My Favorite Light Novel Anime

Light novel anime adaptations get something of a bad rap, but there are plenty of gems in that sea. If I were to list all of the light novel anime I thought were good, I’d have a pretty hefty list—big enough that even I’m surprised by looking at it. Instead, I’ve narrowed it down to a few, with reasons why I enjoy them so much.

1. My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected (aka My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU)

I’ve written at length on more than one occasion about why I think so highly about Youth Romantic Comedy, but every time I think about it I come back with even more reasons. This time around, an aspect that sticks out to me is how the series positions its central love triangle with a kind of thoughtfulness one might not expect.

Even though they all have significantly different perspectives on life, the characters’ contrasting viewpoints allow them to accomplish tasks that each of them alone could not. This extends to their love triangle. Where usually girls in these series are interested in the same guy for the same reason, Yui and Yukino are drawn to different qualities in Hachiman. Yui sees him as a good person deep down inside (whether he realizes it or not), and Yukino sees Hachiman as someone on a similar, socialization-shunning wavelength.

It’s good stuff.

2. The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi

In general, I’m pretty fond of the Suzumiya Haruhi anime, even if it’s not viewed with as much reverence as it once was. The story of a girl who might very well be god of the universe without realizing it hits a lot of interesting notes. However, I put the film The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi on a whole other level. The powerful emotions swirling around the characters—especially Nagato—as well as the tough decisions they have to make, just sticks with me in a way that not even the series’ other high points can. The only significant flaw of the movie, in my opinion, is that it requires viewers to have all the background context of the series prior to watching, but I think it can still probably do fine stand-alone.

For more of my thoughts, check out my review.

3. Humanity Has Declined

I sometimes forget that this series is based on a light novel because of how witty its satire can be. Taking place in a world where humankind is no longer the dominant race on Earth—instead supplanted by a race of fairies—it often showcases the folly of humanity by having their mistakes repeated in fast-forward by the fairies, who are somehow brilliant and imbecilic at the same time. The fairies can easily fashion new and highly advanced forms of science and technology, but are extremely prone to group-think, bandwagoning, and lack of foresight. It’s all too fitting that we as a species would get outdone by more extreme versions of us.

This is another series I’ve written a review for, which you can find here.

4. Kino’s Journey

If there’s one thing more recent light novel anime tend to lack, it’s a strong sense of atmosphere. Sure, they’ll have complex environments and elaborate magic systems, but they don’t capture the sense of a world in flux the way that Kino’s Journey does. Kino is a “traveler,” an unusual profession where she travels from one land to the next, learning about what each distinct culture is like. It’s a quiet and contemplative series, but at times can swell with tension and action. I’ve written a little about Kino’s Journey before, but only one of the short films.

I’m really looking forward to the upcoming new anime.

5. Slayers

While light novel anime are sometimes thought of as a more recent phenomenon due to the increased influx over the past 10-15 years, in my opinion the true grandmaster of the light novel adaptation is Slayers. Black magician Lina Inverse fancies herself a hero, but she’s more an agent of destruction, feared for her lack of concern for collateral damage. As she continues to make allies, she finds herself having to fight for the fate of her world, but not without keeping her characteristic wit, fury, and hungers both literal and metaphorical.

It was one of my gateway anime, and one of the first series that I was proud to own. Its mixture of humor, adventure, and dramatic development at the right moments makes it forever a classic in my mind. It’s one of the defining series of the 90s, and while its age often shows, I think it still has potential for wide appeal to a current audience.

This post was sponsored by Johnny Trovato. If you’re interested in submitting topics for the blog, or just like my writing and want to support Ogiue Maniax, check out my Patreon.

 

 

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The Fujoshi Files 109: Oakwood Editor

Name: N/A
Alias: Silkwood Editor (くぬぎの編集者)
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: Humanity Has Declined

Information:
The Oakwood Editor leads one of the most popular amateur groups to be part of the BL “douruishi” craze. Living in a time when fairies have supplanted humans as the dominant species, her circle sells 5000 books at the world’s first douruishi event.

Fujoshi Level:
Nothing is known, other than that she heads a very successful douruishi group.

The Fujoshi Files 108: Silkwood Editor

Name: N/A
Alias: Silkwood Editor (合歓の木の編集者)
Relationship Status: N/A
Origin: Humanity Has Declined

Information:
The Silkwood Editor is one of the women who took to the BL “douruishi” craze started by Y the Camphorwood Editor in the era when humans have been replaced by fairies as the Earth’s dominant species. Her circle manages to sell 4500 copies at the world’s first douruishi event.

