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Old 09-25-2017, 04:00 PM   #7570
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Originally Posted by Doppleganger View Post
Most light novels are below high school level reading. Konosuba is considered average, and Sky says it's late elementary/early junior high tier. Like the equivalent of an Animorph or Goosebumps book, which I would consider pretty dang juvenile.
I think the big difference here is owed to the kanji. In English, either you know the word you're reading or you don't, but either way you can still phonetically read it / sound it out. There's nothing to decode. With Japanese, it's not enough that a word is in your vocabulary -- its associated Chinese character has to be in your toolkit too, otherwise you're not going to be able to read the word. No American eight year old is going to get tripped up by "pretty", but a Japanese eight year old might well get tripped up by "綺麗" even though he'd have known the word if only you had written it as "きれい" instead.

"Late elementary / early junior high" sounds like it'd be about right, assuming the books are intended for a middle school audience. It's by Grade 6 that you finish learning the Kyōiku kanji, the first half of the Jōyō kanji that all Japanese adults are expected to be able to read.
"Japanese school children are expected to learn 1006 basic kanji characters, the kyōiku kanji, before finishing the sixth grade. The order in which these characters are learned is fixed. The kyōiku kanji list is a subset of a larger list, originally of 1945 kanji characters, in 2010 extended to 2136, known as the jōyō kanji – characters required for the level of fluency necessary to read newspapers and literature in Japanese. This larger list of characters is to be mastered by the end of the ninth grade. Schoolchildren learn the characters by repetition and radical." - Wikipedia, "Kanji Education"
If light novels really are targeted towards a lower level of literacy than "novels proper" are, then it would make sense to me that light novels target the middle school demographic. It's all but guaranteed that if you've managed to make it into middle school that you can at least read the most basic 1,000 characters. But at the same time, by the time you reach high school it's all but guaranteed that you can read the full Jōyō list. It's sort of a chicken-and-the-egg problem we have here -- "Are light novels intended for middle schoolers and thus they dumb down the language used? Or are light novels intended from the outset to be easy reads and thus they appeal to a middle school demographic?" -- but either way it makes sense to me why we would observe what we're observing.

Originally Posted by Doppleganger View Post
To me, for years light novel was synonymous was "short story", having no otaku connotations, merely a truncated format compared to a feature-length story.
See, I don't get how this idea ever took hold. It's true that a light novel like Haruhi is shorter than your usual novel -- when translated into English, it only weighs in at around 200 pages -- but 200 pages is hardly what I'd consider to be "a novella". Rather, I'd consider it "a slim novel." Most novellas I feel are in that 100-to-175 page range. Most short stories range from 5 pages to at the most 60 pages. I'd never consider Haruhi a "short story." I'd never tell someone, "Light novel is just a term that means 'short story' in Japanese." But my research today has shown that there are a ton of people who either had or who still have that notion about light novels.
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