A shocking number of very popular and well-rounded anime have come from light novel adaptations. As the popularity of anime expands, the sources inspiring its creation will expand with it. Below is a list of thirty of these anime, most of which are likely familiar to even the casual watcher – but you may not have known they were originally light novels!
This was originally a light novel series written by Nagaru Tanigawa and illustrated by Noizi Ito, and generally referred to only as Haruhi Suzumiya for practicality’s sake. The story itself revolves around a high school supernatural club, that Haruhi ropes her unfortunate peers into. While other students do enjoy the supernatural, she has something of an obsession with it; from spirits to aliens to conspiracy theories. Perhaps the most memorable thing about this anime is the iconic dance, one that even today is performed at conventions by groups of attendees or cosplayers.
Based on the light novel by Tsutomu Sato, Irregular at Magic High presents a familiar adolescent setting. However, viewers are introduced into a very involved and scientific approach to magic, and how the government manages magicians. The action scenes of the anime adaptation are brilliantly handled.
Young romance, decaying theme parks and a violently awkward young lady – just the makings for an interesting year. Add in magic and the knowledge that there are whole other worlds thriving off the power produced by happiness and things get a little… wonky. Amagi Brilliant Park was animated from the light novel by Shoji Gatoh and really is a comedic, heartwarming watch. Definitely an anime everyone needs to see at least once.
MAL Rated 8.40, Ranked #149 | Summer 2009 | Shaft
Monogatari was a light novel series written by Nisio Isin and illustrated by Taiwanese artist Vofan. The animation and series are divided as Bakemonogatari and Nisemonogatari and both were received extremely well. The animation itself won the Users’ Special Award in the 2nd annual DEG Japan Awards/Blu-ray Prizes. The story follows a familiar formula with multiple, powerful women converging around one helpful male protagonist named Koyomi.
Baccano! began as a light novel series by Ryohgo Narita, with illustrations by Katsumi Enami. The anime became a really big hit, especially considering its unique setting. It isn’t often that animation really explores periods in Western history. This one revolves around the Prohibition era, with thieves, thugs, mafioso, Camorristi, alchemists and more. There’s lots of action, a bit of sedition and a bit of twisted humor to tie it all together. Baccano! is creative, well-paced and a nice turn away from popular shoujo stories.
RPG anime have recently been enjoying a lot of success and Sword Art Online is perhaps the biggest of them all. From the light novel by Reki Kawahara, an anime was produced that has been loved and loathed in equal measure. There really seems to be no in between on this one. The animation is lovely, the music and idea wonderful. However, there is much debate on the execution of characters, particularly the overwhelming romance dynamic that draws away from the action-adventure story. Nevertheless, a fun watch, with plenty of action and decent fight scenes.
MAL Rated 8.54, Ranked #83 | Fall 2011 | ufotable
Fate/Zero a light novel by Gen Urobuchi with illustrations by Takashi Takeuchi, is a prequel to the popular visual novel, Fate/stay night. This story picks up during The Fourth Holy Grail War that was founded by the Einzbern, Matou and Tosaka families to obtain the power of the “Holy Grail”. It’s an interesting concept, and definitely worth a watch.
Ghost Hunt was written originally by Fuyumi Ono. Supposedly, the male protagonist, ‘Naru’ was based on an actual boy who lived in Britain and was said to posses supernatural powers. While all the different scary stories and ghost investigations are definitely good, the open-ended, incomplete nature of the conclusion to the show was more than a little disappointing to say the least. Still, worth a watch for those into creepy supernatural anime.
Based on the light novel by Ryohgo Narita with illustrations by Suzuhito Yasuda, Durarara!! is an exceptional anime. It has its own type of refreshing, twisted humor. While the story itself is somewhat somber, the method of displaying it is, at times, ridiculous. In this anime, an unsuspecting Mikado moves to Ikebukuro while attending Raira Academy. He meets up with a childhood friend who came to ‘the big city’ before himself, and spends much of his time in a state of almost-culture shock. With so many different types of people, Ikebukuro truly is an urban jungle and when insane fist fights break out on the streets, and a headless “Black Rider is out seeking justice, is it any wonder Mikado’s life becomes a tad ludicrous?
From the light novel series by Toki Yanagimi with illustrations by Kippu. Anti-Magic Academy: The 35th Test Platoon brings a new twist to the popular magic genre. Rather than training witches in power, the Anti-Magic Academy focuses on creating Inquisitors to combat witches. These soldiers exist to keep the world safe from those with magic hell-bent on destroying the world.
MAL Rated 7.82, Ranked #795 | Winter 2002 | Gonzo
Full Metal panic! is adapted from a series of light novels by Shoji Gatoh and illustrated by Shiki Douji. In this particular adaptation, the story follows Sousuke, a member of an anti-terrorist military organization known as Mithril. Unfortunately for him, he is assigned to protect one Kaname Chidori, a hot-headed high school student. It is, perhaps, his most difficult assignment. Between raging hormones, adolescent drama and legitimate threats to Miss Chidori’s health, Sousuke has his work cut out for him.
