Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Best New English Light Novels of 2016

So, I start the 'best of the year' list with a relatively easy one. There were only about 10-15 new light novels that got released in English this year and I am going to just list the ones that I think are the best among these. Some might be familiar due to their recent or popular anime adaptations, others are just hidden gems that I think everyone should know about.

So, without more preamble, here is my list.

(PS: In no particular order of preference is this list created and only new series' that started being published in English for the first time were the main selection criteria.)

"Legend of Galactic Heroes"
Written by Yoshiki Tanaka
Translated by Daniel Hudleston
Published by Haikasoru (Viz Media)

“The Golden Brat” Reinhard von Lohengramm, a military prodigy and admiral of the Galactic Empire, has ambitions beyond protecting the borders or even defeating the Empire’s enemies. He seeks to overthrow the old order and become a truly absolute—yet benevolent—dictator. His rival, the humble Yang Wen-li of the Free Planets Alliance, wishes to preserve democracy even if he must sacrifice his political ideals to defeat the Empire. Their political and military battles play out over a galactic chessboard in an epic saga fifteen centuries in the making!

[ One of the hidden gems of Japanese sci-fi literature in my opinion, this finally got released in English after about 34 years of its original publication. Often compared to many well-known space operas and occasionally sited as influence this novel series hopefully will finally get the recognition it deserves on the western countries with these releases. I already got the first volume and ordered the second and third one as they got published from amazon.com through Shopr. A must read without a doubt for any lovers of science fiction. ]

Writen by Ryohgo Narita
Visual Art by Katsumi Enami
Translated by Taylor Engel
Published by Yen On

Aboard the Advenna Avis in 1711, a group of alchemists summon a demon in the hopes of gaining eternal life. The demon gives them an elixir of immortality and the method of ending their existence by "devouring" one another. Soon after, one among them begins to devour his companions. Realizing the danger posed by staying together, they scatter across the globe.
Centuries later in 1930's America, a certain federal investigator tries his best to combat the rise of organized crime during Prohibition, send a particularly infuriating terrorist to Alcatraz, and catch an outrageous thief duo. Meanwhile, the transcontinental train, the Flying Pussyfoot, begins its trail of blood across the country.
In 2002, a small group of the original Advenna Avis alchemists are on a journey to find the rest of their fellow immortals. However, there is one companion they did not expect to meet again.
Seemingly unrelated events, from a sleepy Italian city in the early 1700's to a modern luxury cruise ship traveling across the Pacific, reveal themselves to be far more connected than anyone could imagine...   

[ Baccano! has a hugely successful anime adaptation and I myself liked it immensely. I still remember the confusion on watching the first 3 or 4 episodes, then the start of the adrenaline rush and the exciting journey up to the end. Immediately after completing the anime I found out that it was based on a light novel. Imagine my disappointment finding out there was no official translation yet. And now, finally imagine my pure and unadulterated joy finding out that Yen Press is starting to publish the series on English on 2016. Already 3 volumes are out in English and I cannot but recommend fellow lovers of fiction to start the journey sooner rather than later. ]

"Re:ZERO -Starting Life in Another World-" 
Written by Tappei Nagatsuki
Illustrated by Shinichirou Otsuka
Translated by ZephyrRz 
Published by Yen On

Subaru Natsuki was just trying to get to the convenience store but wound up summoned to another world. He encounters the usual things--life-threatening situations, silver haired beauties, cat fairies--you know, normal stuff. All that would be bad enough, but he's also gained the most inconvenient magical ability of all--time travel, but he's got to die to use it. How do you repay someone who saved your life when all you can do is die?

[ On the surface Re: Zero might seem like just another 'walking up in a fantasy world' light novel. But, while the setting might be quite unoriginal the content certainly isn't. And that is why it is one of the the most watched anime of 2016. The strength of the story is the beautifully crafted realistic characters which are really hard to find these days on anime. And the twists due to Subaru's unique ability keeps the reader guessing what to expect next. Specially recommended for the fans of this specific genre, as well as people interested in fantasy based thrillers or interesting characters. ]

"My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong as I Expected"
Written by Watari Wataru
Illustrated by Ponkan 8
Translated by Jennifer Ward
Published by Yen On

Hachiman Hikigaya is a cynic. "Youth" is a crock, he believes--a sucker's game, an illusion woven from failure and hypocrisy. But when he turns in an essay for a school assignment espousing this view, he's sentenced to work in the Service Club, an organization dedicated to helping students with problems in their lives! How will Hachiman the Cynic cope with a job that requires--gasp!--optimism?

[ I'll be honest, I am totally biased about this series and been meaning to get my hands on the English Language release from even before its date of publication was ever announced. Hachiman in my opinion is a gem of a character and deserves as much recognition as possible. The other characters as well as the humor is top notch as well. I already have the first volume which I got from amazon.com and will probably buy the rest as soon as it gets published. I would recommend this to any fans of slice-of-life, but to those who are new to these one I would recommend checking out the anime first to get introduced to the cast. ]

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