Nowadays, we have many anime that are based on light novels. This is because light novels are a relatively expense free way to test drive a concept that the author had, and to see the audience’s reaction to that particular concept. Stories that are popular often get picked up by studios to make anime of, and they are popular not just because they have been proven to work, but because there is already a pre-existing fan base for them. However, not all light novels get made into an anime. Lucky for us, they are still picked up by someone else: mangakas.
Though they do not get the benefit of an audio-visual medium, the serialisation of a manga for certain light novels means that we are still able to enjoy the light novels in a more visually stimulating format. The light novels that get turned into manga tend to vary greatly, because there are so many different kinds of light novels, so don’t go expecting the same type of story every single time! Who knows, maybe if the manga also gets popular enough, it will also get turned into an anime? The manga that we have picked are based entirely on the story and art of the manga, without taking into consideration how well the light novel or anime did. This is a list about manga, after all.
10. Tsuyokute New Saga
- Mangaka: Miura, Jun (Art), Abe, Masayuki (Story)
- Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Shounen
- Volumes: 4
- Published Date: Feb 2014 - ???
Kail is the Hero, the man who will destroy the Demon King who has led his army of demons to annihilate the human race. With the help of his allies, he attacks the Demon King’s castle to defeat him. They eventually emerge victorious, but at a terrible cost. Kail had lost all his allies throughout the war. Whether it be friends, family, lovers, or comrades, each and every single one of them has ended up dead. As he lays there, dying, Kail notices a strange gem that the Demon King had uncovered. When he grabs the gem, Kail is sent into the past in his younger body. Using his second chance, he tries his best to avoid making the same mistakes his first time through!
Tsuyokute New Saga has a pretty standard light novel style story. While it doesn’t have the beginnings of an Isekai story, it is quite similar to one. The protagonist is basically overpowered at the start due to outside interferences and his meta-knowledge helps him make many impossible choices. What differentiates a lot of these Isekai light novels/mangas is the nuance of how they execute the story. For example, in Tsuyokute New Saga, Kail is returning to a past wherein all his dead friends and family are alive, so the first thing he does is exclaim in joy upon seeing his now alive mother. Character moments like these are present throughout the manga and really help to not only bring his character to life but differentiate it from other Isekai stories.
9. Ore to Kawazu-san no Isekai Hourouki
- Mangaka: Kuzumochi (Story), Kasa (Art)
- Genre: Comedy, Fantasy, Magic, Shounen
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: Dec 2013 - ???
Tarou was just your average student until he gets summoned into another world by a strange old man. When he learns that his magical power is 8 million times stronger than the average mage, he uses that absurd magical strength to revive the old man that landed him in this mess to begin with…as a frog. The two go on strange adventures, as the strongest magician alive, and the frog who was the former strongest magician.
Well, it’s Isekai time once more! These things come out of light novels a lot, don’t they? That’s not really a bad thing, because they’re really fun to read. Ore to Kawazu-san no Isekai Hourouki in particular is a joy to read because of how not-seriously it takes itself most of the time. The protagonist is absurdly overpowered, which takes the tension out of every situation, but the focus is more on how he deals with his problems in the most comedic ways. He is the only one who can do something absurd like summon computers into a fantasy world, but that’s the point in the first place right?
8. Mushoku Tensei: Isekai Ittara Honki Dasu
- Mangaka: Rifujin na Magonote (Story), Sirotaka (Art)
- Genre: Fantasy
- Volumes: 14
- Published Date: Jan 2014 - ???
Having wasted his whole life staying inside doing nothing, a 34 year old NEET is finally kicked out of his house when he fails to even attend his own parent’s wedding. Upon seeing a stranger about to get knocked over by a car, he pushes her out of the way but gets killed himself. However, he finds himself awakened as Rudeus Grayrat, an infant child. Utilising his past experiences and regrets, he vows to lead a fulfilling life and not end up like his past self. With his prodigal talent and adult mind, he is soon seen as a genius by those around him, but that may not be a good thing…
Ding Dong~ its Isekai number two on this list. You may think this is just another Isekai manga based on a light novel, but this is one with a historical landmark behind it. Mushoku Tensei is in no way the first Isekai manga, nor is it the best by any stretch, but it is commonly agreed to be the one which started the Isekai boom. It is because this manga did so well that interest in Isekai style stories started to seriously pick up around the entertainment industry. Like it or hate it, this manga is the reason many of the mangas on this list are Isekai type of stories. That’s just how good this manga is to many people.
7. Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records
- Mangaka: Hitsuji, Tarou (Story), Tsunemi, Aosa (Art)
- Genre: Action, Fantasy, Magic, School, Shounen
- Volumes: 5
- Published Date: Mar 2015 - ???
Budding mage Sisti attends a magical academy in order to train up her skills in magic, moving forward with the ambition of solving the mystery of the mysterious Sky Castle due to a promise she made to her now deceased grandfather. After her favourite teacher retires, he gets replaced by the tardiest, laziest and incompetent jerk of an instructor. With her dream on the line, she won’t stand for his lackadaisical attitude! Just why was this guy picked by the best magician in the academy?
Prepare to gasp in amazement because this manga isn’t one about Isekai. A lot about this setting seems to be very generic fantasy. Magic school, cute girls, and ludicrously skimpy uniforms are the norm these days. What this manga does different from so many that have come before it is the way it portrays its protagonist. He isn’t a jerk simply for the sake of being a jerk. There are plenty of backstory and reasoning behind why he acts the way he does, and it’s pretty sympathetic as well. You’ll really come to like him, and maybe the support cast as well. There is currently an anime based on this manga, so you know it’s at the very least good!
6. The New Gate
- Mangaka: Kazanami, Shinogi (Story), Miwa, Yoshiyuki (Art)
- Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Magic
- Volumes: 3
- Published Date: Nov 2014 - ???
“The New Gate” was an online death game that trapped tens of thousands of players in it. They are now being released, thanks to the efforts of Shin, one of the oldest and strongest players. However, after he defeated the final boss and everyone was freed, he got swallowed up by a light and found himself in the game world 500 years in the future. Just what happened to him?
This is one manga that simply takes the piss out of Sword Art Online. So many things are similar to it that it’s almost funny. They were formerly in a death game. The main character is overpowered beyond belief. Many people gravitate towards the main character because of his power. What’s amazing is how well The New Gate does it. You never really feel that the manga is boring because there is no tension. It’s always cool to see Shin pull out something new at any given time. His knowledge of the world isn’t omniscient either, as the world has changed after 500 years. There’s plenty to learn of and explore with our intrepid protagonist.
5. Kumo Desu ga, Nani ka?
- Mangaka: Kakashi, Asahiro (Art), Baba, Okina (Story)
- Genre: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
- Volumes: 2
- Published Date: Dec 2015 - ???
When the explosion from the clash between the Hero and Demon King kills off a whole classroom full of students, the victims get a chance to reincarnate into an alternate world. Some get reborn into royalty or are given prodigal abilities. Our protagonist, who was once the wallflower of the class gets reincarnated into a…spider. Watch as she is forced to quickly adapt to her new surroundings and tackle them as a weak spider, doing whatever is needed to survive in the harshest of lands.
While it is an Isekai manga once more, this immediately grabbed our attention because for once in never, the protagonist actually starts out pretty weak. Nothing is lower than a spider, except maybe a tiny insect. As a spider, she has some pretty weak stats and is considerably weaker than the monsters around her. What makes it fun to read is the sheer number of ingenious ways she thinks of to take down those monsters who are hunting her, and get more powerful for conquering great challenges way above her level. Best of all? It’s a girl for once.
4. Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari
- Mangaka: Aiya, Kyu (Art), Aneko, Yusagi (Story)
- Genre: Fantasy, Seinen
- Volumes: 8
- Published Date: Feb 2014 - ???
In another world, there are 5 heroes who are named after their main weapon. Iwatani Naofumi has been summoned along with 4 other students in his class, and he becomes the Shield Hero. Laughed at for being the weakest and suffering from a poor reception, he soon finds himself betrayed right at the beginning of his adventure. Left penniless and faithless, with naught but his shield, he swears to destroy all of those who scorned and betrayed him.
