10 Best Light Novels Better Than Their Anime Adaptations

A split image of the light novels of Sword Art Online, Boogiepop, and Arifureta

Audiences have endless options when it comes to anime entertainment and a large amount of material originates in another form before it receives a popular anime adaptation. The adaptation process is always difficult, regardless of the mediums involved, but it can foster incredible stories that manage to improve upon their source material.

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Light novels are comparable to manga in the sense that they tell stories through illustrations and dialogue, but they’re often shorter in nature and don’t tell an ongoing narrative that’s designed to last for years. That being said, many mediocre anime exist that fail to capture the nuance and magic of their successful light novel source material.



10 Boogiepop

12 Episodes

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Boogiepop is a series of light novels written by Kouhei Kadono and illustrated by Kouji Ogata that explore the titular apocryphal figure who’s supposed to whisk away girls and act as some controversial moral safeguard for society. There’s a rich extended universe to Boogiepop that the light novels have tackled through many spin-offs, side stories, and inventive experiments in perspective.

Boogiepop Phantom, the series’ anime adaptation, struggles to cover everything that’s present in the novels. Its attempt at episodic storytelling feels disjointed and the dozen episodes don’t get enough space to properly explore this supernatural story.

9 Grimgar Of Fantasy & Ash

12 Episodes

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Students hunt in the forest in Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash

Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to the fantasy genre and the reappropriation of RPG mechanics to tell a story. That being said, this series of light novels gradually find its groove and these archetypal characters begin to subvert expectations.

The series looks at a group of subpar fantasy figures who are forced to band together and survive against the elements when stronger warriors abandon them. As a 12-episode anime, Grimgar: Ashes and Illusions, feels completely unnecessary. It’s a surface-level deconstruction of its source material that’s condensed into a series that’s too short to make an impact.

8 A Certain Magical Index

74 Episodes, 1 Movie

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Touma puts his hand up in A Certain Magical Index

A Certain Magical Index is a standout fantasy-adventure series that excels through its charismatic main characters, Toma Kamijo and Index, both of which are uniquely gifted to change the world. A Certain Magical Index benefits from having three seasons that cover the entirety of the series’ light novels.

At the same time, certain concessions are still made and the anime often feels like the streamlined version of what’s present in the light novels. Furthermore, the light novels continue to expand this magical universe through several spin-offs, some of which are as strong as A Certain Magical Index. This extra lore gives the light novels another advantage over the anime.

7 Rascal Does Not Dream Of Bunny Girl Senpai

13 Episodes, 2 Movies

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Maiin a Bunny costume as Sakuta eyes her curiously in Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai

Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai is a psychologically-rich franchise that attempts to authentically pathologize conflicted individuals with real ailments, like the main character’s “Puberty Syndrome.” Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai likely draws audiences in through its bunny-clad enigma, but it’s easier for the anime to function as base level gratification.

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The anime fails to capture the deeper issues underneath all of this. Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai‘s anime still makes a point, but those who want to really understand these characters and empathize with their unique plight need to read the light novels.

6 Toradora!

26 Episodes

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Taiga lands a drop kick in Toradora!

Toradora! presents a fun slice of life romance that doesn’t overstay its welcome at only ten volumes. This is the ideal length to adapt into an anime series, especially since the light novels were already finished when the anime started production.

The Toradora! anime gets a lot of things right and the will they/won’t they tension between Taiga and Ryuji remains its secret weapons. However, the light novels give these characters, especially Ryuji, more room to breathe. It’s easy to get annoyed at some of Ryuji’s ambivalence in the Toradora! anime, whereas the light novels give these transgressions the context that they deserve.

5 My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong As I Expected

40 Episodes

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Students get ready for the cultural festival in My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU

Unconventional romantic comedies that play around in the slice-of-life genre can yield great results, especially when these love stories have listless loners at their core. Hachiman Hikigaya and Yukino Yukinoshita find themselves doling out advice to their school’s student body due to their roles in the Service Club.

Known as My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU in its anime form, three are three seasons that properly cover the spectrum of these comforting light novels. My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU is a good anime, but the source material does a much better job of getting into Hachiman’s head and understanding the full psychological complexity of his character.

4 Classroom Of The Elite

25 Episodes (Ongoing)

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The main cast of Classroom of the Elite.

Classroom of the Elite is a suspenseful school series where a good education is tantamount to an endless death game where there’s no escape. Classroom of the Elite‘s biggest issues come down to pacing, which doesn’t just underservice the story, but also reflects poorly upon the series’ protagonist.

RELATED: 10 Best Light Novels To Read To Continue From Where The Anime Left Off

The crucial difference in why Ayanokoji puts himself around others and wants to fit in turns him into a much more appealing character in the light novels. Admittedly, Classroom of the Elite has improved over time and there’s also a third season on the way, which will hopefully course-correct matters even further.

3 The Executioner & Her Way Of Life

12 Episodes

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Executioner slices for the throat in The Executioner and Her Way of Life

The Executioner and Her Way of Life is a relatively newer light novel series and its 12-episode anime adaptation has a fairly positive reputation. There’s a fun spin on the fantasy genre that centers around immortality, but in a way that still has palpable stakes to it.

One way in which the light novels excel beyond the anime is that the books really flesh out this world’s magic system and how these spells are brought to life. These mechanics become an afterthought in the anime, which is inevitably too short to give The Executioner and Her Way of Life the nuance that makes the light novels such an engrossing read.

2 Arifureta: From Commonplace To World’s Strongest

25 Episodes

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The pair explore the forest in Arifureta: From Commonplace To Strongest

Arifureta: From Commonplace To World’s Strongest is simplistic power fantasy storytelling that turns a bullied outcast into a weapon-clad warrior after he and his classmates get isekai’d away to a fantasy realm. The story that’s told in Arifureta isn’t exactly original, but the light novels are full of satisfying combat and expressive action sequences.

Beyond storytelling and characterization issues, the visuals in the Arifureta anime are just indicative of lackluster 2000s material that can’t deliver on the source material’s promise. It feels like a dated effort whereas the light novels remain timeless on an aesthetic level.

1 Sword Art Online

96 Episodes

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Kirito, Mito, and Asuna posing with their weapons in front of Aincrad in Sword Art Online: Progressive.

Sword Art Online is one of the biggest anime sensations of the past decade, which might surprise audiences to learn that the light novels tell an even better version of this story. Sword Art Online largely sets a new standard in terms of the MMORPG adventure genre, yet the biggest hurdle that the anime faces is criticism towards its protagonist, Kirito.

Kirito is a lot more insufferable in the anime, which skips over some crucial backstory that better justifies the character’s behavior. This difference alone completely recontextualizes Kirito and casts Sword Art Online in a different light.

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