to be Tezuka’s star system.

1974 Birth of the TRPG

Trends in the game industry

D&D Game Book Covers. (l>r) Monster Manual, Dungeon Masters Book, Players Book

TRPG (Table Top RPG) was born.

TRPG is an “interactive” role-playing game (RPG) played with paper, pencils, dice, etc., under the moderatorship of a GM (Game Master) who acts as a judge, with players talking to each other and following the rules.

The first RPG was “Dungeons and Dragons” (abbreviated as D&D) created by Gary Gygax in the US. It was inspired by “The Lord of the Rings”, where a party of warriors and wizards explore a labyrinth where demons lurk to obtain treasures.

As a result, the image of RPGs as medieval European-style fantasy took root.

The Japanese version of “Dungeons and Dragons” was released in 1985.

1975 Birth of Comiket

First publication of a label

Asahi Sonorama launched “Sonorama Bunko” (- end of September 2007).

Yamato Light Novel Book Cover
  • In the beginning, many of the works were SF.
  • The memorable first volume to be released was “Space Battleship Yamato” (broadcasted as a TV anime the previous year), published on November 10. It was the first novelization of an anime.
  • Space Battleship Yamato is the culmination of Japanese identity, and the Comet Empire in the second film version of the anime is based on the negative aspects of America, and Yamato launches a kamikaze suicide attack on the Comet Empire’s super battleship at the end.
  • Sonorama Bunko has since produced novelizations of anime works such as “Ideon” (broadcast in May 1980), “Space Warrior Baldios” (broadcast in June 1980), and “Science Ninja Team Gatchaman” (OVA novelization released in 1994). At the time, the novel version of anime was Sonorama Bunko.

Trends in the Doujin Industry

On December 21, the first Comic Market (Comiket) was held in Toranomon, Tokyo, with 32 participating circles and about 700 participants. Otaku culture begins to sprout.

The birth of cosplay culture

Cosplay, the practice of dressing up as manga and anime characters at science fiction conventions and coterie magazine sales, begins to become more common. The “masquerade,” a skit where people dress up as characters from anime and manga and re-enact scenes from the original works, was introduced to Japan at an American science fiction convention, and became widespread.

Although cosplay is part of otaku culture, the majority of cosplayers are women. The popularity of cosplay was greatly increased by the hit manga “Urusei Yatsura” (1978) and the anime “Mobile Suit Gundam” (1979).

However, cosplay can easily become a source of trouble, as the bikini-clad heroine of “Urusei Yatsura”, Lum, became the subject of complaints from neighbors, and handmade swords caused trouble, and the history of manners and rules to protect cosplay culture continues.

Trends in the Anime Industry

Yusha Raideen

On April 4, the robot anime “Yuusha Raideen” directed by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Tadao Nagahama was broadcast.

In this work, which was created to “surpass Mazinger Z,” the original Shakin, a beautiful villain, made his appearance. The evil prince with beautiful eyes attracted a large number of female fans, and a “Raideen Fan Club Mutron” was created, where participation was restricted to female junior and senior high school students and boys were not allowed, and the number of members exceeded 1,000 at its peak.

1976 Birth of a Label for Girls

Launch of a label

In May 1976, Shueisha launched “Cobalt Bunko”, a label for girls.

  • It began as a paperback edition of works published in “Shosetsu Junior,” a magazine for young readers.
  • Since then, it has become the largest light novel label for girls, boasting unrivaled popularity.
  • Cobalt Bunko is more of a general literature label, and there are many authors who debuted with Cobalt and moved on to general literature, such as Megumi Tadakawa, Fumio Yamamoto, Shinobu Suga, and Yoko Shimamura.
  • On the other hand, labels for boys have a higher affinity with manga, anime, and games than with general literature.

Representative works

The Japanese translation of “The Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. Le Guin, translated by Masako Shimizu, was published by Iwanami Shoten. (Original language version published in 1968)

The boom in otherworldly fantasy novels gradually begins.

1977 The Birth of Manga-Animation Realism

Representative works

Crusher Joe Vol. 1 Cover

“Crusher Joe”, a science fiction novel by Haruka Takachiho, was published by Sonorama Bunko in November.

The illustrations were done by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, an animator who was later involved in the production of “Mobile Suit Gundam,” and it was the first time that an anime-like illustration was used for the cover. It is said that Haruka Takachiho, the author, saw the robot animation “Yuusha Raiden” created by Yoshikazu Yasuhiko, and directly asked him to create the illustrations.

