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Old 2011-07-10, 03:13   Link #1
michiru
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Why can't light novels become popular like Harry Potter?

They are also fantasies. What do they need to become popular?
Western settings or characters? To ban fan service? Or they are just lacking advertisement?
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Old 2011-07-10, 05:03   Link #2
solomon
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Many reasons.

One is mere advertising, these kinda books would have to have BIG TIME ad power to gain a fraction of Harry's market share. (Remember Harry is not only huge in America but Japan as well)

Also you have to consider that light novels are only read by a small group of hardcore fans IN JAPAN. You can't really expect such a niche publishing work which is catered to a culture with specifically different tastes than the west to really catch on here.

I don't know exactly what Harry's X-Factor was, but in an age of slick ass and tricked out video games, you'd better not get your hopes up from the publishing industry.
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Old 2011-07-10, 08:18   Link #3
kuroishinigami
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And, the biggest reason IMO is the language factor. English is one of the most used language in the world, either as mother tongue or second language, while Japanese can hardly be called one.

With light novel very Japanese heavy, cultural wise, it's hard to translate the work into other language while still retaining the beauty in the sentence structure and descriptive sentence which is very unique from each author. Even Japanese novel, not the light novel one, which is best sellers(such as Keigo Higashino's Detective Galileo series) in Japan wasn't known that well outside of Japan except to several groups of Japan fans(or some people call them Japanophile), it will be even harder for light novel, which is targeted toward young adult, to get more recognition world-wide. In Japan though, some light novel are actually popular and sells really well during their first week of being published.
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Old 2011-07-10, 08:43   Link #4
MrTerrorist
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solomon View Post
I don't know exactly what Harry's X-Factor was, but in an age of slick ass and tricked out video games, you'd better not get your hopes up from the publishing industry.
It's the characters since the books makes you care about them.
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Old 2011-07-10, 09:17   Link #5
Narzia
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Writing style, perhaps. I tried to read several Light Novels before and the writing style turned me off big time. It was impossible for me to read without banging my head against the desk every ten seconds. Perhaps the translation was bad, perhaps it's simply because of the difference between the languages, who knows.
And some of those stories (let alone the imagery they tend to come with) are way too exotic for the western audience.
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Old 2011-07-10, 09:31   Link #6
Shadow5YA
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Harry Potter didn't gain popularity only recently. The books became popular in the early 90s before the series was even finished.

In this day and age, however... I think the western world is less friendly toward reading physical novels. The only "new" western novel series to explode in popularity was Twilight, and that died down already.
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Old 2011-07-10, 09:54   Link #7
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I'm with kuroishinigami; when your book is in a language that is recognized throughout most of the known civilized world, you'll have a bigger market to work with- that in turn increase the exposure of your book and is easier to gain popularity.

Alot of people don't read Light Novels despite liking the series is simply because they're not translated, or any alternative language (cough chinese) might not be their strong suit.

Plus, in this modern age of internet and television, people are more than familiar with western culture, while the Japanese's style is still... acquired taste.

Also, the stigma that comes with being associated to all things Anime is rather... Discouraging.

So in summary; Language, Exposure, Culture, and Acceptance.

Quote:
Originally Posted by MrTerrorist View Post
It's the characters since the books makes you care about them.
I personally felt it was the deep complex world- the mix of fantasy with a tiny bit of modern, all together in a school setting.

...Yeah, sounds like a few Animes we know right ?
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Old 2011-07-10, 10:00   Link #8
yezhanquan
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On HP, I never did know why Voldermort never deem it necessary to use WMD along with his magic. Technology and magic are mutually exclusive to them?
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Old 2011-07-10, 12:20   Link #9
Xagzan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yezhanquan View Post
On HP, I never did know why Voldermort never deem it necessary to use WMD along with his magic. Technology and magic are mutually exclusive to them?
Cause he didn't care about nuking the world? He mainly just wanted to kill HP, first and foremost. Don't need wmds for that.
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Old 2011-07-10, 14:16   Link #10
Casshern
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yezhanquan View Post
On HP, I never did know why Voldermort never deem it necessary to use WMD along with his magic. Technology and magic are mutually exclusive to them?
I don't think it was ever an issue, since he hated humans so much he would never use their technology. Even the Weasley dad got alot of flack from other pure-bloods just for involving himself with human technology.

