Cho: Let’s continue our introduction posts for the new contributors to this site. Next up is Gee!
How about you introduce yourself?
Gee: Hi everyone, you can call me Gee! I’m a 20-something from Australia, currently juggling work, study, and at least three side projects at a time. You may know me from my YouTube channel where I talk for far too long about the things I enjoy, or my Twitter where I do the same.
My current area of study is Professional Writing and Editing, which is just a fancy way to say that I can type up a report and pick out the errant punctuation. If you need a copy editor, I’m your gal! (I’m also completing an accounting degree, but that’s less fun to talk about.)
Before joining the ELN staff, I previously wrote a review for the site about Spice & Wolf vol 16, the most-recent volume at the time and the penultimate of the series. I’ve always been a big fan of the site and really respect all the hard work you continue to put into it—it’s such a fantastic resource, and I’d be lost without it. Thank you for this opportunity you’ve given me to contribute both previously, and now.
Cho: Thanks for the kind words! What got you into light novels, and what do you like most about them?
Gee: I’ve always read books in vast quantities, so when I started out as a new anime and manga fan, light novels were a logical next step. Curiously, I didn’t start with light novels that had an anime I was already familiar with—I think mostly because I felt I’d just be re-reading a lot that I already knew—but I definitely expanded my reading and buying habits as time passed. My very first light novels were Kieli and Book Girl—two of Yen’s earliest steps into the medium—and I fell in love. Since then the light novel market has grown considerably in the English-speaking market, and it seems like new titles are getting published all the time.
There are so many things about light novels I like! Prose is sometimes overlooked by anime or manga fans as being “too long” or only for people who read a lot, but I definitely disagree. Like with any written fiction, light novels engage the imagination—especially so if set in weird fantasy worlds or featuring characters with weird powers, but in normal settings too if they ask the right questions. Light novels are designed to be quick reads and easily-digestible, so with the power of a good plot and attentive translation, it’s easy to pass a couple hours with one. Going in I know I’ll (almost always) have a complete and satisfying story within the ~200 pages. There’s something for everyone, and I’m glad more and more people and publishers are taking the chance with light novels. I do wish we were seeing more than just the most popular isekai or NisiOisiN being licensed on the whole, but even so, I’m excited about so many upcoming books! I also have to give Cross Infinite World props for targeting the poorly-represented shojo market and translating a lot of lesser-known one-and-done titles.
Cho: I think we have pretty similar tastes in light novels, ha ha. Do you have any suggestions for encouraging others to give light novels a try? I always wish I were better at recommending series to others.
Gee: For encouragement, I think a lot of it lies in the motivation fans have to read “the rest of the story” for anime adaptations and such. I would say for anyone who is thinking about trying light novels, to start with something familiar—if you’re already a fan of a franchise, the novelisations lend themselves to even more character depth and perspective than an anime can usually cover. It’s definitely important to keep in mind how comfortable someone is with sitting down and just reading, but the language choices and brisk pace of most light novels mean that they are less of a ‘commitment’.
Nowadays we have light novels in English in almost every genre—mystery, horror, sci-fi, slice-of-life, comedy—so it’s generally easy to find something for different tastes when making recommendations. Whenever I make a recommendation, whether it be for a manga, light novel, or longer prose, I try to reflect on how it made me feel, and why. The settings, premise, or genres between my recommendations aren’t always the same, but the atmosphere and/or emotional beats match. It’s probably a pretty flawed way to do things, but it keeps me actively engaged in and accountable for why I enjoy series too.
Cho: Sounds good to me. When it comes to light novels, what are some of your personal favorites?
Gee: I definitely started out strong with Kieli and Book Girl—those two still hold a place deep in my heart. Aside from those two, it’s probably no surprise for anyone who’s read my reviews that I’m a big Spice and Wolf fan. Its historical setting, enjoyable characters, and ability to make even the driest of subjects engaging keeps the series strong. I’m not as enamoured with the newer spin-off, but it’s slowly winning me over. Baccano! is by far my favourite currently-releasing series, and I’m so happy Yen finally gave us a release. (I’ve wanted to read it since first watching the anime in 2009.)