The story was later adapted into a manga (1979) and an anime (1983), creating a media mix. As a result, it became a representative work of Japanese space opera in the early 1980s.

The protagonist, Joe, is a young man of 19 years old, but he is a class-A crusher and a team leader, a type of character that had never been seen in SF novels that emphasized reality (naturalistic realism). The fact that the protagonist was a teenage boy, the same age as the readers, was revolutionary.

The originator of the light novel writing style

Motoko Arai, a second-year high school student, made her debut as a science fiction writer by winning an honorable mention in the first Newcomer’s Award for Strange and Wonderful Science Fiction with “…… in Me.” She used a broken style of writing that actively incorporated the spoken language of her time, and was called the “new colloquial style. In an interview with the Mainichi Newspapers shortly after her debut, she said, “I wanted to write a print version of the manga ‘Lupin the Third.’”

Author Eishi Otsuka describes Motoko Arai’s writing style as the first to incorporate the concept of “manga/anime realism. Until then, novels were meant to sketch reality, but Motoko Arai’s writing style was the first to sketch the world of manga and anime.

Critic Hiroki Azuma states that “manga/anime realism” developed because postmodern otaku live in a database of characters, and light novel writers are better able to communicate with readers if they draw their characters based on this premise. It had been about 30 years since the debut of Tezuka Osamu, the god of manga, and it can be said that the generation that grew up taking manga and anime for granted had developed a new communal illusion as a new communication tool.

Motoko Arai has also been active as a novelist, publishing “Till the Day I Become a Cat” from Cobalt Bunko.

The author who laid the foundation for light novels

Saeko Himuro, a university student, made her debut as a novelist with “Sayonara Arurukan”, which won an honorable mention in the 10th Novel Junior (now Cobalt) New Novelist Award for Youth. Later, with the romantic comedy series “How wonderfully Japanesque” (serialized in the April 1981 issue of “Shosetsu Junior”, the predecessor of “Cobalt”, with a total circulation of more than 7.2 million copies) set in the society of court nobility, she quickly established herself as the signature author of Cobalt Bunko, and became one of the leading authors of the label in the 1980s and 1990s. In the 1980s and 1990s, she became a representative of the label. She was a key figure in the girls’ novel boom.

1978 SF Boom Arrives

Trends in the science fiction industry

Star Wars Poster

George Lucas’s science fiction film “Star Wars” was released in Japan, and the popularity of science fiction exploded, ushering in a science fiction boom. Until then, science fiction had been something that only a few enthusiasts enjoyed.

This work is also said to have influenced “Mobile Suit Gundam”.

Trends in the manga industry

Urusei Yatsura, Vol.1

Rumiko Takahashi’s manga “Urusei Yatsura” was published in Weekly Shonen Sunday.

It is a slapstick love comedy that revolves around a womanizing high school student, Ataru Moroboshi, and a beautiful alien girl with mysterious powers, Lum, who loves him. It is the originator of the “fallen” type of story, and the template for harem stories and slapstick romantic comedies that continue to this day. Together with Mitsuru Adachi’s “Touch” (1981), it became one of the most popular romantic comedy manga of the 1980s.

In contrast to “Touch,” which was a Junaiseki-style [nostalgic youth-style] coming-of-age story, “Urusei Yatsura” is a work with moe elements, with characters with extreme personalities. The heroine, Lum, is the original heroine with moe elements: she says “~daccha”, has horns, has the superpower to shoot electric shocks, and wears a “tiger-striped” bikini. Her style has had a tremendous influence on school light novels since the 2000s.

1979 The Birth of Game-like Realism

Trends in the animation industry

The TV anime “Mobile Suit Gundam” was broadcasted.

At the same time, the novel version of “Mobile Suit Gundam” was published by Sonorama Library by the general director of the TV series, Yoshiyuki Tomino. Unlike the TV series, the novel version took a completely different turn, with the main character Amuro dying in battle, and became a hit, selling over 500,000 copies in three volumes (game-like realism).

  • This work was also released in the U.S. [in the 1990s] and sold 75,000 copies in all three volumes.
  • The Gundam series has been published in many novelized versions by Kadokawa Sneaker Bunko and other publishers, and is a hidden force in the world of novels.
  • According to a popular theory in the doujinshi world, the originator of boys’ love is “Char Aznable and Garma Zabi” from Mobile Suit Gundam.

Representative works

Guin Saga, Vol.1

The first volume of Kaoru Kurimoto’s “Guin Saga”, “The Leopard Head Mask”, was published by Hayakawa Bunko JA.

