The Problem with Light Novel Anime Adaptations

Starting out, I’m probably not talking about the obvious issues that most people think I am going to talk about. You know, the magical high school tournament arc anime that have bland and over powered protagonists and are also a harem series. No, not talking about that. Those are tropes that have been a part of the anime brand for as long as I can remember and I can’t see those leaving it anytime soon. The earliest I’ve known about their existence is when I watched Tenchi Muyo on Toonami, but I have a feeling that these tropes have been around for even longer than that. No, the main problem I have with light novel adaptions are how choppy each show are from a pace perspective.

From all of the light novel adaptions that I’ve seen so far, a lot of them have this problem to some degree. A lot of series don’t have good transitions from arc to arc. I’m not a light novel reader, so I don’t know if that is how light novel series are paced or formatted. All I know is that a lot of anime adaptions of light novels don’t have a consistent flow to them. The second season of Log Horizon feels like an unfocused mess because of the way its arcs are formatted. I didn’t watch Re:Zero, but this is a complaint that I hear quite often about it. Durarara is an unfocused, but loveable, mess as well. If Baccano’s anime wasn’t written and formatted the way that it was, I would be adding it as an example as well. Last but not least, The Book of Bantorra, which is an anime that I will be reviewing soon, has an issue that it tries to tell you the back story of a situation as the situation moves along, so each episode feels disjointed and confusing sometimes. I’m not sure if its way the way the light novel is written or the studio involved with adapting a light novel does a lousy job at it, but this seems to be the problem most of the time. Does this mean that this happens all the time? Well no. There are some series that don’t have this problem at all.

The two examples of series that I feel don’t have this problem are Spice and Wolf and Devil is a Part-Timer. Once again, I am not sure if it’s the light novel is written or the studio that did the adaption, but Spice and Wolf’s plot progressed fluidly throughout its two-season ruin. (Can we have more please?) One thing lead to another incredibly well and the relationship between Lawrence and Holo felt incredibly natural. Devil is a Part-Timer feels the same way. While there are two arcs, the lead in from one to another feels incredibly natural. There is a connection and it’s great because of it. Also, the characters are incredibly likeable and seeing their arcs are humorous and exciting. Grimgar is another anime that has a good and fluid arc movements. I digress though…

There are probably others out that that I haven’t named yet because I haven’t watched all the light novel adaptations that ever existed, but it still seems like a common problem in light novel anime. Whether it’s the light novels that the adaptations are coming from or the anime studio that produces them, light novel anime seem to have a high chance of choppy pacing. I wish they would be able to figure out the problem and give more fluidity to their series. Unfortunately, I don’ think that’s going to happen anytime soon.


  1. I’ve only ever read one light novel (still trudging along…) but from what I’ve read and what I know about the format, the aspect that you are talking about mostly stems from each individual novel revolving around a certain ‘topic’. More than just involving their own story and/or character arc, I believe a lot of light novels kind of reinvent themselves with each new installment. There is consistency between the world, characters, and events however the first novel might be based on ‘the cost of saving people’ whereas the next in the series might speak directly to ‘the implication of magic as an in-universe utility’ (sasusga light novels).

    So when these stories get adapted, not only do their arcs stand out more than usual but typically speaking, they handle themselves differently and this can disrupt the flow of the story as you talk about. It’s explicitly obvious when the story gains a new focus after resolving the previous one. I imagine some novels are better about this than others and similarly, some studios are better at adapting each novel into a more cohesive show.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve mentioned this on my blog before, but Free! is actually a spin-off of the light novel High Speed, which actually was more inherently complex in terms of the characters and their emotions and friendships. It was unfortunate that the adaptation made light of some of the character’s circumstances. For me personally, the “bromance” of Haruka and Makoto is complex in the light novel because they’re dependent on each other due to experiencing life-threatening circumstances on separate occasions which leads to why Makoto is the way he is in Free- constantly doting on Haruka – there’s a reason for it, but the anime doesn’t convey that.

    This was a great read! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kyoto Animation seems to do a lot of that “shipping” stuff. Including the Yuri shipping in Sound! Euphonium where there really wasn’t any in the source material apparently. Studios can change things up in anyway that they can.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t read any of the light novels anime are adapted from but choppy pacing is a kind of standard issue with a lot of anime (even non-adaptations). One subplot finishes and we go flying into the next, or worse we get an episode or two of pure filler before something actually happens again.
    Though I think adaptations are a problem in general because people are always torn between making an anime (or movie) and following a piece of source material that isn’t and the transition is almost never particularly well handled. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, you are pretty right about that. Creators seem to like having episode efficiency by not trying to set up things and jumping right in. So annoying.

      And yes, adaptions always have those sorts of problems…

      Liked by 1 person

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