A new digital publisher for light novels translated into English has appeared in the form of J-Novel Club.
From the introduction on their home page:
We are proud to announce J-Novel Club, the first place on the web where you can read officially licensed Japanese light novels online, as they are being translated! And then collect the finished, high-quality e-books from your favorite e-book store or go Premium and download straight from us!
At the moment there are four light novel series available, each with two to four chapters translated so far:
- Brave Chronicle: The Ruinmaker — by Kenya Atsui (with art by Saori Toyota)
- My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World — by Tsuyoshi Fujitaka (with art by An2A)
- My Little Sister Can Read Kanji — by Takashi Kajii (with art by Halki Minamura)
- Occultic;Nine — by Chiyomaru Shikura (with art by pako)
It sounds like there could be at least six more titles announced by the end of the year, on top of this. I imagine they will be titles from Hobby Japan or Overlap, the publishers that J-Novel Club has partnered with.
A free preview of the first chapter or two is available for each series. To read on as the stories continue to be translated, you will want to subscribe to their services. A regular membership costs $4.95 a month, and allows you to read all the latest updates on their website (or with an app on your cell phone — search for J-Novel Club on the Android or iOS store). A premium membership is also available for $10.95 a month, which gives you the bonus of one credit each month to download a full ebook from their site. There are more details here.
Once a light novel volume is completed, J-Novel Club will release it for Kindle, Nook, etc. So if you would rather wait for specific volumes to release and purchase them individually for your e-reader, that will be an option too.
Below you will find a cover and synopsis for each series, as well as a link to an Amazon preorder page. Also, I have read the first chapter for each title, so I will include my first impressions on them too.
Brave Chronicle: The Ruinmaker
Meet Kurono Kokuya, a student in the lowest rank at Star Gate Academy – the world’s cutting-edge training facility for star sorcerers, the beings who use star sorcery to protect the Earth from otherworld invasions. His childhood friend Yukihime Yukigane just happens to be the world’s strongest star sorcerer, and she never lets him forget that fact. One day, their days of peace are interrupted by a powerful threat from another world. Kokuya and Yukihime stand on the front lines, risking their lives to protect those they love, but will they be able to defeat the Dark Lord Redge and his cruel minions?
Amazon link — December 3 release
Cho’s First Impressions: This is a fantasy adventure story set at a high school, so I think it will be of particular interest to those who are enjoying titles such as The Asterisk War and The Irregular from Magic High School. It’s not the sort of story I personally care for, and I didn’t see this one doing anything much to break the mold. There were three illustrations in this first segment alone though, and the artwork was quite nice.
My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World
One day, first year high school student Yuichi Sakaki suddenly awakens the power of “Soul Reader” within him, and he can see words above peoples heads that describe their true nature! With just a glance at the people around him, he sees crazy things like “Zombie”, “Witch”, and “Vampire”… That would be bad enough, but then there is “Serial Killer” Natsuki Takeuchi walking straight toward him… Nobody would ever believe him! Well, except for his older sister Mutsuko: This kind of stuff is right up her alley.
Amazon link — December 3 release
Cho’s First Impressions: This one reminded me of the various stories with the “chuunibyou” theme we’ve had in recent years. (Titles like When Supernatural Battles Become Commonplace and Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions come to mind.) The setup for this one is fun, and after reading the first segment I’m actually not sure what direction the story is going to go. I’m guessing it may be similar to Psycome, combining lighthearted “harem” antics with a more serious thriller plot.
My Little Sister Can Read Kanji
The year is 2202, and Japan has become the land of moe. Aspiring author Gin Imose and his little sister Kuroha are traveling to TOKYO to meet with the world famous author, Gai Odaira. Kuroha is uninterested in his orthodox literary style, and amazingly is able to read ancient modern Japanese books written in kanji! This fateful encounter sets off a chain of events that could change the course of literary history! Could it be that, long ago, books could be about more than little sisters showing their panties and getting in compromising situations with their non-blood-related older brothers? Impossible! It’s hard to even imagine a Japan where everyone could read kanji and the Prime Minister was a 3D human being…
Amazon link — December 17 release
Cho’s First Impressions: I didn’t expect much from this one, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by how earnest and silly it was. Just from the synopsis there, you can see it’s working with a completely ridiculous premise. On the surface it’s amusing, but there are layers of bizarre satire you can read into it all too… which is also part of the joke? The story is poking fun at what makes a book a fine work of classic literature, and what makes a book a trashy pulp novel (or, you know… a light novel). Also worth mentioning is the translation here, which is great. This seems like one of the last light novels you would expect someone to attempt working into English, but here it is.
From the mind behind Steins;Gate, Chaos;Head, Robotics;Notes, and Chaos;Child! Now a hit anime, too! –Q: Do you believe in ghosts? A: Of course not! Yuta Gamon, a young boy who lives in Kichijoji, runs an Occult-related blog called “Kirikiri Basara”. He spends his days dreaming of making a fortune off his affiliate links. Suddenly, Yuta’s blog brings together the fate of nine strangers, as what starts off as a tiny feeling that something’s wrong develops into a case that goes beyond imagination. Black magic, the afterlife, psychics, fortune-telling, other dimensions, prophecies, hypnosis, urban legends… The world is filled with flim-flam!