It is the world’s longest epic fantasy novel, with 130 volumes of the official biography and 21 volumes of the external biography. It was translated into many countries around the world and became a huge hit, selling over 30 million copies in total.

The worldview is medieval with magic, but science fiction elements such as the existence of a transcendent race that surpasses the gods, spaceships that are their relics, and matter transfer devices appeared with each volume.

Kaoru Kurimoto is also the woman who created the origin of boys’ love, and is counted as the founder of the genre.

Perhaps because of this, homosexual elements often appeared in the Guin Saga, causing controversy because they projected the author’s preferences too much.

Manga semiotics and “manga/anime realism

In an interview with the monthly magazine “Paf”, Tezuka Osamu spoke of his theory of manga semiotics, which states that “manga is a combination of symbols and their patterns.”

Writer Eiji Otsuka continued to think about this theory, and in the 2000s, he found a new literary possibility in it, saying that manga and light novels depict real human bodies and emotions in a naturalistic way, while using symbolic characters.

For example, Osamu Tezuka’s medical manga “Black Jack” depicts subjects such as human death, childbirth, the limits of medicine, and the bond between parents and children, while using symbolic characters. The heart and other organs depicted in the manga are very realistic. This work has been criticized for its errors in medical knowledge, but on the contrary, the content was that close to reality. This is called “manga/anime realism.

The Birth of Game-like Realism

In 2007, the critic Hiroki Azuma published a book titled “The Birth of Game-like Realism” in which he argued that light novels were created using (or influenced by) the concept of “game-like realism”. In his book, “The Birth of Game-like Realism,” he argues that game-like meta-narrative worldviews, such as the concept of IF, in which the story changes depending on the choices of the game player, and the time loop structure, in which the player lives in infinitely different worlds (resetting and starting over), have been incorporated into the novel format.

Hiroki Azuma traces the origin of this idea to “Record of Lodoss War” published in 1988 and the early works of Osamu Tezuka.

However, another origin can be found in Tomino’s anime “Mobile Suit Gundam” and its novelized version. The novelized version depicts a different development (dead end) in which the main character, Amuro, dies in battle. This was a time when home video game consoles were not yet on the market, and there were no adventure-type bishojo games, but there was already a sense of game-like realism that there might have been another story with a different development and ending.

The first anime novelization of “Space Battleship Yamato” was the second theatrical anime released in 1978, in which most of the crew was killed in a battle with the enemy and the Yamato disappeared in a suicide attack on an enemy ship, but the work became so popular that they were brought back to life and a sequel was made. This was the development of the story. The director was dissatisfied with the ending of the film, and a rewritten TV anime version of the film was made in the same year. As a result, the story and ending were changed, and the movie version became a parallel world. This suggests that light novels have been under the influence of game-like realism since their inception.

Further back, in Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time,” published in 1967, there is an episode that resembles a game reset, in which the heroine learns that her friend is going to be in a traffic accident and moves to avoid it. It is thought that there is a germ of game-like realism in SF novels.

Eiji Otsuka was negative about this form of game-like realism because it could not depict naturalistic real death, but Hiroki Azuma says that light novels with game-like realism use the form to emphasize the importance of life in reverse.

One of the light novels that became a hit by adopting game-like realism is the “Haruhi Suzumiya series” (published in 2003).

How to Start an Isekai Story Mon, 05 Apr 2021 14:00:00 +0000 Isekai, or “second world,” stories are a staple of light novels and webfiction for many reasons. They start with a natural hook that makes readers interested, and then they lend themselves to all kinds of fun, adventures and romance. Not only that, they’re instantly relatable because the main character is usually from our world, and so the audience has an instant bond with them.

And, with so many isekai stories being written, it’s no surprise that patterns started to appear as people kept telling the same types of stories over and over again in different ways. Many of these being written by young people copying the stories they loved and doing their own variations on the theme.

As a result, what could be called a “generic” isekai introduction story eventually came into being that you can find endless versions of. I use the term “female lead” for the love interest because these are most often stories about male protagonists and their ideal female partners, but you can mix and match the genders, sexes and even species of your characters to taste.

See if this sounds familiar?

