(This post was heavily inspired by Karandi’s recent post on the perceived quantity of light novel adaptations within the anime medium. While this will not cover her topic in the exact same way, I would recommend you also look at that post, as well.)
What one may not know about me is that I love statistics. I love numbers and data, and using them to back arguments, form opinions, and discover interesting factoids. Normally, I do this with American football (it’s half the fun for me), but all sorts of different mediums can have it employed in some way, which is what the focus of this post is. There’s a lot of talk of light novel adaptations and whether or not there are too many of them or whether they’re of lower quality. With the help of things like MyAnimeList, I was able to properly accumulate every light novel adaptation I’ve ever seen and break it down by the numbers. The following will discuss different aspects based on my personal scores and numbers.
How Many Light Novel Adaptations Have I Seen?
A quick note: I excluded films from this list, so I didn’t count every single piece of anime from my full list. This is based on the 392 TV series, OVAs, ONAs, and specials from my anime list. Another thing to note is that I counted second (or third, or so on) seasons and spin-offs along with it.
With 100 of 392 of my anime list being light novel adaptations, that is a clean 25.5% of my list being comprised of the infamously too-crowded source. Just over a quarter of the anime I have seen have been light novel adaptations, so I am no stranger to picking one up if it seems interesting.
Recently, however, that isn’t the case. While I didn’t watch much whatsoever in 2018 (24 series sans films), only four series were those based on light novels, which comes in at about 17%.
Are Light Novel Adaptations Worse Than Others?
According to my MALGraph statistics, which calculates my ratings from my anime list, my average score for any anime based on everything (including films) is 5.33. From what I’ve heard, an average score this low basically means I hate anime. My average score for the 100 light novel adaptations I have seen comes to 4.92.
Perhaps in some fields, this would be a substantial difference, but personally, this is actually a little surprising to me. I am actually one who tends to scoff at the premises for light novel adaptations more than find them interesting, so I was expecting the average score to be lower than it actually is. A 4.92 on its own implies I’m more likely to rate a light novel adaptation with a negative score than a positive score, but it’s only barely so. If light novel adaptations are generally barely below average based on my scores, than any other anime is barely above average based on my scores. The difference is there, though minimal.
BUT… there is a catch to these scores. Many of the ratings I’ve given to anime in the past are likely outdated and may not 100% represent what I think of the anime at this current point. Of the 100 light novel adaptations counted for this list, a great deal of them came within the first few years of my anime renaissance in 2012, and I’m certainly not the same person now as I was in 2015. While the 5.33 and 4.92 averages are mostly concrete, there’s a real possibility that, should I rewatch all the shows I feel should have a change in score, both averages would be lower. How much lower for either becomes the real question.
Are Light Novel Adaptations More “Hit or Miss” Than Regular Shows?
Answer: Not really
Here is the complete graph of my ratings on MyAnimeList:
There are a few interesting distinctions here, right? A large number of 6’s and 5’s compared to everything else. More 1’s than 2’s, 9’s, and 10’s—and barely any 10’s whatsoever. Three times more 1’s and 2’s than 9’s and 10’s. More than anything, however, the graph tells the story of the average: it leans towards the middle. Nearly a quarter of all anime I see I give a 6, and almost half of every anime I watch I give a 5 or a 6.
Here is a complete graph of my ratings only counting light novel adaptations:
Look at that consistency. It seems I find a large majority of light novel adaptations above average, below average, or simply average. 62 of the 100 titles are between 4 and 6, which is good for 62% of the titles qualified being right around average in quality. Once again, I will admit that I’m surprised that this isn’t lower. I would’ve guessed that 4 would be the most popular score of mine for light novel adaptations, with 3 being not far behind. Lo and behold, a positive 6 has the top spot for most common score, and is even the same for all anime I rate in general.
A quarter of the 1’s I’ve given to all anime belong to light novel adaptations. Half of the 2’s I give are to light novel adaptations. About 37% of the 4’s I’ve given belong to light novel adaptations. While the overall average tends to be a tad more scattered in scores, the light novel average seems to be more fixed around 4 and 6. It would seem that to me, personally, light novel adaptations tend to be the complete opposite of hit or miss; it’s more likely to pinch in the same spot every time, if anything.
Are Light Novel Adaptations Easy To Spot?
Looking through the light novel adaptations I’ve seen, a large number of them have a premise that includes one of two of the following:
- Clear self-indulgency (whether in the form of isekai, harem, or being the sole beacon of hope/power in a fantasy setting).
- A penchant for oddities.
By “oddities,” I mean things that are not normally associated within common fictional stories. Things like Shiina from Sakurasou no Pet na Kanojo being docile and generally mute as a selling point (along with the entire eccentric dorm family), or the now-popular isekai trope of finding oneself in a specific land where they become a prominent figure. These certain quirks (if compared to Boku no Hero Academia) give a little flavor to the identity of light novel adaptations.
Light novel adaptations (of those I’ve completed) tend to be a little out there in regards to the general variety the anime medium offers in a given season. Chances are high that if one is watching a comedy anime about an exaggerated school life, it’s not a light novel adaptation. If one is watching a show about personified soda cans or various other inanimate objects, it’s probably a light novel adaptation.
Of course, there are always exceptions to this. Toradora! has next to nothing in common to other anime of its type in Campione! or Allison to Lillia, for example. It presents a simple premise of following students in a normal high school revolving around normal romantics intentions for others. Basic stuff. Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu is another example, as the anime is generally pretty grounded in reality and rarely so bonkers that it feels like it should be within a fantasy. These stories are a little more rare from my perspective, as when I think of the typical light novel adaptation, it’s generally those like Sword Art Online or Kamisama no Nichiyoubi, where fantasy and an engrossing shtick are the major selling points.
Before I end this post, I’d like to point out a few noteworthy series with light novel roots (both good and bad) that I found interesting when looking through the sources of each of my completed anime. On the positive side, Katanagatari, one of my all-time favorites and the only 10 I gave to a light novel adaptation, was written by Nisio Isin, who also wrote the Monogatari series of light novels, with each of its adaptations receiving positive scores from me. Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita is another great anime based on a light novel that surprises me with the fact that it’s a light novel adaptation.
On the negative side, the previously-alluded-to Akikan! is one the most bizarre anime I’ve ever seen, right up there with that one manga about loving a tapeworm. As I’ve made obvious, the subject of isekai doesn’t really interest me, thus most isekai titles that have received momentous praise from others are generally “meh” from my perspective (Overlord, No Game No Life). And then there’s Zero no Tsukaima, a series I really need to rewatch. Has some nice moments, but is generally overshadowed by harem bullshit and self-indulgency. This series is notable because it has, like, seven-hundred episodes (49), making it one of the longest commitments to a light novel adaptation I’ve ever managed to complete.
And with all that said, know that I learned a great deal about myself from looking this all up; some not surprising and others a little enlightening. I realize I didn’t have much to say in this post, but I hope the number-crunching satisfied even a few.
Where do you stand on light novel adaptations? Are there too many? Are they worse in quality?