Intro to Light Novels, Manga, & Anime

By: Librarian Sarah

Librarian Sarah introduces readers to the world of light novels, manga, and anime and gives a few reader recommendations along the way!

What are light novels?

Just like manga and anime, light novels are from Japan and are usually geared towards young adults, though there are also some for adults. Light novels are usually shorter than regular novels and usually have less than 300 pages per volume, but there are exceptions to that.

What makes light novels different from regular novels from Japan are the illustrations. A lot of light novels will have manga-like illustrations. They will usually have colored inserts at the front of various scenes throughout the book and can contain spoilers. There are also periodical black and white illustrations to illustrate scenes here and there. Not all light novels have all of those illustrations, which makes it confusing. What also makes it confusing, is that some publishers will use the term light novel for books that are just novels to capture the attention of the fans who read light novels.

Sarah’s Recommendations:

What is manga?

Manga are Japanese comics/graphic novels. A lot of them start in magazines as either weekly or monthly chapters. The popular ones will then get made into book format, though current chapters will continue to be put into magazines. Translated manga is kept in the traditional Japanese format, so to us, they seem to be read “backwards”-from back to front. Even the panels are “backwards” because you read them right to left. Unlike manga, light novels are read the “right” way when they get translated. Some manga will have a few colored pages at the beginning of the book, and the rest will be in black and white. There are some full colored manga that are read the “right” way. The reason for this is that they are usually based on web toons, and the formatting is completely different when done that way.

Check out this awesome graphic on how to read a manga:

how to read a manga book

Sarah’s Recommendations:

What is anime?

Anime are Japanese cartoons, but they aren’t just for kids. They are made for all ages. There are some made for young children. There are some made for teenagers. There are some made for adults and some of those may be explicit.

When anime is translated, it is done via subtitles and/or dubbing. Anime with subtitles or subbed anime, keep the original Japanese voices, while dubbed anime will have an English voice caste. Which one is better, depends on if you want to read to understand what the characters are saying (subbed), or if you want to listen to them (dubbed). New anime comes out every season: winter, spring, summer, and fall. They can be based on manga, light novels, video games, or be original material.

A good website to check out current and past seasons and years of anime and also to find out the source of the anime is

So, which came first: light novels, manga, or anime? 

In most cases, it is the light novel. If there is a light novel version and a manga version, in almost every instance, the manga is based on the light novel. It’s the same with anime, though there have been a few times, where an anime was so popular that a light novel was written based upon it. 

Not all manga and light novels have anime adaptations, but the more popular they are, the more likely they are to have one. Having an anime adaptation will help with sales and increase the chance of an English license, though not all Japanese publishers are open to licensing their works outside of Japan.

Depending on the target audience and subject, all three mediums (but especially anime) have a chance to contain “fan service,” which is a service to please the fans by showing characters in suggestive poses to possible nudity. There are also culture aspects that might make it appear to be “fan service” but isn’t. Japan has a bathing culture, where they love hot springs and have public baths, so that gets featured a lot in their entertainment. Sometimes the people in baths wearing towels or almost nothing are just people enjoying the bath culture and doesn’t have the intent of being suggestive.

Where can I get light novels, manga, and anime?

Well, you can get them from us, your local library! We have:

  • JComix section for younger readers
  • Comix section for teen readers
  • Graphic Novel section for adult readers,

We don’t have too many light novels, but what we have is in the young adult section, science fiction section, and fiction section. Our anime selection is even more limited. Currently, we have two titles: One Punch Man, Season 1 and My Hero Academia: Two Heroes. There are a few more anime titles on our digital library, Hoopla. There are also some manga on Hoopla and one light novel title as an audiobook: Rising of the Shield Hero, Volume 1. Our other digital library, OK Virtual Library, has more manga and light novels to check out.

Don’t have what you’re looking for?

We can put a request to either borrow them from another library or purchase them for our collection. Call us at 580-234-6313 or request titles on the catalog.