MAL Rated 8.37, Ranked #173 | Winter 2008 | Imagin
The Spice and Wolf light novel series was written by Isuna Hasekura and illustrated by Ju Ayakura. In this fantasy story, a traveling man named Kraft Lawrence moves about trading and selling with the goal of eventually establishing his own shop. During his travels, he meets a wolf-deity by the name of Holo. She, in a way, accosts the poor man and introduces herself as the town of Pasloe’s harvest goddess. Despite her responsibility, Holo dreams of returning to her homeland in the north and exploring the world beyond the town under her care – and Kraft is more than willing to facilitate her journey when a special bargain is struck.
Free! is perhaps the most unexpected entry on a list of light novel adaptations, but here it is anyway! The anime is based on the light novel High Speed! by Koji Oji. A group of young swimmers in the town of Iwami form a club in high school. They come together to swim, and to compete as they did many years before. Even with old faces returning to fan the flames of old rivalry, the refuse to give up on their ambitions or deepening friendship.
MAL Rated 7.44, Ranked #1765 | Spring 2005 | Gonzo
Trinity Blood began as a series of light novels written by Sunao Yoshida and illustrated by Thores Shibamoto. The story follows 900 years after a catastrophic war between humans and vampires. In this world, a cold war is underway between the Vatican, human government and the self-named “New Human Empire” that governs Methuselah, a vampiric city. Each faction deploys their own special soldier, but the Vatican has gone a step further by creating cyborg warriors to combat the inhuman abilities of vampires. While peace is the end goal, a certain Rosen Kreuz Order has vowed to do anything to stop its realization.
The Golden Time light novel series was written by Yuyuko Takemiya and illustrated by Eji Komatsu. It is more a slice-of-life type show, but incorporates supernatural themes with romantic comedy. Definitely an interesting mix. It begins with Banri Tada on his opening day of law school in Tokyo. Unfortunately for him, he suffers a degree of amnesia after falling from a bridge. He meets up with some interesting characters, and finds himself tangled up in the odd relationship of another young man and young woman.
The light novel series was written by Shiden Kanzaki and illustrated by Saki Ukai. Black Bullet tells the story of humanity ravaged by disease. This is known as the epidemic of Gastrea, a parasitic virus that forces them to retreat behind walls created from a special metal called Varanium. This metal has the ability to subdue Gastrea. However, in an unexpected turn of events, children born with Gastrea develop superhuman abilities. In line with the fear humanity suffers from this virus, these afflicted children are dubbed “Cursed Children”. The only catch is that only female children develop these abilities. Eventually, despite their fear, humanity does learn to take advantage of this odd… blessing.
No Game No Life‘s light novel series was written by Yu Kamiya. In this series, and the anime adaptation, two step-siblings pour their life and effort into video games. While the two display a keen intelligence, they turn to a hikikomori lifestyle and dominate the realm of games as the gaming identity ‘Blank’. Any and all games are targeted and mastered. However, their obsession takes a sharp, unexpected turn when virtual reality becomes their reality. So what are they to do, when faced with the chance to save a kingdom via a series of games? Why, they will rise to the occasion of course, unwilling to be defeated by any opponent on any game field.
The Devil is a Part Timer light novel series was written by Satoshi Wagahara and illustrated by Oniku(029). This story revolves around a world torn by war between a Hero named Emilia and the Demon King Satan. However, during a cataclysmic battle over domination of Ente Isla, a time portal is opened and Satan and Emilia find themselves stranded on modern Earth with no way to replenish their stores of magic and a mountain of lessons to learn. This begins, as all things must for adults, with obtaining a job.
Baka to Tesuto to Shokanju, Baka and Test was a light novel series written by Kenji Inoue and illustrated by Yui Haga. This story revolves around a bonafide idiot named Akihisa Yoshii who attends Fumizuki Academy in Japan. Here, students are rigidly divided by academic ability, and Yui is quite far from being prodigal material destined for the top classes with the best tools. Mizuki Himeji, a very intelligent girl, has the misfortune of landing in Class F with Yui and their shenanigans blossom from there. This anime is something of a slice-of-life, and amusing in its own way.
Abbreviated to Hamachi or OreGairu, this light novel series was written by Wataru Watari and illustrated by Ponkan8. Two loners are a member of the school’s Service Club, and despite their ideals or opinions, they must give help and advice to their peers. This anime is a slice-of-life revolving around typical situations faced by adolescents. These can range from heartbreak to friendship, but nonetheless offer life lessons wrapped up in lively humor.
