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“We solved every case we worked on. It’s just that the solutions weren’t always pretty. An explosion here, an inferno there, and in the end, we’re left with a mountain of corpses, and, incidentally, a solution.”–Kei, “The Great Adventure of the Dirty Pair” When science fiction writer A. Bertram Chandler visited Japan in the late […]

Up to this point, this light novel survey has been focused on stories set in the writers’ present. The recent history of the medium can be organized into three great periods: the secondary fantasy worlds of  the 1980s and 1990s, the primary fantasy adventures of the 1990s and 2000s, and the isekai portal fantasies of the 2000s and […]

Previous entries in this light novel recommendation series have explored Tolkien’s primary and secondary worlds, with the aim of explaining the mechanics of isekai portal fantasies that take characters from the present and fling them into fantasy worlds. As a result, the selections have dealt with heroes from the primary world–our world. But self-contained and internally consistent fantasy worlds […]

In the far-distant future, mankind has traversed the stars and settled distant worlds. But no matter how advanced the technology of the future becomes, it seems the spacefaring nations cannot entirely shed their human nature. Jinto Lin finds this out the hard way when, as a child, his home world is conquered by the powerful […]

As video games increasingly become the most common method of interacting with fantasy, the portals to fantasy worlds have sent heroes into video game worlds. Not just the fantasy worlds of the favorite games, but inside the games themselves, continuing the trapped-in-a-computer-game stories made popular by Jumanji, The Matrix and cyberpunk. While the influence of the Dragon Quest video game […]

With laughter and mockery closing off wish-fulfillment fantasies set in the familiar world around light novel readers, light novel fantasists escaped into other worlds, taking their everyday Japanese characters with them. These in another world fantasies, sometimes called portal fantasies in English but better known as isekai in Japanese, soon became the dominant genre of light novels, enjoying popularity […]

Light novels have been a frequent topic in pulp fantasy, combining the evolution of the pulp magazine with Japanese pop culture to various degrees of success. In the 1970s, Japanese publishers combined pulp magazines with anime-inspired illustrations aimed at teens and young adults. Since then, the market for these short, pulpy and fannish novels (about […]

If you’ve read my review of NISIOISIN’s Bakemonogatari Part 01, you’ll know that I am not a fan of the story “Mayoi Snail.” Not only do I find it a slow story hobbled by Koyomi’s need to be clever and the long wait for Hitagi to return with the solution to Mayoi’s mystery, I have long grown […]

In the late 1970s, the surging popularity of both J. R. R. Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons fueled an increased appetite in fantasy novels. Publishers scrambled to meet this demand, buying up a number of derivative stories that congealed into Tolkien and D&D pastiche. This increasingly self-referencing sub-genre of fantasy was derided as “extruded fantasy […]

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, isekai and light novel fans. A salaryman burnout works themselves to death at their desk. As they enter the afterlife, a kind deity takes pity on them, and offers a chance to have a second life in an MMO-inspired world– This time, it’s different, I swear. This time the burnout’s […]

Today’s guest post is by JD Cowan, writer of Grey Cat Blues, who offers a survey of one of Japan’s influential light novel magazines. For pulp fans, the light novel is a Japanese evolution from the pulps, often targeting the young adult market by adding illustrations and younger protagonists to the classic pulp formulas. These stories […]

Spend enough time with anime, manga, or JRPG video games, and you’ll encounter the seven secrets of the school, a set of mysteries used to awe transfer students. Upon further investigation, each of these secrets is usually revealed to be nothing more than an exaggerated rumor or a strange trick of sound and light. But […]

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