Japanese Visual Novels: What They Are, Plus 5 Reading Recommendations (GaijinPot)

Visual Novels Cover

Japan is a country with a high demand for visual novel games that’s unparalleled anywhere else in the world. As a result, they make up a huge part of the video game market in Japan. Often some of the most popular anime and manga, like Steins; Gate or Fate/stay night, are adapted from visual novels and vice versa. But the question is: what are they?

Simply put, visual novels are exactly as their title implies: novels presented visually. Instead of the hundreds of pages of text in traditional hardcover and paperback novels, visual novels are presented in digital format and playable on video game consoles, smartphones or computers. Visual novels present their stories using text, voice-overs, background music and pictures. In most, players take control of a main character, see the story unfold through that character’s first-person perspective and make decisions for them throughout the story.

Some occasionally feature fully animated cutscenes. This type of media can be a great tool to get adolescents and young adults interested in reading more instead of watching anime and can be used as a bridge between reading manga and reading full-blown novels

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