  1. The hero arrives in a new world and meets the female lead/guide/love interest character.
  2. The hero witnesses the local bad guys raiding an innocent village, usually a village connected to the female lead.
  3. The hero proceeds to use their magical powers to beat the crap out of the scouting force that’s attacking the village and looks all awesome. Then the hero learns all about the bigger setting from the people of the village, usually the village elder.
  4. The villains show back up with real strength and are usually smart enough to capture the female lead (or some other pre-introduced innocent) to use as a hostage so the hero can’t do anything. The hero then gets beaten to death or close to it.
  5. The villains leave, taking the female lead with them. They usually take loot and leave a whole bunch of dead people behind.
  6. The hero recovers and promptly tracks the villains down, slaughtering them without the problem of a hostage being in the way. They are now a big hero and everyone loves them, including the female lead who becomes their adventuring partner going forward.

If you’ve read more than a few isekai stories, you probably recognize this plot. Versions of it can be seen in countless isekai webfictions and webcomic stories. Of course, because it’s been used so many times people have tried to put their own spins on it, and the following are a few of those.

Minor Variations.

  • The hero is also taken away by the main bad guys and has to break out of their cell and work their way up to where they can rescue the female lead.
  • The female lead is also an outsider to the village and actually tells the hero not to waste his time helping them because of her selfish ways. However, he does it anyway and ends up causing her to rethink her own ways and reform to some degree.
  • The female lead turns out to be a traitor who is in League with the main bad guys.
    • She may be inspired by the hero to renounce her evil ways, after seeing how noble and cool he is, and help him in the end.
  • The ones the hero meets first are actually the bad guys, and the ones doing the raiding are actually the good guys. The hero has gotten it backwards because of who they met first.
    • We are tricked by our own preconceptions into believing these are the good guys. For example, in this setting the cute little fairies are a race that worships the vampire lords and spies on their “cattle” for them, acting as information brokers or informants.
  • The hero is utterly defeated by this situation and forced to run away and regroup instead of going to rescue the female lead right away.
    • By the time the hero can come back, the female lead may be long dead, have rescued herself, be working for the bad guys, or be long gone.
  • The hero discovers that the ones he thought are the Innocents are actually just as bad as the bad guys.
  • The hero discovers that neither side is bad, and both sides are just different “good guys” from their own perspectives who have differences that are bringing them into conflict.
  • The MC discovers that neither side is bad, however there is an actual bad side that shows up later on and makes the whole thing even messier. The hero defeats them and convinces the two sides to work together in the future.
  • The hero’s small victory here ends up snowballing into something big as that will affect the story way down to line.
  • The town elder is actually a bad guy, but the female lead didn’t know that. (Or did they?)
  • It’s a whole thing is a setup to test the main character, who the bad guys actually had a hand in summoning and want to see the abilities of.
  • The whole thing is a setup to trick the main character into having the wrong set of beliefs about the setting and go off in a direction that actually benefits the bad guys. They knew the main character would be powerful, and they couldn’t control them, so they set up an elaborate ruse to make sure the main character did what they wanted. Usually, the goal here is to turn the main character into a weapon against their enemies. (Often, the hero is not the first one they have summoned, so they know what to expect and how to set things up. The hero might end up in conflict with earlier summoned heroes who the bad guys lost control of.)
  • The whole thing is a setup to create a hero who the rebels will gather around so they can be more easily rounded up and killed. The bad guys knew that the rebels wouldn’t come out of hiding unless they believed there is some savior to lead them.
  • The real hero of the story is another character the main character meets and inspires through their actions and conduct. Usually, this is someone connected to the female lead or the female lead herself. In the final act, the main character isn’t the one who defeats the villain, but instead it is the character they inspired to overcome their personal limitations and take action.

And, not surprisingly, there are also some writers who have tried to use this formula but put a different take on it.

Major Variations

  • Instead of a female lead, the MC finds a whole community first and takes them under their wing as their guardian. The village is attacked by some outside force and the MC proceeds to wipe them out, deciding that this village needs them and gives them a sense of purpose. They then devote themselves to developing this village/community and using their knowledge and abilities to helping it grow and prosper. Usually, they will eventually have to start defending the village/community/city/territory they build against progressively powerful outside forces who want to destroy it and keep doing so until their community is safe and self-sustaining.
  • The generic plotline plays out in an urban setting instead of a rural one. In this case, the female lead is usually a store/shop/café/restaurant (or hotel/clinic/school/etc.) owner whose business is in danger due to outside forces and is being bullied. The MC drives off the bullies, then uses their knowledge/abilities to help the female lead’s business to flourish and become their partner. The bad buys usually make one final push to wipe the love interest’s business out and are defeated utterly at the end of this story by the cool MC. (More baddies show up in later volumes.)