Btw the reason why I think Japanese fantasy wont ever become a huge success in the west, compared to something like HP, is entirely cultural. Western fantasy, despite involving magic and other fantastical elements, is still more "grounded" than Japanese fantasy. Looking at some of the biggest successes from Japan (not necessarily light novels):
You have Akira where the main character turns into a gargantuan amoeba and then evolves into a god/universe/ultimate energy kind of thing.
You have Haruhi, a teenage schoolgirl who is the ultimate God and creator of the universe, who alters the world based on her mood.
In Evangelion a 14 year old boy becomes (surprise) a god.

Not to mention other cultural elements like shooting beams from your hands. In western literature we have magic wands; it's something we understand because we grew up with fairy tales about witches and wizards. The concept of Qi is foreign and while it does seem somewhat "exotic" I can see why it doesn't appeal to a broader audience in the west. Then you have Japan's obsession with schoolgirls, and their frequently sexualized depictions. There's no way that stuff is gonna fly amongst the more conservative audiences. Not to mention Japan's obsession with schoolkids in general. Everything happens to schoolkids and it's up to schoolkids to save the world. In the end it just comes down to cultural differences.

Last edited by Casshern; 2011-07-10 at 14:39.
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Old 2011-07-10, 14:40   Link #11
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Apart from what's already been said here, there's also the Xenophobia which is especially eminent in the Japanese entertainment industry. Unlike Korea, they don't exactly put as much of a focus on marketing their stuff outside of Japan. As Solomon said, a niche publishing work directed at a specific audience won't make it very far in a market that wouldn't really understand the references in said works.
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Old 2011-07-10, 15:29   Link #12
Jan-Poo
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There has been an attempt to publish light novels in my country but it didn't work.
Those weren't really great works, I remember one about "Video Girl Ai" (which I read) and another about "Orange Road".
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Old 2011-07-10, 18:48   Link #13
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The language/cultural barrier namely. Japanese light novels often have allot of elements of Japanese culture in them, which often makes it seem unusual to someone reading it who isn't familiar with japanese media.
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Old 2011-07-10, 19:06   Link #14
kuroishinigami
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Casshern View Post
I don't think it was ever an issue, since he hated humans so much he would never use their technology. Even the Weasley dad got alot of flack from other pure-bloods just for involving himself with human technology.

Btw the reason why I think Japanese fantasy wont ever become a huge success in the west, compared to something like HP, is entirely cultural. Western fantasy, despite involving magic and other fantastical elements, is still more "grounded" than Japanese fantasy. Looking at some of the biggest successes from Japan (not necessarily light novels):
You have Akira where the main character turns into a gargantuan amoeba and then evolves into a god/universe/ultimate energy kind of thing.
You have Haruhi, a teenage schoolgirl who is the ultimate God and creator of the universe, who alters the world based on her mood.
In Evangelion a 14 year old boy becomes (surprise) a god.

Not to mention other cultural elements like shooting beams from your hands. In western literature we have magic wands; it's something we understand because we grew up with fairy tales about witches and wizards. The concept of Qi is foreign and while it does seem somewhat "exotic" I can see why it doesn't appeal to a broader audience in the west. Then you have Japan's obsession with schoolgirls, and their frequently sexualized depictions. There's no way that stuff is gonna fly amongst the more conservative audiences. Not to mention Japan's obsession with schoolkids in general. Everything happens to schoolkids and it's up to schoolkids to save the world. In the end it just comes down to cultural differences.
the schoolkids as protagonist is just a prejudice from people who only knew light novel from the works that's being animated. Besides, the aforementioned novel for comparison, Harry Potter, also stars schoolkids as its hero, and that's also the case with another popular western novel series, Twilight so that's definitely can't be the reason.

Light novel is big business in Japan with around 100 title, old and news, being published each year(rough estimates, could actually be much more), and some of them do have young adult hero. Some known example to the non-Japanese speaking communities are Spice and Wolf and Legend of Legendary Heroes which already get an anime adaptation, but there's a lot more title with not-a-schoolkid protagonist(there's one that tells a story about a robot that's being discriminated after its nice master is dead, there's another that tells a story about a negotiator that won't hesitate using a dirty or cruel method to achieve her target of maintaining peace). Moe-fied heroine, yes, but that's also the case with western work that beautified its heroine, but school-kid protagonist? the protagonists in those works are definitely not school-kid(the protagonist in Spice and Wolf can even be called a middle age man).

