This Year in English Light Novels 2017

Re:Zero fanart by わか

Happy new year! Actually it’s already almost been a whole month. Sorry for only getting to the yearly recap post now, but real life and this blog have both kept me quite busy the last several weeks. New light novel entries, updates for light novel entries, updating the preorder page and current releases page, catching up on some overdue reviews… All that fun stuff.

Let’s look back at the number of books that have been released in English the past few years.

  • LN releases in 2014: 18
  • LN releases in 2015: 49
  • LN releases in 2016: 82

How many LN releases in English do you think there were for 2017? If you guessed 183, then you’re correct! Or at least, that’s the number I got, counting releases from 72 different series. If you take out titles that don’t technically count as light novels, it’s still probably over 175 books out there to read, available either in physical or digital formats (or both).

I hope you all got to read at least one good light novel last year! Let’s take a look at some of the titles that premiered in 2017, and some of the series we can look forward to in 2018.

Yen Press

New series from Yen Press included The Empty Box and Zeroth Maria, Magical Girl Raising Project, Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers, The Saga of Tanya the Evil, So I’m a Spider So What?, That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, Wolf and Parchment (the Spice and Wolf sequel), and the Your Name novel plus its accompanying Another Side short story collection. All fantasy series, with about half of them a sort of urban/”our world” fantasy and the other half some variation of “swords and sorcery” fantasy.

A couple series caught up with Japan over the course of the past year. First was Kagerou Daze, releasing volume 7 in July. An eighth volume was later announced and recently released in Japan, completing that series. I imagine volume 8 will release in English some time this year. Meanwhile in September, the seventh volume of Black Bullet released, catching that series up to Japan. No word yet on when Shiden Kanzaki will write the next entry for that series.

Yen Press also began releasing ebooks for various series that were previously physical-only. Such series include Reki Kawahara’s works (Sword Art Online, Accel World, The Isolator), The Irregular at Magic High School, and Kieli (one of their older series, which was completed at nine volumes in 2013).

New series for 2018 will include Reborn as a Vending Machine, I’ve Been Killing Slimes for 300 Years, A Sister’s All You Need, Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online, Defeating the Demon Lord’s a Cinch (If You’ve Got a Ringer), WorldEnd, and The Hero and His Elf Bride Open a Pizza Parlor in Another World.

J-Novel Club

The biggest reason for the jump in the number of light novel releases last year is J-Novel Club’s consistent stream of online and ebook releases for over twenty series, most of which premiered in 2017. There are too many to list here, so be sure to check out their catalog of titles. Most of the stories are fantasy adventures, often involving isekai “in another world” scenarios, video game-like mechanics, and/or a harem setup. Fan favorites include the likes of The Faraway Paladin, Arifureta, Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, and Infinite Dendrogram.

A few series are already completed, including Bluesteel Blasphemer (4 volumes), My Big Sister Lives in a Fantasy World (7 volumes), and Paying to Win in a VRMMO (6 volumes). Meanwhile several other series have caught up or are close to catching up with Japan, including Mixed Bathing in Another Dimension, How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom, and Occultic;Nine.

Also worth mentioning, Seven Seas began releasing paperback versions of select J-Novel Club series, including Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash and Occultic;Nine (and soon in 2018: Arifureta, Clockwork Planet, and How a Realist Hero Rebuilt the Kingdom).

New series for 2018 include Ao Oni, Yume Nikki, Arifureta Zero, [New Life+], and The Master of Ragnarok and Blesser of Einherjar. There will surely be more though, so look forward to localization announcements in the months to come.

Seven Seas

In 2017, Seven Seas released the Vocaloid-related novel The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku, a nice hardback of the classic Record of Lodoss War‘s first volume, and started a new series titled Monster Girl Doctor. They will have more series in 2018: Toradora!, Didn’t I Say to Make My Abilities Average in the Next Life?!, and True Tenchi Muyo.

Vertical

There were two new releases from Vertical in 2017: a novel tie-in for The Seven Deadly Sins manga, and another for Your Lie in April. In the meantime, the company has continued releasing many Monogatari volumes, as well as a re-release for the first volume of Zaregoto. (Watch for the re-release of volume 2 to arrive soon.)

Cross Infinite World

New series started up by Cross Infinite World include Akaoni: Contract with a Vampire, and I Became the Secretary of a Hero!. A second volume was also released for The Violet Knight, and upcoming series in 2018 include Obsessions of an Otome Gamer and The Champions of Justice and the Supreme Ruler of Evil. The series from Cross Infinite World are unique in that they are web novel series from Japan that have been edited and given new illustrations as part of the translation process for their English ebook releases.