So, as you can see, this plot formula is quite flexible and has a lot of room to play with. Of course, it’s also just the “pilot” story for the main character’s adventures in the new world – a starting point. Where it goes from here will (hopefully) be a much more unique and interesting story that will show off the writer’s imagination and creativity.

Or the main character might just beat people up and collect girls like trophies.

That’s up to you!


Five Old Writer’s Tricks that Never Fail to keep Readers Reading Mon, 29 Mar 2021 14:00:00 +0000 The greatest criticism you can say about a story is that it’s boring.

But have you ever wondering why that’s such a criticism? Why is it that when we encounter a story we don’t like our reaction is to call it boring? Why not just say “not to my taste” or “poorly put together” or “badly written”?

But no, the universal default criticism of a story is almost always that it is dull.

Image by Sammy-Williams from Pixabay 

The answer to this, of course, is pretty simple – stories are about emotion. Stories we like are ones that stimulate our emotions, while stories we don’t like are the ones that leave us flat and uninterested.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, stories offer readers five things: Skills, Perspective, Information, Creativity and Emotion. But if there’s one of those that a story won’t go anywhere without – it’s emotion. Stories need emotion like people need food, air and water – it’s essential.

So, how do you play with your reader’s emotions?

There are many ways, but in this article, I’m going to focus on five techniques that writers have been using for ages to bring out the emotions of their readers and keep them coming back.

Before I do, though, there’s one little thing that makes all these tricks work, so we have to talk about that first.

Do (or imagine) the following – stand up and jump into the air.

Now also do (or imagine) this – stand on a chair and jump off that chair into the air.

How did it feel when you landed? When you jumped from the ground and landed it was a small impact, but when you jump from a chair which is much higher up, it’s a much bigger impact, right? (I hope you didn’t hurt your real or imaginary self!)

The lesson from this (as every child knows) is that the higher you are, the harder you fall.

This applies to emotions too! The bigger the emotional change, the more it will impact the readers. And readers want things that impact them emotionally because that’s what stories are all about!

So, let’s look at five ways to use this principal to give your readers a real emotional roller-coaster!

Sine Wave Definition

First Trick: Treat your readers like an emotional ping-pong ball.

Whatever emotion you make a reader feel something, follow that up by making them feel the opposite emotion for the best impact. If they’re feeling hopeful, hit them with despair. If they’re feeling peaceful, hit them with anxiety. If they’re feeling fear, make them feel confident. If they’re feeling negative, then give them some positivity. By going from one emotional extreme to the other in a deliberate and careful way, it makes the other emotion much stronger and turns the story into an emotional roller-coaster ride that they don’t want to get off.

You might think this just applies to plot twists, like where a character has good fortune followed by bad luck, but this applies to characters as well. For example, if you make the audience love a certain support character because they’re so funny and witty, and then that character betrays the main character later in the story, the betrayal will hit much harder because the audience is the one who has been betrayed too. Similarly, if a character the audience is made to hate suddenly turns out to be sympathetic, it can make the audience pity them even more.

Second Trick: Keep them emotional!

Following up on the above trick, as you write your story think about how to keep the emotional feeling of your scenes shifting and changing. If you have a sad scene or chapter, follow that up with a happy scene or chapter. If you have a scary scene, follow that up with a lighter scene. Don’t let them rest emotionally, and always keep them moving in one emotional direction or another.

The key here is that it’s easier to go from love to hate, or hate to love, than it from disinterest to love, or disinterest to hate. When they’re at one emotional state, getting the audience to the other one is so much easier! People are either calm or emotional, and once you’ve got them in the emotion zone your job as a writer is to keep them there! As soon as they feel calm, you risk losing them. So, you want them feeling happy and peaceful (which are emotions) not calm and detached (which are unemotional states).

A good horror movie or thriller is a textbook example of this, because once they have their audience feeling emotional, they purposely keep them off balance all the time. They alternate constantly between fear and relief, suspense and revelation, and funny and scary to try and keep the audience always on their toes. If the audience yawns, they’re done, so they never give them the chance to yawn until the final credits start rolling.

Third Trick: Don’t hurry love.

A great trick for getting the audience to like a character a lot is to have them initially dislike that character a bit. Not hate, because that’s too strong, but making a character seem distant or a little unlikeable when they’re introduced can cause the audience to like them even more when that character shows their soft and sympathetic side. This is actually human psychology, as we appreciate the things we feel we earned more than things that are given to us freely.

