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.
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.
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