This is one of the darker mangas based on light novels out there. Right out the gate the protagonist gets screwed pretty badly and his treatment tends to carry on throughout the manga. In fact, he gets one of the only non-offensive abilities, so he has to rely on someone’s help to kill stuff. The main draw that everyone has to carry on reading throughout the harsh treatment of the protagonist is ‘that moment’. ‘That moment’ is the time when our protagonist finally gets to show-up his previous oppressors. If that’s the kind of thing you like, this is the manga for you.
3. Tensei Shitara Slime Datta Ken
- Mangaka: Mitz Vah (Art), Fuse (Story)
- Genre: Fantasy
- Volumes: 4
- Published Date: May 2014 - ???
After being stabbed by a robber on the run, a man falls to the floor, having pushed his co-worker and his co-worker’s new fiancé out of the way. As he lays bleeding on the floor, he hears a strange voice. The strange voice hears his dying regret of having never lost his virginity, and gives him the skill “Great Sage”. Somehow, he feels that the voice is making fun of him, but what can he do? He’s dead, right? No, he’s now a slime.
This particular manga follows the trend of a sub-category of Isekai that are getting more and more popular these days. These types of Isekai focus less on the personal development of the protagonist (partly because they’re already overpowered) but more on the world building that the protagonist does and the effects his actions have on the world around him. Whether they are for the better or worse, you can only find out if you read the story!
- Mangaka: Kobayakawa, Haruyoshi (Art), Kanekiru, Kogitsune (Story)
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Magic
- Volumes: 5
- Published Date: Mar 2014 - ???
Tomokui Kanata was a strong human being that had the ability to gain the ability of anything he ate. When he dies, he gets reincarnated into the weakest of creatures, a goblin named Goburou. However, though he lost all of his abilities, he retained the memories of his previous life and retained his ability to gain abilities through eating the remains of others. In a world where it is killed or be killed, Goburou must muster all of his experiences and strengths in order to survive as a weak goblin!
Right off the bat, the protagonist is actually pretty overpowered. However, it is done in mostly believable ways so you won’t feel like all the tension is just sucked out of the story. This was actually one of the first, if not the first, few stories to go with the reincarnated into a monster concept. It was certainly a unique take on things back then, and the evolution system that lets Goburou become something other than a goblin really keeps the audience interested in what he becomes next.
1. Youjo Senki
- Mangaka: Toujou, Chika (Art), Zen, Carlo (Story)
- Genre: Magic, Military
- Volumes: 5
- Published Date: Apr 2016 - ???
One of Japan’s most elite salaryman is reborn into an alternate WW2 scenario as a little girl called Tanya Degurechaff. He is reborn in such torrid circumstances because he directly challenges a mysterious being X who names himself as God. In a world of tanks and infantrymen Tanya discovers that there is magic involved as well. Due to her magic being extremely powerful, she enlists at a very early age. Just what havoc can the mind of an efficient salaryman in the body of a young girl cause? This is…the Saga of Tanya the Evil.
If you already watched the anime that was based on this manga recently, you already know this is good. For the sake of people who haven’t experienced the joyful anime, Youjo Senki is amazing because it does so many things differently from other Isekai manga. Instead of our excited young male protagonist, we get a pragmatic and ambitious little girl who does everything in her power to survive. Take note that we didn’t say that she was evil. Being the opposite of something isn’t as revolutionary as it seems to be. No, she is extremely pragmatic and takes the most logical possible actions in order to meet her goal. It is like watching a mastermind achieve everything he wants. There’s just something deeply satisfying about it.
There are tons more manga that are based on light novels out there, and we simply can’t list them all. Everything on this list is just our personal picks; mangas that we enjoyed quite a lot in particular. There are plenty of other mangas based on light novels out there that are plenty good on their own, and we encourage you to explore them with vigour. We hope you enjoyed our recommendations, and if you have any of your own to make, leave them in the comments below!