The light novel publisher Media Factory, a subsidiary of the publishing conglomerate Kadokawa, announced anime adaptations of 5 of their light novel properties. Usually I cover this sort of stuff in the season preview, but the 5 titles in question all have very noticeable similarities and re-occurring traits. It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to talk about light novel adaptations in general using these 5 as a handy springboard. This should also give you a little insight into how the research process for season previews goes.
The 5 light novels in question are Dragonar Academy, Madan no Ou to Vanadis, Magical Warfare, No Game No Life, and Spirit Elementalist’s Blade Dance. Normally Light Novels have highly descriptive names that basically tell you the plot from title alone, but unfortunately these titles are less self-explanatory. Contrary to what stupid idioms say, a cover does give you a good idea of what the inside of a book will probably hold. So let’s do some judging.
- On the top left we have Dragonar Academy. It has a cute girl on the cover. She’s sitting on a dragon, so that confirms the dragon part the name had already implied. Looking at the girl herself, she’s sitting on top of the dragon so we can assume she has a dominating personality. There’s not much you tell from her clothing about the world she’s in, unless the world is currently being traumatised by giant bows.
- Top middle we have Spirit Elementalist’s Blade Dance. It has a cute girl on the cover. She looks remarkably similar to the girl on the cover of Dragonar Academy. There is nothing else we can tell from this cover, but the name implies magic is involved somehow.
- Top right is No Game, No Life. It has a cute girl on the cover. Her clothing, which appears to be falling off, is school uniform so it’s safe to assume this takes place either in school or at the very least with teenagers. There’s some game iconography with playing cards, chess pieces and a computer standby switch, so it involves these teenagers playing games somehow. This cover has the unique difference of having a male on the cover, albeit very small and just down the bottom left corner. They’re also both wearing crowns, so they are either royalty who play games or people who became kings by playing games.
- Bottom left is Magical Warfare. It has a cute girl on the cover. She’s holding a gun and is standing on a magic circle, so the name checks out. She’s also dressed like Homura from Madoka Magica, although there’s probably not much we can tell from that.
- Bottom right is Madan no Ou to Vanadis. It has a cute girl on the cover. She has giant tits. She’s holding a sword and has a magic circle behind her, so it’s basically the same as magical warfare except with swords instead of guns.
A quick tally: 3 take place in high school, or at least involve teenagers. 4 involve magic, all of which are used for fighting (Blade Dance could be a ritualistic dance rather than fighting, but I’m hedging by bets and guessing that it’s involved in fighting). All have cute girls. It’s worth mentioning at this stage that almost every light novel has a cute girl on the cover, but this is still truth in packaging since they usually are sold on the promise that there’s a cute girl inside.
The ANN articles for each of these 5 light novels had ‘trailers’ too. These trailers don’t have any actual shots of animated footage. They are all just pictures and dramatic music. But let’s see what we can tell from the trailers anyway.
- Dragonar Academy has lots of girls with the exact same face. There’s the occasional shot of them fighting using magic, so it’s safe to assume magical warfare is involved. Plenty of shots of girls pressing their boobs into a non-descript male character, or possibly each other. So it’s a harem, or at least harem setup.
- Spirit Elementalist’s Blade Dance also has a non-descript male character. None of the women are pushing their breasts into the main character, but they are either naked or have the clothes falling off. Some of them are holding spears and magic wands, so there’s magical warfare involved too. Also they show one male character but several females, so let’s hedge our bets again and guess this will be a harem.
- No Game No Life trailer has a diverse cast for a change, with 2 male and two female characters, all of whom like eating playing cards. Lots more gaming symbolism and something taking place in the Summer Wars universe apparently, so basically more gaming iconography.
- Magical Warfare showed magic and warfare, so it still checks out. Again we have the two male, two female characters on show, although we do also have the two girls gripping onto one male characters’ two arms in a “no he’s mine you leave him I saw him first” sort of way. So it’s a love triangle, the unevolved version of a harem, although the girls are properly dressed at least.
