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Posts Tagged ‘light novel’

People say many things about Kawahara Reki, but almost never that he is a good writer. This is quite puzzling, as we are talking about the probably most important light novel writer of 2012 – the author of two long-running light novel series (one of which took first place in this year’s "Kono Raito Noberu ga Sugoi!" ranking) that got turned into two equally successful anime series. It stands to reason that Kawahara is doing something right, even as he gets continuously bashed for his clichéd plots or simplistic villains. What is it that gets him his faithful readers?

Accel_World

First of all, Kawahara Reki keeps to a highly specialized topic matter – multiplayer game worlds and the people playing them. By this, he establishes a unique identity among light novel authors that allows his works to stand out in this highly homogenous field. His two series are different from most others but at the same time similar to each other. This makes it highly likely that supporters of one of his series will reach for, and find themselves satisfied with, the other one. Both of Kawahara’s series add to the other’s strength. The author keeps a delicate balance of familiarity and novelty between the two series – the topic matter is highly similar in both, but there are also at least two important differences. One of them is the main character. In Accel World, Haruyuki is the eternal underdog, easy to sympathize and identify with because of all his failings. In Sword Art Online, Kirito is the unmatched champion, vehicle of chuunibyou fantasies. Kawahara takes full advantage of those opposing character archetypes and thus caters to a wide range of needs of his audience.

Sword-Art-Online

Another difference is how while the characters of SAO slip into the world of online games, in AW it is the Brain Burst program itself that invades the everyday lives of its players. This slight difference is actually key to keeping the settings in Kawahara’s novels from overlapping. This in turn lets him give the stories longevity through constant exploration of the settings. The ability to churn out more volumes without losing steam is what makes or breaks a light novel series, but it is easy to see that Kawahara’s overarching plots alone would probably not be enough to glue his series together. In SAO, the characters’ only initial goal, getting out of the game alive, is accomplished within the first novel. In AW, Kuroyukihime’s crusade against the other kings seems at first to be the main plotline, but it soon enough takes a backseat to other developments. The novels maintain their continuity not through their conflicts, but the characters and the worlds they live in.

Shuraba ka yo?

Another case where Kawahara shows his understanding of the workings of a contemporary light novel is his treatment of female characters. One of the main reasons why recent light novel series are so alike is that most of them follow a tried-and-true formula of introducing a new potential love interest in every volume. This lets authors keep things fresh even without breaking new ground, takes advantage of the illustrations that go along with a light novel, fits right in with the semi-episodic nature of the genre and is an easy way to just go through most of the common character archetypes while maintaining a decent level of popularity. While this might be the perfect recipe to write a mediocre light novel, there is no denying how potent the pattern is. Here, Kawahara’s novels set themselves apart form the main trend by featuring clear-cut main couples that progress swiftly to the “official status”, with confessions in the initial volumes of both series. But even with an established main couple and a faithful protagonist, Kawahara does not turn a blind eye to the potential of the golden pattern, finding ways to create tender (if not necessarily romantic) moments between the hero and an ever-expanding cast of female characters. Which is not to say that Kawahara mistreats his female fans. Without spoiling too much, there’s even a scene in one of the later AW novels with Takumu straddling Haruyuki on a bed and demanding for Haru to “mess him up”. While the actual significance of the scene might not be exactly what it seems, it is not entirely impossible that this is Kawahara’s way of nodding towards the yaoi enthusiasts among his readers, showing the great width of his target audience.

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If nothing else, Kawahara Reki knows exactly what his readers want, and he delivers. Critics might not see his works as worthwhile, but would the tens of thousands of his fans agree? 

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The people at Yaraon recently posted a list of the light novels with the longest titles, and it’s a sight to behold. Without further ado, I present the top three.

iinchou

#3

That Student Council President that Everyone is Afraid of will apparently be my Personal Maid by Okayu Masaki

Comment: Considering this person debuted with the infamous Bludgeoning Angel Dokuro-chan series… this might actually be a step in the right direction?

meimonkou

#2

What if a Prestigious School’s Student Council President were to Read Abdul Alhazred’s Necronomicon? by Hayaduka Katsuya

Comment: I’m starting to see a pattern besides the length, and it has to do with a common moe archetype…

koibito 

I Tried Training a Girl Exactly like the Student Council President with the Intention of Making Her Become my Lover, but I Ended Up Becoming Her Slave Instead by Tsukimi Souhei

Comment: …

Well, the student council president had to be involved somehow, I guess?

 


On a personal note, I’ll soon be starting my first real job as a Japanese translator in a car factory in my country (yay?). We’ll see if the blog survives those four months. Not like I update that much anyway, though.

Kids, be warned, watch too much anime and you might end up like me.  

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We all have characters we love and characters we hate, it’s just that some of us go further than others when those feelings are concerned. Fushimi Tsukasa, author of the Ore no Imouto wa Konna ni Kawaii Wake ga Nai light novels, experienced first-hand how attached some fans are to the characters he created. As Japanese news sites report:

 

Man suspected of sending threat mails to light novel author Fushimi Tsukasa taken into custody, states the author ‘made a mockery of his favorite character’.

 

On the 12th of this month, the Koujimachi police department took suspect Aoi, 32 years old and unemployed, into custody under suspicion of sending threat mails to light novel author Fushimi Tsukasa. The suspect admitted to the charges, stating that ‘he found the treatment of his favorite character in the novel insulting, and was infuriated.’

 

In November last year, the suspect used the author’s mail address revealed on an official page send ten threat messages, including statements like: ‘die, you crook’, ‘I’ll find out where you live’, ‘I’ll make you regret what you did’.

 

The suspect left a comment stating that ‘he would like to beat Kuroneko’s dead body’ on the author’s blog. When questioned by the police, he stated that ‘he couldn’t stand the story developments that constantly made Kuroneko stand out’.

 

The police also state that suspect Aoi edited one of Fushimi’s pictures to make it look as if the author’s head had been cut off and sent the image as a mail attachment. Aoi is suspected to have sent over 500 threatening mail messages total.

 

Source at: http://sankei.jp.msn.com/affairs/news/120412/crm12041220090023-n1.htm

 

The police did not mention which character’s honor the ‘fan’ was trying to defend this way, but novel fans speculate that it could only be Kirino. Fushimi, on the other hand, does not appear to be taking the incident to heart – in the latest volume of the OreImo novels, he jokingly refers to the whole situation by having one of his characters mention ‘crazy stalkers delivering a dead cat to your door every day’.

 

This might be a good opportunity to reconsider how far we can go with hating on a given character before becoming silly and destructive. Spread love, not war?

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