As for upcoming books, I’m excited for Walk On Girl and Penguin Highway—not light novels per se, but people tend to group books that have anime adaptations under that same moniker. I hope their success could lead to more Morimi books finding their way to English. Seven Seas also has a few franchise titles I’m curious about with the two Ancient Magus’ Bride novels set to be released soon.
I don’t really read fan-translated books, and I can’t read anything in Japanese, so my knowledge on many obscure titles, and the breadth of the Japanese industry as a whole, is very lacking. Even so, I do have my dream licenses: top two definitely being Jinrui wa Suitaishimashita and The Twelve Kingdoms.
Cho: Wah, Jinrui (or Humanity Has Declined) is at the top of my wish list too. Such unusual yet thoughtful stories for that one. We did get a few volumes for Twelve Kingdoms back in the Tokyopop days, but it’d be nice to see a license rescue for the series. (Actually, it’d be nice to see some of Fuyumi Ono’s other works too… I’m a big fan of Ghost Hunt/Evil Spirits and Shiki.)
Outside of light novels though, what other things do you enjoy?
Gee: Well, as previously mentioned, anime and manga is definitely the hobby I spend the most time on and discuss. Outside of ‘nerdy’ pursuits, I love cooking and baking from scratch. Give me a good Farmers Market, and I’m in heaven, haha.
I also spend as much time as I can traveling—my next trip will be in September, where I’ll be visiting South Korea for the first time. I’ve visited 16 countries and counting, as of now! This sort of ties in with my love of reading travelogues, history and mythology. I used to consume mystery (growing up on Christie and Doyle and Rendell) but now creative non-fiction is by far my favorite thing to read; I would recommend anything by Bill Bryson, who always makes me laugh.
Cho: That’s interesting to hear! I’m always meaning to read more non-fiction. I was also hoping to visit some places like South Korea and China while I was living in Japan, but I wasn’t able to fit much travel into my time there (and there was already too much to see just in Japan, ha ha). What is it you like most about traveling? Did this interest stem from books you read?
Gee: I totally understand the ‘too much to see just in Japan’ thing—when I visited, three weeks went by in a flash, and I still have so much I want to do for whenever I return!
My favorite thing about travel is the new perspectives you gain with each place you visit. The vibrancy and variety of culture across the world is something you can only truly appreciate experiencing first-hand and teaches you the value of the intangible parts of life—happiness, kindness, faith, struggle. The best experiences I’ve had whilst traveling internationally are the ones where I was volunteering in Vietnam and Costa Rica—working in orphanages in Ho Chi Minh and building a green water filter for rural coffee bean farmers. It’s not the flashy vacation destinations that a lot of people prefer their travel to be, but it makes you value your time and effort all the more when you can do something good for other people. Two weeks knee-deep in mud as you shovel out a pond is infinitely more fun and rewarding than lounging poolside, in my opinion.
Travel is something I’ve always done—I got my first passport at three months old! I was incredibly lucky to have parents who valued travel so highly, and prioritized saving everything extra to afford to take me (and later my sister too) to so many different places during our childhood. After getting my first job in high school, my first big purchase from my savings went towards my Vietnam trip and things have just continued on from there. The world is a fascinating place, and there’ll never be enough time to appreciate it all—which is why reading is usually the next-best thing. My reading has of course only fueled my want to visit so many more places, and there’s nothing like seeing a location you had only known through the written word before for the first time. Like walking through Kyoto after so many years of seeing it in anime, manga, and other books, or tasting the same type of frog curry described in Eileen Kay’s book Noodle Trails. Even more interesting is reading travelogues about your own country or city! You don’t know how much you don’t know about your home until you find someone else’s perspective on it.
Cho: Thanks for sharing, Gee! And thanks for all your help so far on this site.