Light novels have carved a niche out for themselves in geek culture, especially when it comes to the Otaku subculture. Thanks to the popularity of genres like Isekai in countries outside of Japan, pictures-esque mangas and light novels have come up in a very big way. But they are still relatively uncharted territory. Tons of new fans have questions about the medium. However, one that keeps coming up is whether light novels are generally picture-heavy?
Contrary to misconceptions, light novels are not the same as other graphic novels. For one thing, they aren’t visual-heavy, working more like a traditional novel. But there is a lot of manga and anime that have their origins in light novels. Thanks to the anime boom, more and more light novels are coming out and being spread around by both local and international fans.
And it’s easy to see why light novels are so popular right now. There’s just so much variety! From action to romance, you have something for everyone. The bite-sized format means you can consume more content in short bursts without it being overwhelming. But just because light novels aren’t panel heavy like manga, doesn’t mean they don’t often have gorgeous illustrative pictures that accompany them.
But there are many tiny distinguishing factors between manga and light novels that make readers choose one over the other. And on that note, what are web novels? And are they any different? There is a lot to talk about when we come to the light novel medium so let’s discuss!
These Books Do Have Pictures!
You know that whole trope of people not reading a book because it lacks pictures? That’s a real thing. And I understand why. We’ve been spoiled silly by the graphic work done by comic books and manga alike and it’s so much fun seeing how things unfold from a visual perspective. But the way we consume something like a manga is very different from how we read a book like a light novel.
For one thing, a light novel gives the reader more room to visualize the environment and characters, making it a more imaginative experience. Sure, almost 99% of all light novels come with pictures and illustrations but they are mostly there to supplement the reader’s imagination. They create the feel of the story the novel is portraying, but not in a way where it clashes with the reader’s perception.
And more often than not, these pictures serve more like fanservice than anything. Usually elaborate and intricately detailed, the pictures usually serve as bait to attract new readers with gorgeous cover art that looks more like paintings.
Manga Or Light Novels: Which Is Better?
I mean, it isn’t a competition! Both mediums serve a separate purpose. And they do it well, to boot! Manga artistry is definitely bigger than light novel writing, but they are both similar in how the stories are more engaging and compact than traditional books.
The main difference between a light novel and a manga is the presentation. A manga is basically a Japanese comic book, that’s it. It works the same as a comic book does, with art panels being the most forward aspect of the entire story. With black and white artwork, it comes out in chapters either weekly or monthly. Manga can go on to have so much content, with a chapter count easily ranging in the 100s.
On the other hand, a light novel is a novella-style tale that is usually accompanied by separate illustrations. The illustrations themselves don’t tell the story, they serve to provide a setting, at best. And as the name suggests, a light novel is, well, lighter on the content and exposition. It’s usually 50,000 words in total and is less overwhelming than catching up on hundreds of manga pages. It focuses more on the narrative side of the story.
If you like indulging in long reading binges and dynamic artwork, go with manga. But if you are short on time, and want something that won’t be too taxing to read during transit and in between work breaks, I’ve found light novels work better!
Are Light Novels And Web Novels The Same?
Since we’re on the topic, let’s quickly discuss reading culture in the digital media and what roles both light novels and web novels play there.
The main difference between a light novel and a web novel is the fact that web novels exist solely in a digital format. They are usually written, edited, and formatted by one person, the author themselves. It’s very much an independent publication.
Whereas a light novel is published in both digital formats and as physical books as well. They tend to be more professional because the physical copy, at that point, is a published novel akin to traditional paperbacks.
But both are equally as accessible, usually co-existing on novel scan sites. And it’s that convenience and ease of reading that makes both mediums so successful, even amongst the harshest of manga purists!