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Answerman - Why Haven't Light Novels And Visual Novels Caught On In America?


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Cetais



Joined: 02 Feb 2012
Posts: 442
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:21 pm Reply with quote
I don't get why the asker thinks there's almost no Visual Novel translated.

In the recent years, Visual Novels started to pick up Steam, and they are quite popular on Steam now. There was a kickstarter for an official English version of CLANNAD, and they got 0,5 million. Muv-Luv got 1,25 million.
Mangagamer seems to take a lot of projects recently, and the same for Sekai-Project.

As for Light Novel, I know there's SAO, Accel World, Index, Spice & Wolf, Aria.... And that's pretty much every title released in English that I can think of.
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Brand



Joined: 30 Jan 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:22 pm Reply with quote
I do think access to visual novels, was a holding back them back for a long time. Now, that you can get a lot of them on Steam I think they have dug out a pretty decent niche. Will, they ever be main stream? No, I don't think so. For a lot of reason Justin wrote. Gamers in the States tend to want really pretty 3d graphics and a lot of action, which a visual novel is not. But it seems that companies have found it is worth spending the time to translate and get the games out there, so hopefully they will continue in the foreseeable future.
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Larkan



Joined: 25 Mar 2016
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:26 pm Reply with quote
Recently with Yenpress push of Light novels they seem to be getting more popular
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FilthyCasual



Joined: 01 Jun 2015
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:30 pm Reply with quote
There's plenty of incredibly popular light novel franchises in the west, such as the Boy goes to Magic High School series Harry Potter.

They just get called YA fiction instead.
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Utsuro no Hako



Joined: 18 May 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:32 pm Reply with quote
The big problem with VNs is the platform. Even if you're playing on a laptop, it's cumbersome and hard to get comfortable for the length of time it takes to make it through even one route. VNs demand a mobile device where you can stretch out on the couch and treat it like an ebook with some fancy graphics. I know there are a few that have been ported to Android and iOS, but rarely the most interesting games.
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EricJ2



Joined: 01 Feb 2014
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:32 pm Reply with quote
Brand wrote:
I do think access to visual novels, was a holding back them back for a long time. Now, that you can get a lot of them on Steam I think they have dug out a pretty decent niche. Will, they ever be main stream? No, I don't think so. For a lot of reason Justin wrote. Gamers in the States tend to want really pretty 3d graphics and a lot of action, which a visual novel is not. But it seems that companies have found it is worth spending the time to translate and get the games out there, so hopefully they will continue in the foreseeable future.


It's hard to tell what's an "interactive visual novel" and what's a "game":

Japan considers the dialogue-heavy plots and school-sims of Persona 3 and 4 as "visual novels", but to us, if you're fighting monsters in a maze dungeon, or choosing one of three "correct" dialogue options versus two "wrong" ones, it's a game.
Just try explaining the old "It's not a comic book, it's a graphic novel!" distinction to a non-comic reader.
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Saffire
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Joined: 25 Nov 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:33 pm Reply with quote
Cetais wrote:
As for Light Novel, I know there's SAO, Accel World, Index, Spice & Wolf, Aria.... And that's pretty much every title released in English that I can think of.
Oh, there's a lot more than that. (And I don't think Aria the Scarlet Ammo is being published.) And they're selling pretty well. But it's only been in the last year that publishing LNs has become a Thing. Before that, there were only 5 or 6 titles in print. And even now, I'm sure what's being released is selling but I haven't heard of any being runaway successes.


Last edited by Saffire on Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:34 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Beatdigga



Joined: 26 Oct 2003
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:33 pm Reply with quote
Keep in mind that America was first introduced to VN through the Sega CD. In other words, they were everything wrong with games in 1994.
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invalidname
Get off my lawn!Get off my lawn!


Joined: 11 Aug 2004
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Location: Grand Rapids, MI
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:40 pm Reply with quote
Yeah, I gotta argue for the null hypothesis here, i.e., that the original premise is invalid.

The OP asks why LNs and VNs "haven't caught on in the US the way Anime and Manga have". Well, for one thing, we've had anime in in the US since at least the 1960s, and manga since the 1970s. But there was only a smattering of each for decades. Sure, we have bookstores with entire manga sections today (well, where we still have bookstores), but as recently as the early 90s, manga was a few series from Viz (Ranma 1/2, Lum, etc.) and Marvel/Epic's flopped-and-colorized Akira. And we obviously didn't always have 100 anime series a year on Crunchyroll… it might have been 20 years before there were a total of 100 anime series ever translated into English. So, considering that visual novels didn't even exist until the the 1990s, let's temper our expectations, huh?

With visual novels, I think what's surprising is that they've succeeded to the degree they have, given the obstacles that Justin rightly points out. Mangagamer has published dozens of titles over the years, and the money pledged to VN Kickstarters has been awe-inspiring: a half-million dollars each for Clannad and Grisaia, and $1.25 million for Muv-Luv. And maybe the most interesting thing is the growth of OEL VNs, like Katawa Shojo. It'll be interesting as these move further away from their Japanese roots (take, for example, the upcoming Highway Blossoms, a yuri VN set in the modern-day US west, with characters driving around in an RV).

As for light novels… straight up: how much other fiction in other languages gets translated and brought over to the US? What other country has a literary subculture being translated and brought over here in volume? It wouldn't surprise me if light novels already outnumber genuine Japanese literature in English translation, and it's a good (albeit a little depressing) bet that volume 1 of Sword Art Online outsells Osamu Dezai's No Longer Human.

Temper your expectations; both LNs and VNs are doing OK by historical standards. And they both seem to be growing. With so many media formats shrinking (magazines, newspapers, etc.), any growth has to be considered a good thing.