Like I said, I think language barrier is still the biggest problem that hinders light novel from being known throughout the world. Even if, for example, I recommend a good light novel title because the shounen-ish one with schoolkid hero isn't up to someone's taste, he/she probably won't be able to read my recommendation due to it not yet being translated into English, and considering the amount of text and word play in such works, fan translation is highly unlikely due to the amount of time needed to do it. Not to mention, light novel tend to focus more to the interaction between its characters instead of the overall story, and some interaction, like puns, gags, and proverbs, will certainly be lost its flavor when its
translated into other language such as English.
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Old 2011-07-11, 02:36   Link #15
Xion Valkyrie
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Quote:
Originally Posted by solomon View Post

Also you have to consider that light novels are only read by a small group of hardcore fans IN JAPAN. You can't really expect such a niche publishing work which is catered to a culture with specifically different tastes than the west to really catch on here.

I don't know exactly what Harry's X-Factor was, but in an age of slick ass and tricked out video games, you'd better not get your hopes up from the publishing industry.
This is a HUGE part of it. If it's not universally popular in Japan, how could it be universally popular outside of Japan? Even the most popular light novels that do get anime/movie adaptations are still relatively niche.

Harry Potter's X-Factor was that it was an all-ages book that actually appealed to all ages. A lot of great fantasy books only appeal to specific age groups. For example, Lord of the Rings, the Song of Ice and Fire series, etc, really only appeal to mature readers. On the other hand, you have books like Chronicles of Narnia, Lightning Thief, that really mostly appeal to younger readers.

Harry Potter on the other hand, was extremely popular with the younger readers, teens, young adults, and their their parents. This is something incredibly hard to do.

So a light novel would need to have that same kind of universal appeal to become like Harry Potter. Are there any that fit that criteria even before crossing the language barrier?
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Old 2011-07-11, 07:34   Link #16
kuroishinigami
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xion Valkyrie View Post
This is a HUGE part of it. If it's not universally popular in Japan, how could it be universally popular outside of Japan? Even the most popular light novels that do get anime/movie adaptations are still relatively niche.

Harry Potter's X-Factor was that it was an all-ages book that actually appealed to all ages. A lot of great fantasy books only appeal to specific age groups. For example, Lord of the Rings, the Song of Ice and Fire series, etc, really only appeal to mature readers. On the other hand, you have books like Chronicles of Narnia, Lightning Thief, that really mostly appeal to younger readers.

Harry Potter on the other hand, was extremely popular with the younger readers, teens, young adults, and their their parents. This is something incredibly hard to do.

So a light novel would need to have that same kind of universal appeal to become like Harry Potter. Are there any that fit that criteria even before crossing the language barrier?
Not sure about light novel, Keigo Higashino's work is a best seller that young and adult enjoy in Japan(something along the line of modern Agatha Christie or Conan Doyle I guess) so I guess it fit the criteria, although his work is considered a full novel instead of a light one. But, even his work only get little exposure outside of Japan(only got 1 work translated officially in English) so I'm gonna argue that it's not the main reason(although I'm sure the limited age range of targeted reader has some effect on the lack of exposure too).
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Old 2011-07-11, 07:42   Link #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kuroishinigami View Post
Not sure about light novel, Keigo Higashino's work is a best seller that young and adult enjoy in Japan(something along the line of modern Agatha Christie or Conan Doyle I guess) so I guess it fit the criteria, although his work is considered a full novel instead of a light one. But, even his work only get little exposure outside of Japan(only got 1 work translated officially in English) so I'm gonna argue that it's not the main reason(although I'm sure the limited age range of targeted reader has some effect on the lack of exposure too).
Really? I've always thought of Higashino's books as quite adult, at least the few I've read were. But interestingly, the books have been translated in pretty much all East Asian countries - Hong Kong, China, Korea, Taiwan, and even Thailand, too, if I'm not mistaken. So I think it's a culture thing. I just think it's very difficult for Asian books to get exposure in Western countries. I mean, how many Asian books have North Americans universally actually heard of? Far from becoming a mega-franchise like Harry Potter, Asian books have yet to get known outside of the continent...
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Old 2011-07-11, 08:21   Link #18
Shikabane_Hime
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There are a lot of reasons why light novels aren't popular like the Harry Potter series and the like.

