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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Light Novels:

Amagi Brilliant Park is no longer being fan translated, thanks to a take-down notice by Kadokawa.  The fan translation hadn't yet even gotten past where the anime ended, so there was little worth reading in the first place.  Now, presumably, Yen Press or somebody will license the product and start re-translating the product from the beginning, which they'll slowly do at a rate of one volume per year.  Which means we still won't see anything that goes past the original anime for another four or five years.

This is a familiar recipe:

1)  Light novel gets an anime adaption.
2)  Fans get excited and start translating the light novel after the anime ends.
3a)  Fans give up after the first volume, covering no new ground that we didn't already see as an anime.
3b)  If not 3a, fans continue translating at a snail's pace, never actually surpassing the anime, but never quite giving up either.
4a)  If 3b, the fan translation is given a take-down notice and the translation ends, still having never gotten past the anime.
4b)  If not 4a, the fan translation miraculously continues to pass under the radar and translates genuinely useful products to the audience, ala Index New Testament.
4c)  Some doughty fan translators just ignore the lawsuits and go on translating anyway, ala Sword Art Online, but progress is very slow because very few people wish to be involved.
5)  Official company finally releases light novels that go past the original anime.
6a)  Somebody manages to pirate the official releases and the world recovers from the initial take-down notice that spoiled their free fun in the first place.
6b)  Nobody manages or feels like pirating the official release, it's too expensive to buy when there are so many other compelling free alternatives left to choose between, and the series rots on the vine, never to be seen again.

Out of all these options, only 4b and 6a are actual success stories.  Virtually every route in this choose your own adventure story ends in grisly failure.

This makes light novels as a hobby quite the roller coaster ride.  Nevertheless, when it comes to light novels in my good books hall of fame rankings, I've read everything that's been translated past where the anime ends, aside from a few works in progress.  I'm at Baccano volume 6, Spice and Wolf volume 8, and SAO Progressive volume 1.  There are enough translated volumes left to keep my light novel hobby afloat for the rest of the year at least, but I do worry about the future of this medium.  With so many snarl-ups, it feels like the reservoir is rapidly running dry.

Point being, I recommend media to others only after I've enjoyed them myself, so I can personally guarantee everything I've ever ranked.  My visual novel rankings do include 50 companies each of whom have done a vast array of games, but I also make it a point to explain at the beginning that of the ones I've actually played I can only recommend a top 10 list to others.  The rest I've derived solely through hype, previews, reviews, etc.  Visual Novel translations are even less frequent than light novel translations, so playing them all in full before recommending them is physically impossible.

The biggest advantage light novels have over visual novels is that you can listen to music of your own choice while you read light novels.  Currently I'm listening to a best-of-tales-music collection that rounds out at 917 songs.  I'm hoping to cull that number down a bit to a more manageable total, but that's difficult when Tales music is just so damn good (and there have been so many games, the songs really start adding up. . .).  Most Tales of 'x' manga have floundered midway through being translated.  Most Tales of 'x' games haven't been translated, are on obscure consoles and thus are unplayable, or have terrible gameplay and thus aren't worth playing just for the story elements which actually are good.  Most Tales of 'x' anime have never been made.  But when it comes to Tales of 'x' music, you can just sit down and listen to it.  Zero barrier to entry.  No need for translators here.  So in a way, this music collection is the highest pinnacle of Tales appreciation that any westerner can reach.  Tales is my third favorite game franchise of all time, and this is the best method to enjoy said game franchise.  Multiply the two factors and you've got yourself a pretty obviously amazing experience.  Then multiply that musical listening experience to a book like Sword Art Online, the #1 light novel experience of all time?  I think you've got something there.  It's a formula that can well exceed anything a visual novel can throw at you.

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