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Favorite Light Novels Read in 2017

I’m going to share some of my favorite reads from 2017 (not just from titles that released in 2017).

I re-read some of the volumes from my favorite light novel series–Book Girl–including my personal favorite from the lot, Book Girl and the Wayfarer’s Lamentation (volume 5). This is probably my favorite light novel period, so it was my favorite read of 2017. The first four volumes of the series all build up toward this story, in which the protagonist Konoha Inoue finally has to face his past head-on. The story also ties in to the classic work of Japanese literature titled Night on the Galactic Railroad, which I coincidentally watched the old anime film adaptation of later on in the year (and I loved that too).

I also read a single volume work that I had been meaning to read for a long time: Welcome to the NHK. This was released in English by Tokyopop over ten years ago. I think it’s still worth picking up though, if you can find a copy for a decent price. It is one of the more dramatic and down-to-earth titles available in English, with strong characterization and style of dark humor.

For 2017 releases, I’d have to say I was most impressed by the new series Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers and Magical Girl Raising Project, neither of which I expected to like nearly as much as I did. In particular, the second volume for both series really stood out in how they managed to work with their premises in clever new ways. Volume 2 for both Rokka and MGRP raise the stakes with their engaging mysteries and feature large casts of interesting characters who go through trying situations that push them to their limits. I recommend both series to those who enjoy a good thriller.

For my most pleasant surprise of 2017, I have to go with Akaoni: Contract with a Vampire‘s first volume. I didn’t think I’d be enjoying a vampire action/supernatural romance story in 2017, but that’s what happened last summer. I really liked the characters in this one, and suggest all fans of shoujo adventure stories to give it a shot.

Finally, for my favorite fan translation I read in 2017, that will go to the standalone work I recently reviewed: Sugar Dark (which I read in December). At first I didn’t think much of it, but once the final act hit I was pretty blown away. A solid dark fantasy with a highly memorable plot twist and ending.

———

Kastel here. I want money, so I’m writing about my favorite light novel reads of 2017 just a bit.

SukaMoka

I’ve recently enjoyed the latest volumes of SukaMoka, the sequel to SukaSuka. It’s a crazy ride to see the world be this beautifully built and I have more reasons to invest in the characters and the world they’re in. Kareno’s writing has matured and he knows when to reveal details and add in a little bit of drama here and there. While the main relationship isn’t as strong as Wilhelm and Kutori’s, I find it more thematically powerful because they are from the same world and know what the consequences of their mistakes are like. The series has a whole new overall direction that still plays on the ideas of SukaSuka and I am quite looking forward to the climax of the work.

D Crackers

D-Crackers, on the other hand, is a bumpy yet satisfactory ride. Drugs and chuu2 battles seem to be the forefront of its premise; yet, it is something more. It is a fantasy story about knights and queens. It’s about chivalry and why we serve in the name of love. And it’s also about why we escape, why we engage with escapist media, and why total escapement is a bad idea. It’s a goddamn humanizing work and I think it’s a damn flawed gem. I will be writing a review on it as soon as I don’t get lazy. I promise.

Ken to Mahou no Fantasy

Ken to Mahou no Fantasy is something I also wanted to review, but I didn’t get to due to some circumstances with my family. By the writer of Jinrui wa Suitai Shimashita and CROSS+CHANNEL, Ken to Mahou at first looks like a silly fantasy. But actually, it’s about the job market and how suffering it all is. Reading this book just reminds me of my situation with life as I go around getting interviews and failing to land a job. The book reflects that in a fantastical setting and it is one of the most sobering experiences I’ve ever experienced.

We focus too much on our lives and reputations with employment. You are not deemed a human being if you’re unemployed. Yet, we all know how shitty the economy is and how difficult it is to get out of this rut. We call jobless people lazy and parasites when in reality we aren’t that different from these people. The more I live through this horrible reality, the more this book remains relevant and worth talking about. Maybe it’s a good thing I haven’t written about this book yet because I do want to share my experiences in the context of this book. For now, I definitely recommend this book for anyone graduating from college. It’s a wake-up call for the horrors that await you.

That’s all for now. Light novels are damn rad.

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What were some of your favorite light novels you read last year? And what titles are you looking forward to checking out in 2018? Any specific books from your backlog you want to tackle this year? Be sure to leave a comment!

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