1) The famous anti-Anime stigma that still limits the fanbase.

2) Differences in Culture. I don't just mean a difference in how the Japanese live or speak. I'm also talking about Japanese humor. They laugh, and we laugh, but the random person on the street looks at us and calls us crazy, because to them the "funny" situations in Japanese media are Childish, Crude, or even Lame.

3) Problems with translation. If the work is badly translated no one will touch it and the line between a good and a bad translation is extremely fine.

4) The difference between what is okay and what isn't okay. It does tie in with number one, and it is relaxing a bit, but some of the things that happen in anime and other Japanese media are just too out there for the casual reader or viewer to handle.

5) Lack of readers. Very few people do a lot of reading for pleasure anymore. On top of the fact that people don't have much time to there is also the new way to read. The Nook, Kindle, and other similar products are quickly making paper books outdated and most people look for books that are already best sellers, insteady of lesser known books when downloading new material.

6) Religion. Why? Like another user pointed out in their post, several anime characters become or are Gods or Goddesses. In a culture that clings as heavily to Cristianity (in it's many forms) as many Western countries do, the whole Mortal becomes a God idea is heavily frowned upon by the 'mainstream'.

Even Harry Potter, despite the popularity of the series, got attacked by several conservative groups. My aunt wouldn't let my cousins read the books or watch the movies for several years because of her belief that it was 'bad'.
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Old 2011-07-11, 08:25   Link #19
judasmartel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shikabane_Hime View Post
There are a lot of reasons why light novels aren't popular like the Harry Potter series and the like.

1) The famous anti-Anime stigma that still limits the fanbase.

2) Differences in Culture. I don't just mean a difference in how the Japanese live or speak. I'm also talking about Japanese humor. They laugh, and we laugh, but the random person on the street looks at us and calls us crazy, because to them the "funny" situations in Japanese media are Childish, Crude, or even Lame.

3) Problems with translation. If the work is badly translated no one will touch it and the line between a good and a bad translation is extremely fine.

4) The difference between what is okay and what isn't okay. It does tie in with number one, and it is relaxing a bit, but some of the things that happen in anime and other Japanese media are just too out there for the casual reader or viewer to handle.

5) Lack of readers. Very few people do a lot of reading for pleasure anymore. On top of the fact that people don't have much time to there is also the new way to read. The Nook, Kindle, and other similar products are quickly making paper books outdated and most people look for books that are already best sellers, insteady of lesser known books when downloading new material.

6) Religion. Why? Like another user pointed out in their post, several anime characters become or are Gods or Goddesses. In a culture that clings as heavily to Cristianity (in it's many forms) as many Western countries do, the whole Mortal becomes a God idea is heavily frowned upon by the 'mainstream'.

Even Harry Potter, despite the popularity of the series, got attacked by several conservative groups. My aunt wouldn't let my cousins read the books or watch the movies for several years because of her belief that it was 'bad'.
Just because it portrays magic and the Bible forbids even the mention of the word magic, is that it?

Spoiler for :
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Old 2011-07-11, 08:42   Link #20
LoweGear
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shikabane_Hime View Post
Even Harry Potter, despite the popularity of the series, got attacked by several conservative groups. My aunt wouldn't let my cousins read the books or watch the movies for several years because of her belief that it was 'bad'.
I have personally heard this story before: My very own aunt who lives the closest to us is a staunch Christian, so much so that she rails against our cousin who liked to read Harry Potter because she sees the books as "demonic" (her exact words) due to magic being its primary theme.

On-topic, most of the relevant reasons as to why Japanese light novels aren't so popular outside of Japan has been outlined. There is also the fact that popularity is a very strange thing: there are stories and franchises that have millions of dollars and lots of sponsors supporting them that fade easily or at worst never get off the ground, and then there are some works that are initially low key or initially labelled as "failures", but then become phenomena that become a part of modern pop culture (Star Trek is one of the best examples of this).

There are many factors that can improve or degrade the chances of a particular work becoming popular, but ultimately it takes a combination of luck, timing, and exposure to turn something from a niche that only a few people will ever know to becoming a common household name that even those not familiar with the work can recognize.
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