Fujoshi Level:
Nothing is known, other than that she commands one of the more successful BL douruishi groups.

The Fujoshi Files 107: Y

Name: Y
Aliases: Silver-chan (銀髪ちゃん), Camphorwood Editor (楠の編集者)
Relationship Status: Single
Origin: Humanity Has Declined

Information:
Y is responsible for helping to put together a monument to mankind, a task which never seems to move forward. While working, Y discovers the ancient technology of a printer+copier, working computers, and hard data of old manga and revives the notion of self-publishing among mankind when the original material runs out. Referring to these works as “douruishi,” Y becomes the leading producer of douruishi, particularly BL-themed material, through her circle “Camphorwood.”

Y is friends with the mediator between the human race and the current dominant species on Earth, the advanced-yet-naive fairies. Having met back in high school, Y correctly assessed the mediator as the only other sane person around, and even harbors some romantic feelings for her. It was also during that time that Y discovered her interest in BL, amassing a hidden collection of BL prose novels pilfered from the school library.

Fujoshi Level:
In addition to designing a complex method for hiding her collection back in high school and jump-starting the yaoi craze for a new generation, Y’s fujocity can also be seen in the way she tries to pair a chess pawn with a knight.

Reality TV: Humanity Has Declined

Anime is often praised for their sheer diversity of topics and approaches to those topics, but biting comedic satire is a rather uncommon occurrence. This is what the Summer 2012 series Humanity Has Declined brings to the table, and I consider it to be the #1 show of the season.

Based on a light novel, the show takes place in a world where humanity’s population is a smallfraction of what it once was. and many of its technological advances no longer feasible given a scarcity of resources. Life in some ways resembles the 17th century more than it does the 21st. The story is told from the perspective of an unnamed woman—referred to in some material as “the Mediator” but in actuality is only ever mentioned in the show as “I” (Watashi)—whose job it is to communicate with the “fairies,” small, human-like creatures with large smiles permanently plastered onto their faces, who are a source of great frustration for the main heroine.

In the story, the fairies are referred to as the “new humanity,” a title which makes sense in two ways. First, with humanity in decline, they are now in a way the dominant species on Earth. Second, and this is in my opinion the more significant allusion, is that the fairies are like a hyper humanity. More technologically advanced than the humans, they’re able to create almost anything practically overnight (the one exception is that they are incapable of creating desserts), but their incredibly poor memories and utter carelessness cause them to make the same mistakes repeatedly. Most of the time, when asked any question, whether it’s a difficult one (“Where do you expect society to go”) or a simple one (“Where do you live”), their response is a simple “who knows.” In addition, the fairies have a tendency towards jumping on fads at an accelerated rate, accomplishing the most astounding feats of civilization only to abandon them days later. Strangely naive, the fact that they often get ideas from the humans means that, much like the Twilight Zone episode “The Little People” (or its Simpsons parody), they mirror the follies of mankind.

The humans she communicates with are also prone to folly, just that their impact is nowhere near as severe as the fairies. As such, the heroine takes this all in stride, at least on the surface. Presenting a pleasant demeanor on the surface, her inner thoughts reveal a harsh cynicism that is all-too-appropriate. In one case, she mentions to herself (and the audience) a meeting between people in her town which accomplished nothing but allowing the people to say they held a meeting so that they can show that they made an effort. The way in which the heroine casually holds back her mild disdain actually becomes one of her more charming features, and she never winds up feeling like a whiner.

The series couches its subtly dark humor in a bright, pastel palette, giving Humanity Has Declined a visual aesthetic reminiscent of a European children’s book. At first, this cute appearance can seem like a concession to convention, and in some ways it might well be, but what becomes apparent from episode to episode is that it winds up having the opposite effect. That fairytale-like surface, when combined with the actual content of the series, winds up actually making the entire show even more bizarre. Because of this, even when the show seems to be undergoing a significant tonal shift, it actually isn’t all that unusual in the context of the anime.

Overall, Humanity Has Declined is an anime quite different from the norm, whether that’s the norm of typical light novel output and adaptations, or the norm of trends in anime both new and old. It’s a clever show that’s hard to box in any particular categories (though I definitely tried), and it’s all the better for it.