- Madan no Ou to Vanadis pans over a dramatic fantasy landscape, so it’s fantasy. Then pans to several different scantily clad ladies with swords and massive boobs, so there’s ecchi and warfare. The final shot shows two male characters angrily engaging in a fight, none of them apparently bothered by any of the women at all, so no sign of there being a harem yet.
Tallying up the results: 4 fantasy fighting, 3 ecchi, 3 harems, 3 teenagers in school. No Game No Life seems to be the one bucking the trend here. Time to look at each plot description, highlighting the relevant phrases.
Learning to ride and tame dragons comes easy to most students at Ansarivan Dragonar Academy—except for first-year student Ash Blake, who is known by his fellow classmates as the “number one problem child.” Poor Ash is the laughing stock at school because, despite his unfashionably large star-shaped brand that marks him as a future dragon master, he has nothing to show for it. His dragon has never appeared. Until now, that is. One fateful day, Ash’s dragon awakes in full glory, but appears different than any dragon ever seen before—in the form of a beautiful girl! What’s worse, Ash soon discovers that this new dragon has attitude to spare, as she promptly informs him that she is the master, and he, the servant.
School, single loser male lead, hidden power that took no effort on his part, sudden magical girl appearance, domineering fetish. My story checks out so far, apart from there being no reference to giant killer bows.
Spirit Elementalist’s Blade Dance
Only a pure girl may enter into a spirit contract. At Areishia Spirit Academy, the daughters of nobility are assembled to take elite classes and become spirit elementalists. A boy named Kamito happened to be peeping on a student named Claire while she was taking a bath, and he accidentally makes a contract with a spirit instead of Claire. Now, Kamito has become something once thought impossible in this world — a male spirit elementalist.
Purity fascination, contract with a girl, school, loser male lead, ecchi, ability falls into his lap. Some re-occurring themes here, namely that the girl is forced into being with the loser male lead through a contract of sorts. Also the school only has women in it, but the male character is the only male there so our harem prediction checks out.
No Game No Life
The story of No Game, No Life centres around Sora and Shiro, a brother and sister whose reputations as brilliant NEET (Not in Education, Employment, or Training)hikikomori (shut-in) gamers have spawned urban legends all over the Internet. These two gamers even consider the real world as just another “crappy game.” One day, they are summoned by a boy named “God” to an alternate world. There, God has prohibited war and declared this to be a world where “everything is decided by games” — even national borders. Humanity has been driven back into one remaining city by the other races. Will Sora and Shiro, the good-for-nothing brother and sister, become the “Saviors of Humanity” on this alternate world? “Well, let’s start playing.”
No Game No Life bucks a few trends. Still have the loser male lead, albeit famous on the internet. Transported to another world where they become heroes. Technically no magic involved, just games. Could pin it down for incest, but I’m in a good mood so let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and assume there’s none of that.
In this modern magic action story, Takeshi Nanase is an ordinary high school boy who has a somewhat dark past. Due to certain circumstances, he formed a “fake” couple with his childhood friend Kurumi Isoshima, but otherwise, he lives a normal life. However, one day, he comes across a girl named Mui Aiba, in a uniform he has never seen before, collapsed on the school campus. This encounters changes Takeshi’s destiny completely. Mui tells Takeshi that she is a magician, and she apologizes, for she turned Takeshi into a magician, too. What Takeshi once knew as one world is actually two — the world where magicians live and the world where humans live.
Oh boy, this is getting a bit too easy. Ordinary male lead, high school, contract formed with (two!) girls, magical girl falls into his life, learns of another world albeit not actually transported there, gets magical powers through no effort on his part. No sign of ecchi I guess, but everything else checks out.