A textbook example of this can be seen in the book and movie The Devil Wears Prada. In this story, a young woman achieves her dream of working at a high-end New York fashion magazine, but quickly discovers the chief editor is a cold and demanding boss. Like the main character, the audience initially dislikes the chief editor (played by Meryl Streep to perfection in the film version) and wishes she’d stop being so mean to the main character. However, as the story plays out and the boss is revealed to be a flawed and sympathetic human being, the main character (and the audience) comes to like and respect her much more than they would have if she’d been nice from the start. The whole movie works based on this trick.

Also, seeing a character show different sides that generate emotion can make a character seem much more real and deep than they might otherwise. People aren’t just one way – good or bad, but have many sides to us, and so do characters. Having a character generate different feelings in the audience can make that character more appealing and fleshed out than they otherwise might.

Fourth Trick: Get them on the tropes!

One of the things about tropes (standard story elements we see again and again) is that you can use them to generate emotions in the audience. All you need to do is give the audience a trope they recognize and that will trigger feelings because they “know” that means for the characters or situations in the story.

Let me give you a few examples.

  1. A police officer (who is not the main character) in a film says, “After this last case, I’m going to retire on a boat to Hawaii.”
  2. A character in a horror movie hears a noise, and goes down in the basement to check even after they discover the light switch doesn’t work anymore.
  3. In a dramatic scene near the end of an action movie, the hero’s friend says “I’ll hold them off, you do what you need to do!”

In all of these cases, anyone who has seen more than a few movies knows that these characters are probably going to die. The death flags these tropes raise are loud and clear, and make the audience start to worry if they’ve come to care about the characters. If they don’t want that character to die, but a “death flag” has just popped up, the audience is now uncertain and invested in finding out what happens.

Part of drama is telling the audience things the characters don’t know, and then letting the audience nervously watch as the characters walk into embarrassment, trouble, danger, or other tough situations that the audience knows are coming but can’t do anything about. Alfred Hitchcock, the infamous thriller director, uses a bomb as an example to demonstrate this when he points out how audiences would react to two characters sitting at a table with a bomb underneath it – a bomb only the audience can see. And “bombs” come in many shapes and sizes in stories.

Or, do the opposite.

Make it seem like a character is doomed, but then let them get out of it. Sometimes “subverting expectations” is the way to go, and having the hero fail to rescue the princess or the old lady going down into the dark basement turn out to be a blind martial arts master can bring an emotional surprise to a story or situation.  

Either way, play with tropes and audience expectations to achieve emotional results. Foreshadow tragedy to make it sadder, and give them some relief when they’re not expecting it, and it will keep the audience emotionally invested.

Things aren’t looking good! But wait until he finds out she’s a cop!

Fifth Trick: When they want it – don’t give it to them

The fifth and final trick is about time.

If you’ve set things up well, the audience wants to know the answers to the dramatic questions that your story has given them. But if you want them to really appreciate the answers, don’t give it to them right away – make them wait for the answers. Suspense makes the emotional release much sweeter and stronger when the answer finally comes, and it has the extra benefit of keeping your audience paying attention.

A classic version of this is the pulp tradition of having the villain(s) tormenting or hunting someone who can’t fight back. A good pulp writer never had the hero show up to save the day right away, but made the audience wait to see what happened. They got every bit of emotion from the bad guys being bad, and the innocent trying their hardest to survive, play out to get the audience really emotionally worked up, and only then did they let the hero sweep in and inflict some righteous vengeance on the evil doers.

And there’s more!

The best pulp writers didn’t just have the hero show up, but had them show up in an unexpected way or at an unexpected time. They put in a little effort to put the emotional cherry on top of the big moment to make it a true winner.

It worked for them, and it can work for you too.

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

Final Thoughts

None of these tricks are new, and they’re the hard learned tricks that storytellers have passed on from one generation to the next for millennia. They’re rooted in human psychology, and since people don’t change, the tricks don’t either. They worked a hundred years ago in the pulps and movie serials, they work today in movies and streaming TV, and they will work a hundred years from now in immersive virtual reality experiences.

By following these five tricks:

  1. Treat your readers like an emotional ping-pong ball.
  2. Keep them emotional!
  3. Don’t hurry love.
  4. Get them on the tropes!
  5. When they want it – don’t give it to them. When they’re not expecting it, give it to them in a way they don’t see coming.

You can plan and write stories which will keep readers coming back time and again because they want to get more of the emotional experience you’re offering them. These might be tricky to master at first, but if you play with them, and try them out, you’ll quickly discover that you can play your audience’s emotions like a violin.

So, get out there and make them feel something! They’ll thank you for it later!