Introduction to Web Novels - Tankobonbon

Did you know that some of today’s beloved anime titles came from web novels?

As the name suggests, web novels are stories published on online platforms by amateur writers. Just like manga, they run on a serialized basis. 

A Brief History

This relatively new medium, which only gained popularity in the last decade, originated from the novels section of online message boards in Japan. The ‘90s saw the birth of novel contribution sites in the country. Amateur writers eventually started using them. Professional writers, on the other hand, chose to serialize their work on their websites.

Shousetsuka ni Narou

Currently, there are multiple platforms for aspiring novelists in Japan. Among the most well-known is Shousetsuka ni Narou (literally means Let’s Become a Novelist). From a mere personal website in 2004, it became a web novel company that rose to prominence in 2010.

Everyone is free to post their work on this website. Writers would put up their stories on the platform in the hopes of getting picked up by a major publisher.

The Trend in Japanese Web Novels

Isekai-themed stories have been popular on Japanese web novel websites since 2016. The most common factor is the protagonist being summoned or reincarnated in a medieval period-like world. The hero will often obtain special powers, gain allies and companions, and effortlessly have a girl fall in love. Above all these, he is granted his desire to redo his life because the previous one is pointless, mundane, and unsatisfying.

That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime ©Fuse, Mitz Vah 2017

In a sea of countless web novels, it can be challenging to pick which one to read. Authors give their work lengthy titles, which helps the potential reader quickly overview the plot. In a way, long titles summarize the entire story and tell the readers if it will suit their tastes.

How Web Novels Eventually Become an Anime

A web novel undergoes a process before it receives an anime adaptation.

Writing a story from scratch and marketing it to gain big sales is challenging. That’s why big publishers–Kadokawa Shoten and its subsidiaries are among them–choose to look for web novels that are already popular on Shousetsuka ni Narou.

The author works with an editor to polish the novel, making it ready for publishing. When a series becomes popular, the company takes advantage of the product through cross-media marketing (in Japan, it’s called media mix). This strategy is the reason why various works become adapted into manga and, finally, into anime.

General Differences Between a Web Novel and a Light Novel

  • As previously discussed, the light novel is a polished version: the writing is of higher quality, and the pacing is improved.
  • A web novel tends to be longer because it doesn’t follow editorial standards. A light novel, on the other hand, is about 50,000 words.
  • Light novels tend to expand on the story.
  • Web novels do not have illustrations. Light novels have illustrations done by pros.
  • There is a clear-cut target market when marketing light novels. Web novels are not aimed at a specific demographic.
  • Web novels are free to read. Light novels need to be purchased.

Sources: WikipediaMiponAnime Stack ExchangeAnime News NetworkBAL Times

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