Madan no Ou to Vanadis
The titular Vanadis of the fantasy story are beautiful girls who ride into battle, brandishing weapons received from dragons. There are seven such Vanadis who rule seven territories and instill fear in neighboring countries. A boy named Tinguru is a minor noble in the kingdom of Buryūnu who encounters a Vanadis in battle. She is the silver-haired, red-eyed “silver fraulein” Eren. She defeats him, but instead of killing him, she takes him prisoner.
Weird one here, does being a minor noble count as loser male lead? At least it’s not taking place in high school. Contract still being formed mind you with the whole prisoner thing. Beautiful girls might be something like Claymore where the beauty is done to contrast their demonic inner side that just heightens how frightening they are, but after all the images from earlier I’m not inclined to believe that.
Keeping score: 4 fantasy fighting, 3 ecchi, 3 harems, 3 teenagers in school, 4 guy and girl forced together through some sort of contract, 3 sudden magical girl appearances (well, No Life No Game is a boy appearing), 3 powers with no effort for the main character. Now let’s move onto the source material itself.
Most of these light novels have manga adaptations. I checkout the manga to Dragonar Academy. The loser male lead even had a pervy sorta friend who tells him to go check out girls but he never will because ewww girls. Anyway, the ecchi harem tag checks out, but with lots of added underage girls.
Moving onto Spirit Elementalist’s Blade Dance, the good folks at Baka Tsuki have translated some of the light novels so I can provide a nice little snapshot into the quality of writing on show:
Claire stroked her chest for some reason.
“However, I’m his stepsister.”
“That’s right, furthermore, a naughty stepsister.”
“A nau…naughty stepsister!?”
Claire’s face turned bright red in a split second.
(…What on earth was she imagining?)
“Here’s a hint, a stepsister can be married to her brother, right, onii-sama ♪”
Suddenly, Fianna tightly pressed her large breasts unto him.
Kamito was spontaneously startled by that duly soft sensation—
“Wh…Wh…Wh…? Id…Idiot, you brute pervert!”
“Ouch, wait, it’s a misunderstanding, stop—”
For some reason, tears welled up in Claire’s eyes as she hit Kamito with her whip. Pishi! Pishi!
“Hey, what are you doing to Kamito-kun!”
Phishi!—Fianna grabbed Claire’s arm that swung up.
“Kamito-kun isn’t your slave.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
No Game No Life has been the one to buck the trend so far. Let’s check out the light novel translation, again supplied by the fine folks at Bakatsuki, and see what we have here.
“……Nii………Said, no need, for a girlfriend……………….as long as Shiro is here………….it is good enough……”
“That was my overexertion ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I am so sorry ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”
With his little sister pouting on the bed, Sora used a devout kind of worship and apologized.
“Af, after all I am unable to do those kind of things to my little sister! You are only 11 years old! If I did it, I would be taken away by the cops! And with your brother of age, this sort of desire is natural—”
Magical Warfare only has one chapter of the manga adaptations translated. There’s not a whole lot in there that we don’t already know. However we are given details on how it is they formed the contract. Can you guess? I bet you can’t~! It was her first time and everything too.
Reading through Madan no Ou to Vanadis, remember how I said it wasn’t clear from the outside whether the setup was a harem or not? Guess what? It totally is. The girls vie for the main character and try to kiss him. Then they discuss kissing him while in the bath together or changing. You get the general drift.
Do you remember when Free came out and a bunch of moe fans got super annoyed because there was this one anime out that wasn’t pandering to them? Well never fear, for anime has been saved again! Here we have 5 ecchi harem light novel adaptations in which a loser male lead has, through no effort of his own, gained magical powers and has plenty of girls fall into his lap. No Game No Life is slightly different in that it also caters to the fact the only thing you’re good at is playing games to it continues the proud tradition of masturbating gamers by giving them a kawaii imouto who wants to bone you and is also good at video games, and a world for you to save because you are good with video games. The girls are also pure and have the added benefit of being in a contract with you so, not only is there no effort on your part to start the relationsip, but there’s no effort on your part to keep the relationship going.
Hurrah for Light Novels!