Light Novels and Manga-Untangling the Narrative Worlds

Light Novel and Manga


In the wide world of Japanese pop culture, two forms stand out as storytelling titans: light novels and manga. These different modes of expression have attracted audiences all over the world, building rich tales that take readers to wondrous places both familiar and unfamiliar to them. Despite having a similar foundation, various media differ in how they present and tell stories, giving fans a distinct experience. In this article, we will deconstruct the substance of light novels and manga, contrasting their strengths, shortcomings, and the various joys they provide to readers.

Origins and evolution

Light Novels

As the name implies, light novels are novels with a lighter tone that are often aimed at a young adult audience. They originally appeared in the 1970s, gaining popularity with the introduction of authors such as Yoshiki Tanaka and his foundational work “Legend of the Galactic Heroes.” Light novels are distinguished by their brief length, ranging from 40,000 to 50,000 words, and are frequently accompanied by manga-style drawings.


Manga, on the other hand, is a type of Japanese comic book or graphic novel that has long been a staple of Japanese pop culture. Manga, which evolved from woodblock prints and illustrated novels and is rooted in traditional Japanese art traditions, emerged as a powerful storytelling medium in the late nineteenth century. It spans several genres and styles, from action-packed shonen to pensive seinen.

Light Novels and Manga
Light Novels and Manga

Is Light Novels Like Manga?

No, it does not! Light novels and manga are two distinct genres of writing. 

Light novels are more like prose books or novels written simply, yet with light and simple reading material. Manga, on the other hand, are simply comic books.

Light novels are not full-length novels, non-fiction books, manga, or comic books. They’re more like novellas in between the two. 

Mangas rely more on visual storytelling, frequently using more drawings than words to express the story. That is not the case with light novels. They are mostly words with a few images thrown in for good measure. The light book allows readers to use their imaginations.

Even though the plots are similar, there is a significant difference in the format and overall plot style. 

Differences between Light novel and Manga

Comparison Chart: Light Novel Vs Manga

Areas Light Novel Manga




Text and prose

Separate and more thorough. Prose is used.

It takes more time to publish. 

Approximately 20,000-60,000 words each volume.

Drawings and other pictures; conversation.

Fragmented. Dialogue is used.

Easier to produce.

Each chapter is between 17 and 50 pages long.


Visual Appeal: Artistry vs. Imagination

Manga is a type of graphic novel. It is more about art than words. The artwork makes it simple for readers to understand each scene and panel. Character expressions are frequently more detailed since mangas tend to visualize emotions through the drawings. The interaction of ink, shading, and line work immerses readers in the story’s universe, producing a vivid and lasting experience. Manga’s visual skill is particularly important in genres such as action, horror, and romance, where body language and facial expressions are key.

Light Novel and Manga
Light Novel and Manga

While not primarily visual, light novels rely on the power of the written word to evoke images in the reader’s mind. The descriptive style enables a more in-depth examination of the characters’ thoughts, feelings, and motives. This allows readers to use their imaginations to create their own images of the events and characters. The lack of pictures emphasizes the reader’s interaction with the text, developing a deeper personal relationship with the narrative.


Manga chapters in magazines used to be 17-20 pages long. This rule applies to both print periodicals and numerous web-based comics. Monthly publications can include longer chapters of 30-50 pages. The number of panels, pictures, and conversation lines might vary greatly.

A light novel can have a word count ranging from 20,000 to 60,000 words. Many light novels that are part of a series have an average word count of 40,000 to 50,000 words. Each chapter could range from 1,500 to 5,000 words.


Surprisingly, it is far easier to generate a few chapters of a manga than it is to publish a light novel volume. 

A mangaka is the manga’s main author. They collaborate with a company editor and a small team of assistants to create each chapter, which can take a week or two.

The speed with which a Light Novel volume is published is determined by the author’s ability to write the story. Because the Japanese light novel market supports tight publication timetables, popular series can have fresh releases every 6-9 months. 


