light novel vs manga

If you’re a fan of Japanese fiction, and art then there is a solid chance that you’ve encountered a ton of anime, manga and light novels. As the Japanese art, culture and writing keep growing larger and larger among the rest of the world; people of all sorts have been getting their Japanese writing fix of all kinds. Whether it is science fiction or pure action, romantic tales of young love, or revenge stories about events that happened centuries ago; the Japanese light novel and manga collections have written about anything and everything.

The Japanese market, outside of Japan has mostly been interested in anime, however there is also a huge market for manga and light novels. The sales for both of these different writing styles are exponentially rising each year. There are more and more artists coming forward, and sharing their vision through their stories, with artistic, creative and exciting new worlds for fans to dive into.

The problem arises when a lot of these authors seem to have a preference in their writing styles. While some choose to go for the traditional manga writing style, others focus on the light novel format. However, while light novels and manga continue to thrive; a lot of people outside of Japan have never understood the difference between the two.

So, we’ve decided to ease your pain in figuring out what the difference between the two is. We will break down both mediums, and show you what is what and why. Knowing this difference will very easily determine what kind of content you like, and would make picking content much easier.

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light novel vs manga

Starting off with the lesser known of the two, light novels are genuinely much less popular than manga. This is in part due to whom they are marketed towards, these are usually marketed towards young adults and women, and young adults and adults in general have very little time to spare in Japan.

A light novel is exactly what it sounds like, a light reading which is often divided into parts; these are written in the style of traditional novellas and have illustrations on the sides that bring them into the graphic novel category. A lot of light novels seem to be confused with manga because of the extremely well made illustrations that these light novels feature, this is in part due to how popular manga were. The art style is the same as of the traditional manga, just to cater more towards their audiences. Originally, this was brought in when light novels were being abandoned in favor of manga, so the publication companies decided to add in these illustrations to cater to their audiences around 1970 in Japan. Overtime, this art style has become a huge part of the light novels, as it has been for manga for over many decades.

The main difference between the light novels and the manga however, is light novels’ focus on their writing and slower pace. While manga always have limited room for words, and have to convey most of their story through images and illustrations; there is way more room for world building and character development in the slower paced light novels. There are going to be much larger scene to scene compositions in light novels, while the art work is heavily inspired by manga; it usually lacks the finer details for the most part.

An example of a popular Japanese light novel that’s finally getting an anime adaptation is Mushoku Tensei. We recently wrote a complete guide to the Mushoku Tensei light novels. You’ll know where to start off from the anime, the differences between the manga and light novels and much more. Do give it a read if you’re interested in reading one of the best stories from the Isekai genre.


light novel vs manga

Manga on the other hand, unlike light novel is a common household word basically everywhere in the world. They are essentially just Japanese comic books, and have a huge history attached to them. The one of a kind art style and originality in terms of tropes for manga started way back in the 1800s, however after the second world had ended; manga began to grow in terms of popular around the  1950s.

Manga are usually provided to fans within two different forms. The first form is in the form of a chapter, which is usually published in a Japanese magazine publication, a chapter or more are released every month in a specific daily, weekly or monthly magazine and are continuously expanded upon within the same magazines chapter by chapter. Then comes the manga form, once there is a significant number of chapters that were published, they are collected into singular manga volume. There can be multiple manga volumes for one specific manga, such as One Piece for example; has around 98 manga volumes. There are also a lot of manga that choose to cut out filler content from their publications when compiling the chapters, and make it an easy read for the audiences to follow.

When it comes to content, a manga doesn’t really care about much of a specific target audience. Most of the manga are made for teenage audiences, however a lot of manga in modern times have been written for adults. When it comes to the type of content; audiences will be seeing stuff from romance, to action, to actual art-house, and horror and even sports and just simple super-hero stuff, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the quantity of genres that manga manage to touch. Manga are usually printed in black and white, manga can also have a ton of color printed volumes.


light novel vs manga

So, now that we’ve basically identified which one is which, we just have to clarify the main difference between the two different mediums. Manga are much quicker to read, while light novel have a slower pace. Manga usually tells its story through the illustrations and the writing is only character dialogues, whereas light novels revolve mostly around the writing and illustrations are there just to add some depth to the writing and to make them enchanting. While light novels usually cater towards young adults and female audiences, manga is so vast in its catalogue of genres and types that it cannot be categorized into one target demographic. Light novels are much more sensual, and emotional readings whereas manga are much tighter reads with a ton of exciting moments and reveals being based around character expressions and their actions. 

That is the difference between light novel and manga. We hope that this reading was very helpful to you all, and that it gave you some much needed insight about the differences between the two mediums. Make sure to catch up on more articles from us in the future!