Manga and light novels have gained immense popularity in recent years, captivating readers with their distinctive storytelling methods. Many popular light novel titles like Overlord and Mushoku Tensei have been adapted into manga, so you might wonder whether to read the light novel or the manga adaptation.
The Manga vs Light Novel debate is an old one and In this article, we will delve into the characteristics, visual differences, and appeal of manga and light novels, helping you decide which one to choose.
What are Manga & Light Novels
Manga are simply Japanese comics. Manga are quite similar to Western comics except they’re made in black & white and are also read from left to right.
Light Novels are pocket-sized novels with somewhere around 50,000 words, making them smaller than full-length novels. Light novels are mostly text with a few illustrations here and there. They are meant for light & simple reading, hence the name Light Novel.
Difference Between Manga & Light Novels
Visual vs Written
Manga is a visual style of storytelling that engages its readers through the artwork and visually stunning panels, allowing for a dynamic reading experience. Manga captivates its readers with the artwork and keeps them engaged in the story. Light novels, on the other hand, rely on words and the reader’s imagination to convey the story. Light Novels are more dialogue-driven and they also give a more in-depth description of scenes/settings. And, Light Novels also have pictures in them.
Light Novels have illustration images of characters & scenes which help you better imagine what the characters look like, though they only have a few of them in each volume (somewhere between 6-10), each of them is often very well done.
The way both of them convey the story is different and which is better depends on the reader’s personal preference.
Also, check out Why Are Manga Not Colored? Unveiling the Artistic Choices.
Manga chapters are published weekly or monthly in serialized magazines like Weekly Shonen Jump, which is one of the most popular magazines in Japan. After some time, the individual chapters would be collected and released in the market as volumes of the manga. Each volume typically has 8-12 chapters in it, making it somewhere around 200 pages long.
Light novels are rarely published as separate chapters. Usually, light novels are published as volumes at an interval of 6-9 months, giving the author plenty of time to work on the story, unlike manga artists who are often working tirelessly to draw a chapter each week.
Light novels are a lot more text-driven and context-dense to better explain the surroundings, the character’s appearances, the actions they make, and such. Since manga are primarily visual media, they don’t have as much text to read. You don’t need to read two paragraphs about how the character or the setting looks.
In manga, the reduction in the text helps you read it faster compared to the Light novel, and it also helps with the pacing of the story. One chapter of manga would be able to cover more of the story than the LN one.
LNs Are Always Ahead of the Manga
Manga adaptations take their story from the Light Novels, so, as the source material, LN always stays ahead of the manga. Even if the manga catches up to the LN with faster releases or faster pacing, it would have to go on a break to let the LN story progress further.
So, if you’re really interested in the story, you can read the light novel and enjoy the parts of the story that the manga might take years to reach. Sometimes, the manga will even be behind the anime if the creators take the story directly from the LN instead of waiting for the manga to catch up.
Changes to Story
While adapting the LN into a manga, some changes might be made, for better or worse, to the way the story is presented. One of the most common changes the creators make while adapting a Light Novel is tuning down the gore/sex and violent scenes which might not be suitable for the readers. this is mainly done in Anime but sometimes in manga as well.
Changes might be made to the story by skipping over certain scenes or explanations. Sometimes, the manga or anime might even skip over an entire volume of the Light Novel. For Example, the fourth season of the Overlord anime covers Vol. 10, 11, and 14, completely skipping Vol. 12 & 13 which would be later adapted as a movie.
The manga can even have a different ending than the Light Novel to do it better the second time or to keep the audience engaged in the story even if they’ve read the Light Novel already.
Is It Better To Read Manga Or Light Novel
If you can read a book without getting bored, then go for the Light Novel. Most people on the internet would give you the same answer.
Though manga are easier and faster to read, light novels are always ahead of the manga and convey the story much better. Plus, some details might be changed in the manga and it’s just better to read the light novel. If you’re going to start with the LN, I recommend starting from the very beginning instead of reading the manga first and then picking up in the LN where the manga left off.
Both Manga and Light Novels offer unique and captivating experiences. Manga’s visual storytelling and accessibility appeal to readers seeking a fast-paced, visually engaging experience, while light novels provide literary depth, stimulating imagination, and offering a more immersive journey. Ultimately, which one you choose depends on your personal preference and individual reading experiences.