Amazon link — December 3 release
Cho’s First Impressions: I didn’t know anything about this series going into it, but upon reading the first segment it was easy to see it was from the same author as the popular Steins;Gate visual novel. The two main characters reminded me very much of Okabe and Mayuri, though to be honest I liked the Steins;Gate counterparts much more. But perhaps it’s too soon to judge? I am at least interested in seeing how things play out in regard to the occult; I love a good ghost story. But I guess it’s too soon to guess where things will go on that front? This looks to be a slow burner compared to the other light novels here, but that’s not surprising since Steins;Gate had an extensive setup too.
Are there any light novels here that catch your eye? There is a long free preview for each series, so be sure to give some of them a look! I’ll be curious to see what other series are picked up for J-Novel Club, and I hope things work out well for all parties involved. I think this could be a great way for more niche light novel labels to reach English readers more feasibly, so I hope everyone interested in these titles gives this a shot.
17 thoughts on “J-Novel Club — a New Online Source for Light Novels”
I’ve been waiting for Occultic;Nine’s English release for a few years now but I heard that the third volume (and up) were canceled because a VN was being released instead so I think I’ll pass. It would have been nice to have a physical copy though :C
I don’t know the details regarding the Occultic;Nine LNs in Japan, so I can’t say much there. Do give the free sample a shot if you’d like though, in case you might enjoy the first two volumes.
Yeah, I’d be interested in Occultic;Nine, but it doesn’t look like there’s anything past volume 2, and I can’t imagine the story being done in 2 volumes given who’s behind it. The My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World sounds like it could be interesting, especially given your comparison to Psycome, Cho. I was really pleasantly surprised by that book and wouldn’t mind reading more in the same vein. Maybe I’ll wait and pick up the whole volume when it’s released.
And how did I not know about this service yet? I follow a hoard of anime/manga/light novel type services on Twitter and such, but this is the first I’ve heard of it. Thanks for keeping us in the loop Cho!
Hm, I heard about J-Novel Club first on Twitter myself (via Frog-kun, to be specific). I’m glad this post helped get you up to speed though!
And yes, Fantasy World looks like it might be a fun one. I like how the story kept things a bit mysterious in the beginning (e.g. it’s unknown if the chuunibyou big sister is *actually* aware of the story’s supernatural elements).
Those certainly were surprising news when I first read about them. I didn’t know anything about J-Novel Club beforehand.
So far I’ve only read the first part of “My Little Sister Can Read Kanji” but it was quite a funny read so far.
I might consider subscribing to this new service, although it is kind of sad that I won’t be able to get a physical copy for any of these titles. For some reason I just find it to be much more comfortable to read a real book instead of staring at a screen.
In the past I really valued physical books–and actually, I still do–but I’ve since found ebooks to be just as feasible for reading (with the added bonus of convenience). E-readers such as the Kindle are also quite nice IMO for reading; I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried one. It’s not like a computer screen or a tablet, so I don’t need to worry about eye strain that way. Could be worth looking into!
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I subscribed today, thanks for the heads up! I read the first two chapters of “Kanji”, which was dang funny and I’m fully onboard for. Read part of the first chapter for “Brave Chronicle” which Cho was right about, good art but a flat story. I enjoyed “Asterick War” so I’m not averse to the genre, but this was pretty bad to me. The “Fantasy World” first chapter has an intriguing first chapter, so I’m curious to see where it goes. Haven’t read Occultic, from the synopsis the thought of keeping track of a ton of characters for a weekly chapter seems tough.
I’ll also say, they seem very responsive on their message board, making typo changes as soon as mentioned. It all has a nice “for fans by fans” feeling and I am happy to support.
Kanji was surprisingly amusing. I think as long as it doesn’t take itself seriously, it should be a fun read.
I also got the impression that they want to build a community that brings the translators and readers together, which I think is great.
I was interested in Occult Nine but I won’t be reading it because it’s only in digital format. I dislike all digital formats. I want to feel the book in my hands and not spend another four or five hours looking at my mobile… It’s a horrible way to read books. We pass so much time on mobile, playing games, watching videos, talking and now reading? But that’s good that a new company appear to bring more books.
It’s fine to have preferences, of course. I’m personally all right with reading on mobile, at least if its in short spurts (which seems to be the idea for J-Novel Club, with its weekly release schedule). But for a long sit-down-and-read, I’ve traditionally relied on physical novels. In recent years I’ve also found my Kindle to be super-convenient though, and it’s a nice device in that it doesn’t really feel like you’re reading from a screen. If you haven’t given one a try, it might be worth borrowing one from a friend for a few days~?
Wow, I’m really interested in Occultic;Nine and “My little sister can read Kanji”, so I’m really excited! Well then, I’m gonna burry myself with new LNs OwO
Have fun reading! It will be interesting to see what other titles get announced in the coming months.
Oh joy, more seinen releases in a market that’s oversaturated with them. They could have tried like Cross Infinite Worlds but nope.
From what I understand J-Novel Club is partnered with Overlap and Hobby Japan, so I think all their titles will come from those publishers. There will be more titles announced by the end of the year though, so maybe one of those will interest you more?
Anybody know of a good service for getting a print version of these novels? I’m actually a fan of Grimgar, but wanted a real book, not an ePub
If you want a physical copy for collecting, the original Japanese copies are always quite cheap.
If you really want a book in your hands for reading the English translation, I guess your best option for now is to print your own personal edition at the copy center.