Kurt Hassler on Manga and Light Novels
Here’s the second half of my interview with Yen Press managing director and publisher Kurt Hassler. The interview was originally done for the SLJ article the SLJ article It’s a Novel! It’s a Comic! It’s—Both? In this half, we talk about light novels, which are prose novels that have a lot in common with manga and anime.
I assume you mean when there are both manga and light novel iterations of the same franchise? Yes, more often than not, the manga tends to be a straight adaptation of the novels, which makes sense for the very reason I mentioned above. However, there are certainly instances where it isn’t a one-to-one relationship. Log Horizon: The West Wind Brigade, for example, doesn’t follow the core light novels at all, focusing instead on a different set of core characters with the occasional cameo tossed in.
Do you think the same people are reading both the novels and the manga, or do they have different audiences?
By and large, I think it’s safe to say that both manga and light novels appeal to the same general audiences, but there are definitely readers who have a particular preference for one over the other. We’re finding more and more readers gravitating toward light novels, but I think that makes sense since so often those represent the source material. At the same time, I would also say that light novels can be immediately more appealing to different readers who might not traditionally be manga fans. For fantasy readers, they might be more inclined to give a book like Overlord a shot, whereas if they aren’t really graphic novels fans, it might never occur to them to try the manga version of the same title.
Do people generally read one before the other?
That’s definitely a personal preference, I think. We see readers going either way—or just taking whichever they can get their hands on first—but again, the light novels do have the added advantage of being the “original.”
What does the reader get out of reading both the manga and the light novel in a single series?
As I mentioned earlier, it’s that thrill of getting to revisit old friends while seeing them in a new light. One of the greatest strengths of both manga and light novels are the strong characters that make such distinct impressions on readers. That feeling you have when you love a book and don’t want it to end? Well, you can go right back in with a manga based on the light novel you just finished!
That’s probably a bit of an oversimplification since light novels aren’t really a “genre” to begin with. Like any other novels, they easily cross over genres and can tell any kind of story. Want a story about a concert competition? Sound Euphonium has you covered. Want a story about an adventuresome vending machine? Reborn as a Vending Machine, I Now Wander the Dungeon—the title pretty much says it all! Certainly, much of the material targets a YA demographic, but it definitely isn’t exclusively that.
Are there particular types of stories that seem to do well as light novels?
Of course, right now the isekai—trapped in another world‚light novels are all the rage. People can’t seem to get enough of the premises where someone from our world is transported to a fantasy setting and experiencing life in another world.
Recommendations are tough sometimes, again just because the material is so diverse. If someone’s a fantasy fan, then you can’t go wrong with Overlord. If you’re looking for fantasy with more of a romantic bent, Spice & Wolf is still an absolute classic. If you want a hilarious “disaffected high schooler” story, then My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, as I Expected is an absolute must-read. Most recently, though, I have to say I was very taken with the rather laid-back tone of the brilliantly titled I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years and Maxed Out My Level, a story about a young woman who works herself to death in our world and gets reincarnated in another where she wants nothing more than to live a humble life off the radar but somehow manages to become the strongest woman in the world seemingly despite her best efforts! We definitely have something for every taste!
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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