Getting into a light novel series can be a daunting proposition, especially when many series have a dozen or more volumes. Picking up a new or ongoing franchise can be even scarier, especially if you don’t know much about it, or whether it’ll turn out to be a good investment.
Here at Honey’s Anime, we’re always busy reading light novels along with manga, so we’ve put together a list of the best ongoing light novel series as of 2023. Due to the nature of English translations, some of the entries on this list already have an anime adaptation—but we’ll talk about the differences per series, and why you should read the novels!
Join us on Honey’s Anime today as we talk about the Top 10 Ongoing Light Novels!
10. Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu (Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut)
- Authors: Makino Keisuke (Story), Karei (Art)
- Genres: Historical, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Seinen
- Volumes: 3+
- Published: November 2022—present
Against the backdrop of a fictionalized 1960’s space race, Tsuki to Laika to Nosferatu (Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut) tells a daring story of racial prejudice and political tension. Alternating between two stand-in nations for the United States and the USSR, we follow astronauts (or cosmonauts, for their Soviet name) daring to push the limits of human ingenuity and bravery to forge a new path into the future.
The anime adaptation only covered the first light novel volume, so there’s plenty to catch up on in the other volumes. From everyone’s favorite tsundere vampire, Irina Luminesk, to her supervisor/lover Lev Leps, and across the ocean to the dhampirs struggling to earn working and living rights, Irina the Vampire Cosmonaut has an incredibly broad scope that highlights the incredible racial and political tension of the 1960’s.
Definitely don’t sleep on this if you’re a space nerd or a history buff!
9. Seishun Buta Yarou (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai)
- Authors: Kamoshida Hajime (Story), Mizoguchi Keiji (Art)
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Mystery, Psychological, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 9+
- Published: July 2020—present
Prepare to cry with Seishun Buta Yarou (Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai), a series that keeps getting better with every volume, delivering more emotional gut-punches than we thought possible.
Ostensibly a psychological mystery series based around the concept of ‘Adolescence Syndrome,’ Rascal Does Not Dream follows Sakuta Azusagawa as he navigates the difficulties of his girlfriend disappearing from the world, his sister becoming a recluse due to bullying, and his best friend running a sexy social media profile to escape her own love life troubles.
Each volume handles these situations with incredible care and emotional depth, and, in our opinion, does a better job than the anime. From the ninth volume onwards, the English-translated light novels will be surpassing the content in the animated series and movies.
For an emotional pressure cooker that’ll leave you crying more than once, we recommend Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai!
8. Shokei Shoujo no Ikirumichi (The Executioner and Her Way of Life)
- Authors: Satou Mato (Story), Nilitsu (Art)
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Shoujo Ai
- Volumes: 5+
- Published: March 2021—present
Magical systems and mind-bending time paradoxes merge in the bloody and action-packed Shokei Shoujo no Ikirumichi (The Executioner and Her Way of Life).
When Japanese people are summoned into this world, their magical abilities can go haywire, leading them to become monstrous calamities called Human Errors. It’s the job of the church’s executioners to prevent that from happening—but when Executioner Menou finds an Otherworlder, Akari Tokitou, whom she can’t kill, Menou sets out on a dangerous journey that’ll see her clashing against the very church she serves.
The Executioner and Her Way of Life rewards readers for paying close attention, since Akari’s ability to traverse time creates a multitude of paradoxes and time-loops. And that doesn’t even begin to cover the layered depths of world-building that really bring this series to life.
The recent anime adaptation only covered the first two volumes, but the light novels are far more detailed, with more hints at the underlying plot that the anime skipped over. If you liked the general premise of the anime, you’ll love the depth of character and world found in the original novels!
7. Mamahaha no Tsurego ga Motokano datta (My Stepmom’s Daughter is my Ex)
- Authors: Kamishiro Kyousuke (Story), TakayaKi (Art)
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Ecchi, Romance, School Life, Shounen
- Volumes: 5+
- Published: February 2022—present
Sitting in our category of “series that shouldn’t be this good based on the title” is Mamahaha no Tsurego ga Motokano datta (My Stepmom’s Daughter is my Ex).
Delightfully trashy in all the right ways, My Stepmom’s Daughter is my Ex does a surprisingly good job of showing the nuances in teenage relationships, along with the nature of our expectations and how that changes throughout a romantic relationship.
