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Old 09-25-2017, 03:04 PM   #7567
Talon87
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On the topic of light novels, I'm having a hard time finding academic definitions of a ライトノベル raito noberu versus a ノベル noberu or a 小説 shousetsu. There's a lot of answers given from the armchair in English, a lot of circular citations of Wikipedia. Wikipedia's own sources, however, don't stand up to the rigorous questions I have. Even the Japanese article has this to say:
ライトノベルの定義に関してはさまざまな考え方があり、業界内でも明確な基準は確立されていな い。

(Regarding the definition of a light novel, there are various ways of thinking, and even within the industry a clear/precise standard has not been established.)
Disheartening.

The article goes on to mention how there are even arguments that The Tale of Genji shares many features in common with light novels. (I assume this to mean that it becomes difficult to classify books as "light novels" if the criteria you select are criteria which would also fit what is agreed upon to be the world's first novel!) It also discusses possible reasons for the genesis of the term, which dates back to 1990, and how the Western labels "Junior" and "Young Adult" wouldn't work in Japan.

In general, there seem to be three criteria which determine whether a book is a light novel or a novel proper:
  • book length
  • paragraph length
  • ease of reading (e.g. vocabulary, kanji)
While there may not be any formal definition for us to cite, the idea seems to be that light novels typically use fewer difficult kanji, fewer difficult words, shorter paragraphs, and are not especially long.

Thus, if Overlord is getting to be quite long but is continuing to use easy words, short paragraphs, and easy kanji (as compared with classical literature?), then we might still say that Overlord is a light novel series and that its most recent entries are simply grotesquely long. If, on the other hand, Overlord is entering into Nasu Kinoko levels of reading difficulty AND it's becoming obscenely long, then perhaps it might shift over from being considered a grotequesly long light novel to being considered a puerile novel appealing to readers with juvenile taste. (This is not a potshot at Overlord or its fans. I myself hope to watch it soon. This is just me being perfectly honest that Overlord is like the Jurassic World of literature and not the Brothers Karamazov.)
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