Is Harry Potter (Vol. 1) a Light Novel?

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    According to Wikipedia a light novel is a style of Japanese novel primarily targeting high school and middle school students (young adult demographic). Which makes the answer most obvious.

    But what if we leave that "Japanese" part aside?
    Would you consider Harry Potter (volume 1: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone) a light novel or not?
    And what is your reasoning?
    Especially the first volume is significant with the volume being considerably short. How do you perceive the follow up books?

    My last topic and probably my last post until I decide to resubscribe ~ I hope it is fun for you as well.

  • Well, Light Novel is pretty much just Japan's label for YA novels so you could say it is. I don't think there's much more to say. The demographics clearly target the same audience, you could even say that Harry Potter influenced the huge amount of Magic Academy LNs in the early 2000s. I don't think there's any reason to deny this aside from a purist stance of how "LNs HAVE to be japanese." This might go down like the debate around whether Avatar the Last Airbender is anime or not.

    Now for the real question?? Could it be considered an isekai??

    The clear (albeit non-physical) line separating the magical world from the non-magical world would make a strong case, even if you were to argue that a hidden world behind the scenes is also part of the urban fantasy genre, most of the plot happens in Hogwarts which is by all means a fantasy land in but name. From Harry's point of view, the magical world is a completely different world, with its own rules that he must learn from scratch, that the non-magical world is unaware of.

    I stand by this, Harry Potter isn't just a Light Novel, it's an isekai Light Novel.

  • Premium Member

    @paulnamida I did not see the isekai thing coming. That is just great!

  • I probably am remembering wrong but last time I read Harry Potter in 6th grade, the writing style was mostly a bit 'took a while to properly comprehend, had to re-read' on my end sort of thing. Mileage may vary though, it's probably easier for me to read now as compared to that time. Still can't see it as a light novel though, sorry.

    btw off topic but even if you don't have a sub you can still access parts of the forums depending on your last subscription for some odd reason. (only found it out myself when I wasn't subbed for a certain period yet I could still see and post at those places)

  • Premium Member

    if I recall correctly a light novel isn't just about the demographic (although that's a big part)
    it also has to do with the type of lettering used (little or no no kanji)

    so unless we say that all English YA novels that aren't Shakespeare are LN (or none of them are)

    Yes the popularity of HP in early 2000's inspired magic academy LN/Anime - but which came first?! Earthsea (LeGuin) featured a magic academy in 1968, Poul Anderson's 1961 title, Three Hearts and Three Lions had. the University of Rhiannon, granting its graduates the degree of "Magister in the field of Magic". One could argue that the trope is present in some of the earliest works currently defined as 'fantasy' The Charwoman's Shadow is a 1926 fantasy novel by Anglo-Irish writer Lord Dunsany.

  • @jon-mitchell indeed, but the lettering correlates directly with the demographic, as your audience isn't expected to know advanced kanji anyways. And let's face it, English YA novels are pretty much characterized by their accesible language, which fulfills that criteria.

  • Premium Member

    It's my understanding that the "Light" portion of Light Novel refers more to the level of Kanji used rather than the length of the novel. Not having any primary references to go on, I'm only guessing, but I'm thinking that a light novel uses mostly kanji that someone in grades 7-9 would know. That being said, I would toss all of the Harry Potter novels into the equivalent of the "Light Novel" category in spite of books 2-7 being extremely long.

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    I think Harry Potter might be a bit of a stretch outside the first three or four books. My understanding is that Light Novels typically clock in around 50k words where the later volumes of HP close in on almost 4 times that length per volume. Even if length isn't a critical factor, I'm pretty sure if an author wrote something that's several times the normal length, they'd be looking for places to break the work up to fit a more traditional printing size.

    I guess what would be the distinguishing feature of a light novel over a regular novel that's targeting the same demographic?

  • @jpwong And then there's the behemoths that are Kawakami Minoru's series, like Horizon in the Middle of Nowhere that go from 600 to a 1000 pages I believe for each volume... and that's after chopping them up in parts (volumes are called 1-A, 1-B, 2-A, 2-B, etc.). Those are still considered Light Novels, so lenght is definitely not a criteria for the definition.

    Here's a comparison between Owari no Chronicle (another of the author's series, which as you can see becomes incresingly longer towards the end as well) and Horizon

    alt text

  • Premium Member

    @paulnamida But then what specifically differentiates a light novel from a regular novel that targets the same age group? As far as I can tell from the discussion there is nothing which would then mean it's just a label like how the bookstore has a "Young Adults" fiction section. All books that target readers grades 7-12 are light novels.

  • @jpwong Yes, Light Novel is JUST a label, there's not really much other than that. Historically speaking, the term Young adult fiction was avoided so people didn't completely relate it to that demographic, as it was mostly aimed at the regular anime/manga audience, which happened to be mostly comprised of that demographic but had a non-insignificant part of its fandom within other demographics. Along the way, imprints dedicated exclusively to LNs cropped up, and here we are now. We are at a point now where you can pretty much classify LNs with usual manga demographics (shonen, shoujo, seinen, josei, BL, yuri, etc.) instead of just limiting it to the YA demographic... but much like manga most of it is still YA a.k.a. shonen.

    So in the end, what makes a light novel nowadays?? Mostly whether a light novel imprint publishes it or not.

    Harry Potter still has all the cues to be considered a 90s LN, what with the fantasy-like setting aimed at a younger audience which was all the rage back then.

  • Member

    Even in Japan where the term is coined, the definition or even the origin of the term is not that clear. The wiki page for it is disorganized and chaotic. The top line of the article is - "There is no clearly agreed upon definition."

  • Premium Member

    Realistically then HP being a light novel falls to 2 possible outcomes.
    Yes it's a light novel because it's a book with a target demographic of kids grades 7-12 or No it's not a light novel because the publisher Bloomsbury does not identify as being a publisher of the light novel branding.

  • If I remember correctly originally Light Novel meant "light reading". Some second grade short book you read on the go in a bus or in a train. That's why LNs are in the pocketable format. Nowadays that's more of a brand. Especially in the West as some things we call LNs are not actually LNs.
    So Harry Potter isn't a Light Novel, but Stephen King is.

  • If Harry Potter had been originally published in Japan, I'm pretty sure it would have been marketed as a Light Novel. That's mostly what I base my answer on. Nowadays the term is a lot more flexible and is mainly about imprint labels, but back then, it was pretty much aimed at younger audiences, with fantasy settings being the most popular (think Slayers, Orphen, heck Orphen even has a Magic School), just with manga style illustrations. Add some manga illustrations to HP and you have a LN.

  • Premium Member

    all grasshoppers are insects, not all insects are grasshoppers.
    HP is western, YA, fantasy, that is also popular with a wider audience
    it isn't a grasshopper, but it is similar in many ways, it's a cricket

  • Premium Member

    I don't have the links handy, but maybe someone can find the cover illustrations for The Belgariad (by David Eddings) in their Japanese release.

    It's very anime, and if I saw it on a bookshelf I would totally assume it was a Light Novel series. (Given the overall language level used, I'd say it's simple enough to be Light Novel as well.) I suspect the Belgariad/Mallorean only just escaped being classified as YA due to not being published as YA; otherwise, it fits entirely in the category.

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