Mizuto and Yume were once an ill-fated middle school couple, and now find themselves living under the same roof after their parents remarried. With lingering romantic feelings, the pair struggle to balance their new sibling relationship with both the good and bad aspects of each other.
This series is really an excellent “comfort read”—light-hearted, comedic, and manages to tug on your heartstrings when you least expect it. If you watched the recent anime adaptation, keep in mind that the anime skipped a lot of secondary character interactions that really bounce off of Mizuto and Yume’s relationship to fully flesh out their story!
6. Date a Live
- Authors: Kamishiro Kyousuke (Story), TakayaKi (Art)
- Genres: Action, Comedy, Drama, Ecchi, Fantasy, Harem, Romance, School Life, Sci-Fi, Shounen
- Volumes: 8+
- Published: March 2021—present
Having finished at 22 volumes in Japanese in 2020, the well-known series Date a Live (pronounced like you’re seeing a ‘live concert’) has finally made its way into English!
Our hapless main character, Shido Itsuka, has the ability to ‘seal’ the powers of dangerous Spirits—each of whom is a beautiful girl from a parallel dimension, whose very existence can cause catastrophic damage to our world. By ‘sealing,’ of course, we mean dating them, getting them to like him, and then kissing them at the right moment!
We’ll admit that harem series often don’t work out for us, but Date a Live balances ecchi humor with thrilling action (and more than a few plot twists) to keep us entertained. Sure, you could go and watch the anime series, but there’s something whimsically beautiful about the light novels that charms us every time.
Date a Live has quickly become a mainstay series for us, with an excellent translation and a brilliant cast of characters we cannot help but love!
5. Tomodachi no Imouto ga Ore ni Dake Uzai (My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!)
- Authors: Mikawa Ghost (Story), Tomari (Art)
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 9+
- Published: February 2020—present
Take a dense protagonist and a stubborn tsundere, and you’ve got the recipe for this generation’s Toradora!, Tomodachi no Imouto ga Ore ni Dake Uzai (My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me!).
Following the practical but romantically blind Akiteru, My Friend’s Little Sister Has It In for Me! is a textbook “fake dating” romantic comedy. Forced into a sham relationship with his cousin Mashiro, Akiteru attempts to manage a growing video game company while also navigating the troubles of high school—and the annoying, persistent little sister of his best friend!
Iroha is Akiteru’s neighbor, and although she flaunts her feminine charm frequently, her prankster nature has led Akiteru to think her advances are only jokes to rile him up. As emotions reach boiling point, Akiteru will have to reckon with his romantic feelings—but for a boy who strives to achieve perfect stability, a love life is the one thing he can’t manage!
My Friend's Little Sister Has It In for Me! has been ordered for anime adaptation, but we’re still waiting to know the studio or release window. Until then, there are nine volumes of the light novel available in English—so get reading, and be ready to choose between Team Mashiro and Team Iroha!
4. Kusuriya no Hitorigoto (The Apothecary Diaries)
- Authors: Hyuuga Natsu (Story), Shino Touko (Art)
- Genres: Drama, Historical, Mystery, Seinen, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 7+
- Published: February 2021—present
Set against the backdrop of political turmoil in an Imperial China-inspired world, Kusuriya no Hitorigoto (The Apothecary Diaries) has been a runaway success in Japan, becoming the third best-selling light novel series in 2021 at just shy of half a million sales.
Our protagonist is the young Maomao, a pharmacist working in the red-light district—until she’s kidnapped and brought to the rear palace, where she becomes a servant. Her specialized knowledge in medicine and poisons alike quickly attracts the attention of the enigmatic eunuch, Jinshi, along with the powerful consorts who serve the emperor.
Mystery and intrigue quickly follows, with attempted assassinations, thefts, and political plots that stretch back generations—but Maomao’s energetic spirit and obsessive love of poisons add some much-needed levity!
An anime adaptation by OLM studios has been announced for 2023, so if you’re looking to get a leg up on your anime-only friends, go check out the first volumes of The Apothecary Diaries!
3. Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e (Classroom of the Elite)
- Authors: Kinugasa Shougo (Story), Tomose Shunsaku (Art)
- Genres: Comedy, Drama, Ecchi, Romance, School Life, Seinen
- Volumes: 11 + 3 Side Stories (Year One), 3+ Volumes (Year Two)
- Published: May 2019—present
Unreliable narrators are often discussed theoretically in fiction, but rarely seen—and for good reason, since an unreliable narrator can often betray the reader’s suspension of disbelief. Kinugasa Shougo, however, manages to perfectly capture an unreliable narrator in the light novels of Youkoso Jitsuryoku Shijou Shugi no Kyoushitsu e (Classroom of the Elite).
Set in the academically competitive landscape of the ‘Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing School,’ our unassuming and quiet main character, Kiyotaka Ayanokouji, is a masterful manipulator whose machinations extend to the reader themselves. In a school where almost anything can be bought, bartered, or won, Ayanokouji faces off against opponents even smarter than he is—but to survive until graduation, he’ll need to pull off some truly wicked blindsides on enemies and allies alike.
For brevity, we’re including the sequel series, ‘Year Two’ here, since it’s a direct continuation that will no doubt conclude with a third year. We’ve mentioned this in other articles, but Classroom of the Elite is an experience that’s only complete in the light novels.
Thanks to the nature of Ayanokouji’s scheming, the unreliable narration of the series works best in the original novel format—so we recommend skipping the anime and going right for the surprisingly chunky novels!
2. Otonari no Tenshi-sama ni Itsunomanika Dame Ningen ni Sareteita Ken (The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten)
- Authors: Saekisan (Story), Hanekoto and Kazutake Hazano (Art)
- Genres: Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life
- Volumes: 5+
- Published: December 2020—present
If you could take the warmest, most sugary, buttery cookie and turn it into a novel, you might have something close to Otonari no Tenshi-sama ni Itsunomanika Dame Ningen ni Sareteita Ken (The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten).
This sweet, heart-tugging high school romance is the very definition of a comfort read. The whip-smart dialogue and budding feelings that grow between neighbors Mahiru and Amane are a real treat, and something that feels incredibly genuine. Divested of the forced tropes we usually see in romantic comedies, The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten is straightforward and streamlined, offering a beautiful and idyllic romance that’s somehow surprisingly grounded at the same time.
The anime adaptation recently aired, and as light novel readers, we have to say that although Mahiru looks as lovely as ever, the light novels missed out on so much context and “feels.” For the full experience (and one of the sweetest things you’ll ever read), do yourself a favor and pick up the novels of The Angel Next Door Spoils Me Rotten!
1. Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-)
- Authors: Nagatsuki Tappei (Story), Ootsuka Shinichirou (Art)
- Genres: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Seinen, Supernatural
- Volumes: 20+
- Published: June 2016—present
It should be unsurprising to see Re:Zero on this list, especially considering its prominence and success—but we’re specifically recommending the light novels over the anime due to the brilliant foreshadowing from Nagatsuki Tappei that gets lost in the anime adaptation.
For the uninitiated, Re:Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu (Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World-) is a tragic isekai that follows teenager Subaru Natsuki. After being summoned to a fantasy world, he discovers his only power is time travel triggered by his own death. In this new world, he meets colorful characters with mysterious pasts, and comes up against enigmatic Witches along with deranged cultists that serve the Witches in name only.
Although we really enjoyed White Fox’s anime adaptation, Re:Zero’s central plot—that is, Subaru’s presence in this world, and the true nature of the “Witch of Jealousy” (Witch of Envy, for our anime watchers)—is softly hinted at throughout the serialization. Much of Re:Zero is still unknown by readers, but Nagatsuki’s brilliant foreshadowing is found in small interactions and side dialogue that didn’t always translate to the TV.
Whether you’re already a fan of Re:Zero or not, the simple fact remains that very few series are this enjoyable twenty volumes in—and with the plot only becoming more convoluted with every volume, this is one series you’ll want to stick around for!
There are plenty of other light novel series we’d love to recommend here, such as the brilliant shoujo isekai Otome Game no Hametsu Flag shika nai Akuyaku Reijou ni Tensei shite shimatta… (My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom) or the recently-finished seinen fantasy, Torture Princess: Fremd Torturchen!
Still, we think this list represents some of the best ongoing light novels—so if you’re looking for a great new series to start reading, then take your pick from any of our suggestions above.
If you have your own series you wish we’d included, let us know down in the comments below—and as always, thanks for reading!