MAL Rated 7.66, Ranked #1093 | Spring 2012 | Sunrise
Accel World‘s light novel series was written by Reki Kawahara and illustrated by HiMA. Haru is the victim of bullying, and escapes the daily torment of his school peers by fleeing to cyberspace. While immersing himself in a virtual game, he meets Kuroyukihime who introduces him to an ability called Brain Burst. From there, the world changes, and Haru is presented with the opportunity to use this astounding power to challenge Kings of Pure Color and reach the top. There, he will find answers to Brain Burst’s existence, and his own role in this ‘game.’
Abbreviated to Oreshura, this is an anime adapted from the light novel series written by Yuji Yuji with illustrations from Ruroo. Eita has ambition, and his goal is to win a full scholarship to medical school. With such serious plans, it’s no wonder he shuns romance and all the fleeting feelings of youth. However, after meeting Masuzu, the school’s sweetheart, he might have to reevaluate his resolution.
The Overlord light novel series was written by Satoshi Oshio and illustrated by Hugin Miyama. Yggdrasil is a virtual reality game, and has reached it’s final chapter as the servers are about to be shut down . However, despite the imminent end to this world, one Momonga decides to stay logged in. Although the clock strikes midnight, the powerful wizard is still in thegame. To add to the confusion, all of the previously NPCs seem to have developed their own individual personalities. What else would a strong, ex-guild leader decide to do but explore and plot for world domination?
MAL Rated 7.44, Ranked #1738 | Winter 2013 | Arms
Maoyu or Archenemy and Hero was a light novel series written by Mamare Touno. This story takes place in a world ravaged by a war between humans and demons. The great Hero of humanity reaches the Demon King’s palace, bringing hope to the people. However, what he finds there is far from what he expected. Rather than a tyrannical overlord, the Hero meets the Demon Queen, who proposes an alliance. She wishes to end the world, and unite their two peoples against far more worrisome enemies. The Hero is convinced of her sincerity and together they set out to bring mutual prosperity and peace to their people.
The Kokoro Connect light novel series was written by Sadanatsu Anda and illustred by Shiromizakana. Five high school students involved in the Student Council Research Club begin experiencing strange phenomenon. This results in them randomly swapping bodies with each other – though there seems to be no reason why. The group comes to learn that all of this is caused by a mysterious being called the ‘Heartseed’ who puts their friendship to the test.
MAL Ranked 7.58 , Ranked #1298 | Spring 2013 | AIC Plus+
Date A Live was a light novel series written by Koshi Tachibana and illustrated by Tsunako. Events known as spatial quakes plague Eurasia, resulting in over 150 million deaths and continuing for 30 years. A student named Shido discovers a strange girl unconscious at ground zero of a quake. Through her, he learns that his adopted sister is a spirit from another dimension. These Spirits are the real cause of the spatial quakes, but just what are they going to do about it?
Beyond the Boundary light novel series was written by Tomoyo Kamoi. An unsuspecting student attempts to save another from suicide. However, the tables turn when Mirai suddenly rams a sword through Akihito that is formed from her own blood. After this confrontation, Akihito learns that he is an immortal “half-youmu” and Mirai is a specialist who hunts youmu. Thus begins a precarious friendship with Mirai constantly trying to kill Akihito. The anime is very interesting, however, it sort of leaves the viewer hanging with only a single season and nothing to wrap up what comes after.
Heaven’s Memo Pad was a light novel series written by Hikaru Sugil and illustrated by Mel Kishida. Narumi is pulled into his school’s “Gardening Committee” and from there, finds himself involved in a group of NEET amateur detectives. The NEET agency is ran by a girl named Alice, who is quite resourceful despite her shut-in lifestyle. What sort of adventures await Narumi with the tedium of his life brushed away by such characters?
MAL Rated6.79, Ranked #4062 | Winter 2015 | 8bit
Absolute Duo was a light novel series written by Takumi Hiiragiboshi and illustrated by Yu Asaba. In this story, a young girl named Tor enrolls in Koryo Academy. This school is quite unlike any normal school and students find themselves in combat with each other utilizing weapons known as Blaze. They are being trained as future peacekeepers and so they take their eccentric schooling quite seriously. So what lays in store for dear Tor, when being faced with such possibilities for the future?
MAL Rated 7.92, Ranked #631 | Fall 2009 | Madhouse
Aoi Bungaku Series is an anime based on a collection of classic Japanese literature. There are a total of four separate stories told in this twelve episode series. The first story, and a personal favorite of mine, is Ningen Shikkaku based on the novel by Osamu Dazai. It displayes some heavy western influence in thematic approach, but all-told is transformed into an unnerving psychological thriller on screen. The others are; Jigoku Hen and Kumo no Ito by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, and Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita by Ango Sakaguchi. The art style for every story is varied, delving into a more childish style for Akutagawa’s stories and back to something more refined for Sakaguchi’s tale.