Comic-Like Novels Are All the Rage
(February 28, 2007)
The genre of books known as light novels is enjoying growing popularity among readers these days. These books are increasingly part of a multimedia strategy, as plans are afoot to make a number of them into anime movies.
In addition to school-based dramas that feature young girls as the protagonists and romantic comedies, other light-novel subgenres include science fiction and fantasy. To make these books easier to buy, they are all clearly labeled as light novels and are published as low-priced paperbacks.
While this type of book was once known as the "teen novel," many of which were novelizations of anime programs and video games, light novels increasingly feature original content. And with a writer of light novels going on to win a literary prize for an ordinary novel, this new type of literature is continuing to garner attention.
Three Works Made into Movies
Among the companies putting out these books, Kadokawa Group Holdings, the firm that owns such major labels as Kadokawa Sneaker Books and Dengeki Books, has a 70% to 80% share of the market. This group decided to take three of its works - Kino no tabi (Kino's Journey), Shakugan no Shana (Shana of the Burning Eyes), and Inukami! (Dog Metaplasy) - and turn them into anime movies, all of which are due to be released simultaneously this April in the aim of expanding the market for light novels.
Meanwhile, publisher Shogakukan last year started giving out a Light Novel Award, for which it solicits works from anyone who wants to enter. This spring it will launch the Gagaga Books line aimed at boys and the Lululu Books line targeting girls. Other publishing firms are following suit and looking to increase the number of books they can print using their existing labels.
Japanese light novels are even attracting attention from overseas as another form of subculture along the lines of anime and manga. In North America, Tokyopop has published some 20 such works, including Kino's Journey. And Seven Seas Entertainment will this April launch a new light-novel label and publish such works as Shinigami no baraddo (Momo the Girl God of Death). It will publish these works in the same pocket-size paperback form common in Japan and at the same low price.
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