The bulk of Japanese light novels range in price from 600 to 1,500 yen. Aside from shipping and other fees, this equates to 5 to 12 USD, with paperback volumes being inherently more expensive than digital. Other costs, such as translation and licensing, can raise the price to $25 USD or more.

The average tankbon volume in English could be between 700 and 1,200 yen. Many well-known collected volumes cost between $8 and $20 USD at first.

The visual structure of manga necessitates a different approach to storytelling. To convey crucial information, the limited area within panels needs short conversation and vivid, emotive imagery. This might result in a faster-paced story, with events unfolding across multiple pages. Manga’s strength comes in its ability to integrate action, conversation, and graphics in a way that creates a dynamic reading experience that moves the tale along.

Pacing and immersion

Light novels can dig deeper into the plot’s complexities and the inner workings of characters’ thoughts because there are no images. This medium excels at delving into complicated issues and character development. Because there are fewer page count limits, light novels can evolve the narrative at a more methodical pace, allowing for subtle storytelling and the gradual unfolding of plotlines.

The visual structure of manga necessitates a different approach to storytelling. To convey crucial information, the limited area within panels needs short conversation and vivid, emotive imagery. This might result in a faster-paced story, with events unfolding across multiple pages. Manga’s strength comes in its ability to integrate action, conversation, and graphics in a way that creates a dynamic reading experience that moves the tale along.

Reading Mode

In contrast to manga, which is read from right to left, light novels are read from left to right. Light novel translations are also read from left to right, whereas manga translations are read from right to left.


Manga has numerous genres such as comedy, horror, history, romance, and humor, whereas light novels have genres ideal for young adults.


Light novels are similar to novellas with illustrations, and mangas are similar to Western comic books.

Target Audience

While light novels cater to adolescent and young readers, manga caters to readers of all ages.

Similarities Between the Light Novel and the Manga

  • Light novels and manga both began in Japan, but they are now widely popular around the world.
  • Both light novels and manga contain images or anime as part of the story.

Which are the best light novels?

Light books cover a wide range of topics and genres. Here’s a selection of the best ones you should read if you haven’t already!

  • Katanagatari (Sword Tale)FAQs
  • The Rising of the Shield Hero
  • Boogiepop 
  • The Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime
  • Arifureta: From Commonplace to World’s Strongest

What are some good manga to read?

Manga includes stories for readers of every genre and age, from fantasy adventure to autobiographical comics to historical fiction to, yes, superheroes and monsters.Here are some of my all-time favorite titles. Hopefully, one of the following interests you.

  • Naruto
  • One piece
  • Vagabond
  • Bleach
  • Inuyasha
  • Death note


Why are the titles of light novels so long?

Light novel fans – and weebs in general – enjoy making fun of the length of many light novel titles. In fact, some Light novels names can comprise up to 30 words. 

According to Pan Tachibana, a light novel author, long light novel titles are a result of the need to distinguish one’s novel from multiple other publications competing for a buyer’s attention. Such lengthy and descriptive titles rapidly enlighten and pique the curiosity of a potential reader.  

Should you start with a light novel or a manga?

The decision to read a light novel or a manga is influenced first by personal preferences and the individual series in question. 

Story Complexity: If you like a deeper study of characters’ ideas, motivations, and intricate plotlines, a light novel may be a better place to start. 

Visual Preference: If you enjoy vibrant visuals to accompany the narrative and are drawn to visual storytelling, starting with manga may be more appealing. 


Finally, the decision between light novels and manga comes down to personal preference. Each media provides a distinct reading experience, catering to a variety of tastes and preferences. Whether you find refuge in the rich prose of light novels or lose yourself in the visual tapestry of manga, both mediums serve as portals to fascinating worlds just waiting to be discovered. Accepting all genres allows readers to fully understand the richness and diversity of Japanese storytelling, demonstrating the inexhaustible inventiveness that continues to captivate audiences worldwide.

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