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Based on the answer to this question, it seems that light novels that are turned into anime are generally made into manga first (eg Haruhi Suzumiya). There are some exceptions, such as Love, Chunibyo & Other Delusions where an ONA was released of it before a full anime and Toaru Hikūshi e no Koiuta where the manga began a month after the anime. A lot of other LNs are never turned into anime at all, including ones that exist in otherwise existing anime canons (eg the light novels set in the Naruto canon).

Are the ones that are made into a manga first done so to determine if they'll be financially successful in visual form, and that's why they're not made directly into anime? Why then would ones that are part of popular series (Naruto, Death Note, etc.) not be made into anime? Is there a reason why we so rarely if ever see light novels turned directly into anime?

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I'm not an industry insider but it's not a deliberate matter of testing the market with manga before doing an anime.

It's simply that an anime is a much larger investment for all parties involved with a much longer lead time. As a result, the chances are, by the time a LN has passed through the various investors and producers required to greenlight it it has already been taken up by a mangaka. In the typical case, it's just so much easier to get a manga deal done first. The popularity of the manga itself does not directly affects the anime, the popularity (in some cases just the quality) of the original LN is enough to make a project happen.

  • This would be my suspicion too. An anime is millions of dollars and tons of opportunity cost while your writers, artists, and animators are working on it instead of something else. A manga adaptation can basically be you take some promising rookie who won a few contests and let them work off the existing novel. The cost is lower, the risk is lower, and if the manga is successful, it's further evidence that the original work is viable. – Torisuda Aug 21 at 2:30
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From what I could find, by searching on the net, is that most Light Novels are not written properly, both in the sentence-style, and in how characters and situations are constructed.

Here are a couple of quotes from a blog I found that might explain why adapting Light Novel to anime directly might be hard,

You see, these descriptions in LNs rarely happen from the point of view of a detached third-person describing events, but are almost always presented in the form of the protagonist narrating the events they see. All these adjectives and adverbs are there to ensure we don’t miss anything, and to tell us how the protagonist views the world.

They also show a certain uncertainty as to the quality of one’s writing, to its efficacy in transmitting information without resorting to this tool. If one trusts their writing, and if one trusts their characters and situations to pass muster on their own, then you can just present the scene and let people interpret the characters on their own. Yes, some people might interpret things differently, but that isn’t a bug, but a feature. Not so in light novels, we must at all times know what the characters actually think, what is their take on every little thing that occurs. The scenes aren’t allowed to breathe.

This is more than just slightly over-wrought floral descriptions, however. It is more than just not trusting your audience to get what you are going for (in the style of flashbacks). Another issue is that since the author does his characterization that way, they aren’t doing it in other ways – such as through the characters’ words and their actions. Not just the other actions’, but the protagonist’s as well. There is no need to “let actions speak for themselves” when you can just narrate every thing you want to transmit to the audience.

There is something many light novels protagonists share, which is related to the issue of flashbacks I mentioned previously – they narrate. They are wry and cynical individuals who have lengthy internal monologues. Most of what we know of them is through these monologues. And here is where we reach the realm of adaptations. How do you adapt such narrators? Either you have a “narrator track”, and the character carries on monologues internally, such as Hachiman from OreGairu or Kyon from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, in which case you reinforce their cynical and somewhat withdrawn personality, or you simply cut it out.

And that’s where it gets messy. Since so much of the characterization, especially of the main character is carried out through internal monologues, if you cut them all out then the protagonist seems like an empty shell. Yes, it’s the author’s fault, but when you adapt such a character, whose actions and words don’t speak for themselves because they never had to, you’re left with a “Too cool”, “wry”, and “slightly withdrawn” character. The common complaints against shounen LN heroes. It’s all true, but so are the cries of the LN readers who tell the anime-critics that they’re missing on the true depth of the character, which had never been carried over.

I think the thing is that it would be slightly more easier to adapt the anime from the manga (i.e LN->Manga->Anime) because most of the key frames would already be present and there would be a more clear understanding of the OG Creators idea or vision. I think it might also be slightly easier for the manga to adapt the narration aspect of LN's.

Having said all that, I think it is best to keep note that anime, especially the ones which adapt a manga or light novel, are mostly there to act as promotional or infomercial material for the OG content. And they sort of assume you’ve already consumed the original material.

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