EDIT: corrected a factual mistake: Hatoful Boyfriend was not OEL, so replaced with Katawa Shojo, which was.


Last edited by invalidname on Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:51 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Cetais



Joined: 02 Feb 2012
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:40 pm Reply with quote
Saffire wrote:
Cetais wrote:
As for Light Novel, I know there's SAO, Accel World, Index, Spice & Wolf, Aria.... And that's pretty much every title released in English that I can think of.
Oh, there's a lot more than that. (And I don't think Aria the Scarlet Ammo is being published.) And they're selling pretty well. But it's only been in the last year that publishing LNs has become a Thing. Before that, there were only 5 or 6 titles in print. And even now, I'm sure what's being released is selling but I haven't heard of any being runaway successes.

Trust me, Aria the Scarlet Ammo got an official English translation. I'm still sad that I've got to buy them if I want to read them again.

I didn't know about that, I'll check it out.
(Living in a french part of Canada, it's a bit hard to get ligh novels)
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MajorZero



Joined: 29 Jul 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:42 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
While translation quality varies wildly, the simple Japanese that light novels are usually written in often doesn't make for especially good English prose.

This. Both LNs and VNs are heavy on purple prose. Maybe it's a cultural thing, but most westerners who like to read won't even consider reading something with so much pointless exposition. Then, there's a problem of eroge, call it whatever you like, but most people don't have an interest in cartoon porn, and this is sure as hell will be the first thing they notice about significant amount of VNs.
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CaRoss



Joined: 11 Nov 2014
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:51 pm Reply with quote
I've got to question the usage of the phrase "simple Japanese." Not due to any issues with it, mind you, but I'm asking because of my innate curiosity as a writer.

Does "simple Japanese" coincide at all with the way that novels aimed at teens and young adults are written in English?

As an avid reader, I've noticed some similarities between how light novels like DanMachi, or Accel World, read similarly to novels like The School for Good and Evil series, in their prose and writing, while SAO, Black Bullet and Kizumonogatari remind me of the Falling Skies novels, or the novels by James Dashner.

Is this an accurate way of looking at who the target audience for light novels is, and what "simple Japanese" is being used for? Or am I missing something here?


Utsuro no Hako wrote:
The big problem with VNs is the platform. Even if you're playing on a laptop, it's cumbersome and hard to get comfortable for the length of time it takes to make it through even one route. VNs demand a mobile device where you can stretch out on the couch and treat it like an ebook with some fancy graphics. I know there are a few that have been ported to Android and iOS, but rarely the most interesting games.


Oh boy do I ever agree with this. I've got a few VN's off of Steam, but have a lot of trouble getting through them compared to having completed playthroughs of games like Hakuoki, the Danganronpa titles and Steins;Gate on my Vita.

The ease of having a VN on a portable platform, whether a phone, tablet or console like Vita/3DS is amazingly beneficial to the format.
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Parsifal24



Joined: 20 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:55 pm Reply with quote
I tried getting into Visual Novels a few years back and what got me out of it other than the price and lack of replay value($29.00 for one game that I will play for two maybe three days straight beat than never play again).

Was the honestly deceptive marketing of some titles that had awful mind/break rape domination fantasies alongside sugar sweet first love storylines in one game.

The awful ones were never even hinted at on the packaging or in the booklets I mean even Song Of Saya had a warning saying that healthy relationships are not like this.

So while I wish Visual Novels would get their due as a storytelling medium over here I think the fact that it's so niche in some ways except for the big tentpole titles like Clannad and feels hamstrung as a medium in my opinion.

As far as light novels go I agree with Justin at the end of the day it's a book and a good portion of people simply don't read and choose to be voluntarily illiterate. I hope with the recent push by Yen gets the word out while Viz getting Legend of The Galactic Heroes is a boon for old school fans.

Still it's that people are (if I may generalize) more visual and less based on words and somatics. Boks like The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Have shown this but that's more of a meta-textual explanation for why books, in my opinion, have become less popular.

As far as Japanese Light Novels a good part of it is the translation of the prose translation is an art form and a bad translation can make a good sound tone deaf or tiny to someone reading it in a language other than the original it was written in.
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Selipse



Joined: 04 Sep 2014
Posts: 205
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:56 pm Reply with quote
I think that the problem with visual novels is that they're being compared directly with games. They are, just as the name says, novels with visuals.
The limited interactivity doesn't make them games (except for a few exceptions).

The thing about visual novels is that they're a different medium that doesn't really have an equivalent outside of Japan. Unlike anime (Japanese cartoons), manga (Japanese comics), and even light novels (Japanese young adult books). You might be willing to say they're adventure games, but they're really an entirely different beast.

So, the problem is how to communicate and market this relatively new medium (for the West) to people.

By riding on the popularity of anime, visual novels have gotten pretty popular recently (see the Kickstarters mentioned above), though it's still pretty much only among people who already like anime in the first place. That's how it is now. You like anime first, or at least have an interest in Japanese entertainment in general, then go for visual novels. You have to go through all those steps, but I think visual novels have the potential to be more popular.

As a different medium, I think visual novels can overcome just being another cool Japanese thing. In order to do that, we would have to separate it from its Japanese/anime roots. We would need original English-language visual novel that somehow makes it big even outside niche circles.

Now, the problem would be that that doesn't necessarily means we'll get the Japanese visual novels that people want now (though it could happen as a collateral, if the medium itself gets more popular). It wouldn't also have the Japanese culture roots that attracted fans in the first place. So, yeah...
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streexanime



Joined: 22 Nov 2004
Posts: 76
PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2016 1:56 pm Reply with quote
TL;DR version: 'Mericans don't like to read

Though in all seriousness, how much of this mindset can we blame on the current education system? There really isn't an incentive to read for fun.
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