In Japan light novels have always had steady and healthy popularity given the quality stories they have produced. Before the medium really got a solid footing in the west, most fans could only hope for an unofficial translation, and even that was extremely hopeful.
Today the medium is a powerhouse thanks to the success of series such as Sword Art Online that have cemented light novels as a great source of anime/manga adjacent content. 2022 proved to be a very eventful year for the medium so let's take a look back at the series that closed the book one final time.
10 Goblin Slayer Side Story II: Dai Katana
When any franchise sees success the way Goblin Slayer has spin-offs and side stories are sure to follow. Coming in as the second light novel spin-off, Goblin Slayer Side Story II: Dai Katana takes place 10 years before events taking place in the original series, focusing on the Sword Maiden's party adventurers.
The story ran for close to two years from August 2019 to April 2022 and received mixed to positive fan reception and reviews. While it wasn't amazing it was a welcome addition to the lore and word of Goblin Slayer. It is also worth noting despite the manga adaption being canceled the anime will continue to adapt the source material.
9 World Teacher Special Agent in Another World
Given the fact that the Iseka genre dominates the light novel medium, it's not surprising a few concluded this year. World Teacher Special Agent in Another World is one of the many that ended its run seven-year run from September 2015 to September 2022 after telling the story of the retired agent who would become a teacher and travel the world with new students to discover the truth about the past.
While the story didn't bring too much to the table it stood on its own enough to garner a healthy fan base and positive reception by the time its conclusion came around.
In a market saturated with isekai stories, it was refreshing to read a story about creating light novel stories. Eromanga-sensei follows the high jinks of step-siblings Sagiri and Masamune—who experience the highs and lows of the light novel industry and the best ways to navigate it.
Back in 2013, Eromanga-sensei was rated as the 10th most popular and 22nd highest-rated light novel of the year according to anilist. While it didn't maintain a high all-time standing, the story was well-received for its heart, narrative, and tasteful criticism of the light novel industry. Even with all this success, including an anime adaption, Eromanga-sensei still does not have an official English localization.
7 Monster Girl Doctor
Monster girls are nothing new, but there is little doubt that the resurgence of the theme experienced in the 2010s contributed to the success of Monster Girl Doctor. The story follows Dr. Glenn and his lamia assistant, Sapphee, traveling the world aiding any monster girls in need and making new friends along the way.
Running from June 2016 to March 2022, Monster Girl Doctor reached the top 30 most popular light novels in 2016 according to anilist, and kept most of that momentum throughout its run. It's very clear from its reception the novel knew what demographic it was appealing to and provided exactly that to its readers to the tune of praise and success.
6 You Like Me, Not My Daughter!?
The romance genre is always trying something different, and thankfully "You Like Me, Not My Daughter!?" was different enough to grab the attention of many readers. With a premise about a 30-year-old woman named Ayako being confessed to by her daughter’s 20-year-old tutor, readers were in for an interesting romance-comedy that hooked many during its December 2019 to April 2022 run.
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Coming in as the 15th most popular and 29th highest-rated light novel of 2019 according to anilist, the story definitely left an impression despite its short run. Unfortunately, its positive reception and popularity have not led to an English localization, but with the continued success of the manga adaptation, there is hope for an official translation one day.
5 Lazy Dungeon Master
Despite the over-saturation of the isekai genre, many continue to provide great stories and experiences. Lazy Dungeon Master was one such story detailing the events that occur when lazy protagonist Keima Masuda is transported to another world where dungeon master Rokuko enlists Keima's help.
Even though the Japanese title was ridiculously long, the series by comparison long lasted six years from April 2016 to June 2022. At that time anilist reported the series as the 22nd most popular and 25th highest rated of 2016. The series proved its early highs weren't short-lived as it maintained a very consistently high rating and positive reception throughout its run.
4 The Asterisk War
Given the fact that light novels are widely considered anime/manga adjacent, it's not surprising that the harem genre would achieve success in the medium. Being published from September 2012 to Jun 2022, The Asterisk War takes place in the school city of Rokka, known also by the name "Asterisk." It is here that Ayato Amagiri arrives at one of the many academies to participate in the competitive Seibusai, or "star battle festival."
The show hit the ground running as the 11th most popular and 13th highest-rated light novel of 2012. Despite some of the struggles the novel faced, much of that popularity did not waver. In the end, the fans got a satisfactory conclusion to a story that experienced many highs and some lows.
3 Arifureta From Commonplace to World's Strongest
If a light novel is going to be a part of the isekai it has to stand out from the rest which is often easier said than done. Arifureta From Commonplace to World's Strongest is a series that does just that by adding a greater prevalence of psychological themes to spice up its story. Said story follows a classroom of students who are transported to another world and the main protagonist, Hajime Nagumo, gets the stick's worse end.
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Running from June 2015 to September 2022, Arifureta From Commonplace to World's Strongest proved the isekai genre wasn't going anywhere and why it was the top dog in the light novel space. As of 2022, the series is the 25th most popular light novel of all time, and for good reason.
2 So I'm a Spider, So What?
Even when an isekai story doesn't necessarily try anything new when it's amazingly executed it will not go unnoticed. "So I'm a Spider, So What?" is exactly that story with its premise revolving around the main character, Kumoko, a schoolgirl who awakens in another world as a spider.
As many would soon find out this simple setup would lead to a beautifully well-crafted story and a world that captivated readers from December 2015 to January 2022. With such a wonderful reception to the story throughout its run, it's no wonder the novel is the 22nd most popular and 33rd highest-rated light novel of all time according to anilist.
1 Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation
If there was any light novel that proved iseka's was the dominant genre in the medium, look no further than Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation. Readers follow a 34-year-old NEET who is reincarnated into a world of magic as Rudeus Greyrat, after dying while attempting to save a stranger from a traffic collision.
Despite having one of the most cliché and uninspired setups to an isekai story, the novel would be one of the most engaging, heartfelt, and beautifully written of its kind. With a run lasting from January 2014 to November 2022, Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation would end its run as the 3rd most popular and 6th highest-rated light novel of all time according to anilist.
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