What makes a Japanese light novels a “light” novel? I honestly don’t know. I used to think it was because they were written with easier to understand Japanese for younger readers, but that’s really not the case! (You have light novels like Overlord or Tanya which have very difficult Japanese.) Which was why finding five Japanese light novels for JLPT N3 level learners was a challenge!

I purposefully picked five light novels that also have anime. Why? Because you’ll probably already be familiar with the story if you’ve watched the anime. Watching anime and reading light novels from the same series is also a good way to expose yourself to similar topics both in written and spoken form. In other words, double practice!


The following Japanese light novels are based in order of difficulty. I tried to find a variety of subjects and clearly explain what you might expect from each story. Luckily they all have free previews online so you can try them for yourself before you buy them! (Links for these 試し読み are included.)


What Do You Mean by JLPT N3 Level Learners?

You don’t have to have passed the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) to read novels in Japanese!!! I say “JLPT N3 level” just because the JLPT is a good guestimate for someone’s ability. The N3 is when you learn the bulk of common Japanese.

Having N3 level of knowledge assumes you know at least 3750+ vocabulary and 650+ kanji, but most importantly an understanding of informal and formal Japanese.

Most novels are written in informal Japanese with super casual phrases thrown in. So knowing more everyday Japanese grammar is needed to understand the majority of light novels in Japanese.

As I said, you don’t need to have passed the exam, but a firm grasp of the basics of Japanese is key to help you start reading. And reading really is the next step to get from intermediate to advanced Japanese.


Kemono Friends

けものフレンズ is an adorable story about a girl who wakes up in the safari park Japari Park with no idea who or what she is. She teams up with Serval (a serval cat) to travel through the park, meeting other animals to find out what kind of animal she is.

Each chapter looks at a different section of the park with different animals and habitats. This book (and the anime and manga) is aimed at educating young Japanese children, as well as telling a cute story. As a Japanese learner this means you’ll be exposed to a lot of uncommon vocabulary about wildlife that you might not find in a textbook. But in a way that’s very easy to understand.

Also, as this book is aimed at younger people it includes furigana and simple, short sentences. This makes it great for people who have lower N3 Japanese abilities or who aren’t comfortable reading lots of kanji.

Tsubasa Bunko version of けものフレンズ
Click on the pink ためし読み half way down the page to try reading this novel for yourself!


Kemono Friends Japanese Light Novels for JLPT N3


Kimi no Na wa

I’d be surprised if you hadn’t heard of 君の名は. It was a massive hit when the movie came out in 2016!

If you haven’t heard of it, it tells the story of two young people who find themselves in each other’s bodies on random days. It covers their experiences in each others bodies as everything builds up into this grand finale where it reveals their body swapping wasn’t just random. It’s a romance, fantasy, and mystery with an incredible, engaging, and emotional story.

The great thing about this novel is you have a choice of versions you could read!

The first is the Tsubasa Bunko version which has furigana on every word. Or there’s the Kadokawa version which has furigana on some of the more difficult kanji. The text in both versions seems to be exactly the same.

The Kadokawa version is great for JLPT N3 level learners because it still challenges you but provides furigana for words or kanji you might not be familiar with.

Tsubasa Bunko version of 君の名は。
Click on the pink ためし読み half way down the page for a sample.

Kadokawa version of 君の名は。
Click the blue 試し読み button on the left under the image of the book to try a sample.


Kimi no Na wa Japanese Light Novels for JLPT N3


Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear

Another trapped in a another world light novel with it’s own twist; the protagonist is trapped in a game-like world wearing an overpowered bear costume. She can’t survive without it!

This light novel is so popular it has 15 volumes, a manga, and an anime!

Like most of these isekai novels the protagonist, Yuna, is a hikkikomori and addicted to online games. The text therefore has a lot of gaming and fantasy language. This obviously isn’t vocabulary you will find in regular Japanese language textbooks, but if you love games and fantasy then this is a good place to expose yourself to that kind of language.

The gaming and fantasy language might be a challenge, but the reason I think this is good for N3 level Japanese is because the sentences are short and sweet. You don’t get bogged down with wall-of-text paragraphs or sentences that never end. Making it a surprisingly quick and fun read!

This was a novel that was originally written online on the website 小説家になろう (I’m going to be a writer!) Which means you can read everything online for free! The online version has no furigana and the text is aligned left to right, rather than up to down. So that might be a good option if you don’t like reading up to down.

Or you can read the Shufu to Seikatsu Sha published version (the book version) which has some furigana for difficult word and reads up to down.

Shousetsuka ni Narou version of くまクマ熊ベアー
The original version which you can read for free online. (No furigana though!)

Bookwalker free sample version of くまクマ熊ベアー
Read about 50 pages on Bookwalker Japan!


Kuma Kuma Kuma Bear Japanese Light Novels for JLPT N3


Kono Subarashii Sekai ni Shukufuku wo!)

Another isekai novel, this time about a guy who dies and is transported to a fantasy world with one object of his choice. He wishes drag the goddess that puts him there with him. Thus hijinks ensues.

This series of novels is satire of the isekai genre. It is a comedy that plays a lot of the troupes of these narratives. The main characters are all useless, terrible people, but they’re also full of charm.

The language is moderately difficult with lots of fantasy terms, but a fair amount of furigana for difficult kanji and vocabulary. The sentences aren’t too long or complicated but the subject matter might be tricky for those who aren’t used to reading novels in Japanese.

As these novels are very character driven there’s a lot of dialogue. There’s not much of a story but the entertaining conversations between characters is what keeps you hooked.

Kadokawa version of この素晴らしい世界に祝福を! あぁ、駄女神さま
Click the blue 試し読み button on the left under the image of the book to try a sample.


Kono Suba Japanese Light Novels


Hataraku Maou-sama!)

An isekai story with a twist where the Demon Lord gets trapped in our world and the only way he can survive is to get a job in a fast food restaurant!

This is a fantasy story but based in “our” world, which means there’s a lot of daily used Japanese. But it’s a little more advanced daily Japanese such as conversations about finance and work.

There’s a lot more splattering of more advanced N2/N1 level vocabulary and kanji. Difficult kanji has furigana but there’s less furigana compared to other novels discussed.

I really like this novel because the Demon Lord’s servant speaks in polite です・ます Japanese, as well as keigo used at work. You can see the different levels of Japanese politeness depending on the situation.

A challenging read but gives you a wide variety of Japanese language practice.

Dengeki Bunko version of はたらく魔王さま!
Click the green 試し読み button to read the first 50 or so pages!


Hataraku Maou-sama Light Novels


Other Related Articles that Might Interest You
5 Japanese Light Novels for JLPT N3 Level Learners
Tagged on: