Ranking Title Difficulty Explanation Description Picture
Very Easy くま クマ 熊 ベアー Simple grammar with straightforward vocabulary that is reused a lot. The descriptions aren't overly complicated which makes it easier for beginners. A dedicated gamer and antisocial shut-in downloads an update to her favorite fantasy RPG–only to find herself sucked into the game world for real. Reset to level one and equipped with only a cute bear onesie that grants her impressive abilities, Yuna sets out to explore her new reality–even though the fact that she can't seem to take the bearsuit off gives her paws, er, pause!
Very Easy 娘じゃなくて私〈ママ〉が好きなの!? Nothing complicated going on, simple vocabulary with simple grammar. Recommended for beginners. Every volume has a short summary of the story so far, making it even easier. It does not get harder as the series goes on. A decade ago, Ayako took in her orphaned niece, Miu, as her own. They now share a close mother-daughter bond, but being a young single mom hasn't been easy for Ayako. Good thing Miu's childhood friend Takumi has been there for the family every step of the way. After all these years, he's grown into a kind, handsome young man—just the kind of guy Ayako would like to see Miu date. But little does she know it's not Miu that Takumi has fallen for... It's her!
Very Easy また、同じ夢を見ていた Very easy vocabulary, it's mostly a monologue from a primary school student. The main characters's pursuit of an answer to the question: "What is happiness to you?"
Very Easy 迷子になっていた幼女を助けたら、お隣に住む美少女留学生が家に遊びに来るようになった件について Simple subject. A lot of the book is a conversation to a child or about one. One day, Charlotte Bennett comes to study in Akito Aoyagi's class. With her neat and elegant demeanour and cute appearance, all his classmates are attracted to Charlotte, but Akito secretly feels that she lives in a different world and takes a step back from her. However, Akito's daily life changes dramatically when he saves Charlotte's lost sister, Emma. The three of them play dominoes, sit around the dinner table and go out together. As they spend more time together, Akito and Charlotte grow closer.
Very Easy-Easy ぜんぶ、藍色だった。 Half the length of most LNs, with very limited romance (and painting) focused vocabulary and overall short sentences. But the story is not entirely chronological and there are some twists to it, hence the bump up from the easiest difficulty. Touka Aoi, 14 years old, an art club member, an ordinary high schooler. Feeling out of place at both home and school, she lives a dull life. But after a new student, mysterious and handsome Ai Fujiki, transfers to her school and joins the art club, her until-then empty heart begins to fill with color. Talking with Ai every day, Touka finds herself falling for him. But one day, an incident occurs...! A bittersweet high school romance with a few unexpected twists along the way.
Easy コンビニ人間 Award- winning book about a コンビニ employee, so features a lot of コンビニ related vocabulary which is mostly easy. Decently short too, around 60k characters. Keiko Furukura is a 36-year-old woman who has been working part-time at a convenience store, or konbini, for the last 18 years. She has known since childhood that she is "different" and that expressing her own views and actions is inexplicable and distressing to others, and causes problems. The highly regulated world of the konbini, where each action is prescribed by the corporate manual, allows her to maintain an identity acceptable to those around her and a sense of purpose.
Easy 世界から猫が消えたなら Pretty clear plot structure with decently easy grammar and vocabulary make it easy to follow. A young man is given a terminal diagnosis of brain cancer. Finds a doppelganger at home that pretends to be the devil. The devil proposes a deal that would let him live one more day provided he agrees to have something disappear from the world.
Easy 星の子 Simple writing style with mostly common words. The story is told from a child's point of view, there is some vocabulary about diseases. When Chihiro was a baby, she suffered from eczema. Her parents tried to find a cure, but nothing worked. Her father's co-worker then gave him some water from a strange religious group. Chihiro was miraculously cured by the water. Her parents began to follow the strange religion and became fervent followers. Chihiro is now in the 3rd grade of middle school and she faces changes in her life.
Easy 天国に涙はいらない Very simple and straightforward, it has some christian vocab but basically everything has furigana. The protagonist is some sort of fortune teller with ties to spectral powers that one day ends up summoning a Seraphim called Abdiel who turns out to be a lolicon and teaches him about the ways of Moe.
Easy 眠れない夜は羊を探して The limited length of each story forces the author to get to the point fast. Vocabulary is pretty much pure slice of life but sometimes it does dip briefly into topics that aren't explored in your typical beginner light novel. A collection of 15 (very!) short, only loosely connected stories.
Easy 僕は僕の書いた小説を知らない Most sentences are not long, no difficult vocab, pleasant writing style. The story follows an author whose memory resets every day. On his computer, there is a novel with 50'000 characters written. Will he be able to finish it?
Easy にせものロマンス Vocabulary is limited to basic school and romance stuff so very easy but the story is told via alternating perspectives of the two MCs and there are some light deception shenanigans going on, so you have to pay a bit of attention not to get lost as to where the characters stand, metaphorically speaking. But overall an easy read. A cute yuri romance story involving lies and deception.
Easy ラブコメ漫画に入ってしまったので、推しの負けヒロインを全力で幸せにする A good starter light novel. Very simple vocabulary and writing. Standard setup where the MC gets hit by a truck and becomes the best friend of a romcom protagonist. Standard novel romcom shenanigans ensue.
Easy 余命一年の君が僕に残してくれたもの Good beginner light novel, basically everything about it is easy. Great first read. Time-limited love story between a depressed girl who lost her mother and a terminally-ill transfer student.
Easy あひる Slice of life setting with simple grammar and common words. Consists of three loosely related short stories. Cute duckling comes to the house of the main character and other children come to play too.
Easy 隣の席の佐藤さん Easy and pleasant to read, no hard vocab, chill slice of life romance consisting of two volumes. Yamaguchi is a smart, rather popular boy who sits next to Satou-san, who just can't seem to do anything right. She doesn't do well in school, is awkward, and freezes up whenever the attention is on her. But she's always optimistic and caring, and seems to face every challenge with a smile, even if she ends up failing at most of them. As they slowly get to know each other, Yamaguchi's initial feeling of discomfort starts to change...
Easy 父と私の桜尾通り商店街 Same author and setting as あひる above, therefore it's pretty much the same in terms of difficulty. A collection of short stories by the author of the book above.
Easy 余命一年と宣告された僕が、余命半年の君と出会った話 Decently easy light novel, the vocabulary is easy even though the setting is heavy. Love- story between two terminally ill patients who meet at the hospital. The novel explores love between those with little time left, and whether it is worth pursuing.
Easy-Medium とんでもスキルで異世界放浪メシ If you don’t know anything about Japanese cooking, or cooking in general, it’s going to be slightly more difficult. Other than that it uses mostly simple language except for some very few characters. Isekai about how a salaryman who was accidentally summoned into a different world ends up with the strongest familiars that only want to eat as much delicious food as possible.
Easy-Medium お隣の天使様にいつの間にか駄目人間にされていた件 The writing isn't very difficult outside of maybe some keigo expressions from the female MC. Amane lives alone in an apartment, and the most beautiful girl in school, Mahiru, lives just next door. They have almost never spoken despite being in the same class—until the day he sees her in distress on a rainy day and lends her his umbrella. To return the favor, she offers him help around the house, and a relationship slowly begins to blossom as the distance between them closes.
Easy-Medium 嫌われる勇気 Some words are not the most common. The sentences in the arguments follow some very clear patterns that once you get used to it it goes smoothly. It also features more "advanced" grammar like what would be considered JLPT N2-N1 but that is actually very easy to understand in context and it's nice to see it applied in an argument. It's a book discussing the philosophy and worldview needed to be happy. The author makes some extreme arguments and it's entertaining to see the justifications he gives.
Easy-Medium 王女様がメイドに監禁される話 Simple writing style, uncomplicated story in a generic fantasy setting. The only thing that stands out is keigo used by one of the MCs and typical fantasy vocabulary. If you're at least a bit familiar with the genre vocabulary though, it'll be an easy read. A selfish princess gets imprisoned by her calm and silent maid. Yuri ensues.
Easy-Medium ぼくは明日、昨日のきみとデートする Written for adults so it might be a bit harder vocab-wise though it is still somewhat easy due to being a romance novel. Romance story with high re-readability due to its twist.
Easy-Medium 転生したら剣でした The writing style is easy and pleasant to read, typical isekai vocabulary used but there are also some rare words here and there and you might struggle a bit with skill names because there's no furigana included for most of them. A nameless sword wakes up to discover he has been reincarnated from his former life as a human. With his power of telekinesis, he moves around this new world, acquiring several skills and abilities. When the sword comes upon a forest filled with monsters, he meets a young girl fleeing from a beast. Grabbing the sword, the girl easily defeats the monster. After introducing herself as Fran, she names the sword "Shishou" and officially becomes his wielder.
Easy-Medium 夏へのトンネル、さよならの出口 Good beginner pick, includes some supernatural elements but is quite easy to read. There is a strange rumor surrounding the Urashima Tunnel: it grants the wish of those who enter at the cost of their lifespan. Kaoru Touno did not think much of this silly urban legend until he stumbled across a dark tunnel one night.
Easy-Medium ほうかごがかり The story is set in school, vocabulary thus covers mostly school or slice of life topics, and (rarely) painting. What bumps up the difficulty slightly is the number of characters to track, occasional whole paragraphs dedicated to colorful environment descriptions using longer sentences, and more detailed, albeit rare, character monologues.
Easy-Medium 琥珀の秋、0秒の旅 Writing style is not difficult to comprehend, but different locations and prefectures are mentioned throughout the novel so you might feel a bit confused if you don't know Japan's geography at a basic level. The main character goes on a school trip and everyone disappears except for him and the school delinquent. A mysterious roadtrip follows.
Easy-Medium 半分の月がのぼる空 There are two versions, the OG from Dengeki, and one released from a non LN label (文春文庫). The original is very easy to read with simple vocab, short sentences, but doesn't have a digital version. The second one has a digital version but it is heavily rewritten with 伊勢弁 into 4 books and no illustrations so it is a bit harder to read than the Dengeki version. It's a sweet romance history that takes most of the time in a 田舎 hospital where the protagonist falls in love with a beautiful girl who has a heavy disease. It's one of the most famous LNs from the 00s.
Easy-Medium 無職転生 Very simple sentences with a fairly narrow vocabulary considering it's fantasy. When a 34-year-old underachiever gets run over by a bus, his story doesn't end there. Reincarnated as an infant, Rudy will use newfound courage, friends, and magical abilities to embark on an epic adventure!
Easy-Medium 青春ブタ野郎 Very light romance LN with some supernatural elements. The seemingly normal life of Sakuta Azusagawa, a high school student changes drastically when he meets a wild bunny girl that seems to be invisible to others. The seemingly normal life of Sakuta Azusagawa, a high school student changes drastically when he meets a wild bunny girl that seems to be invisible to others.
Easy-Medium ブギーポップは笑わない Easy sentences, the vocabulary isn't too difficult either. To face the "enemies of the world", the shinigami Boogiepop automatically rises to the surface. The Towa Organization, a shadowy group seeking to control humanity, managed to capture an alien organism who had taken the form of a highly evolved human. By studying him, the Towa Organization was able to create synthetic humans, people who have been artificially enhanced with special abilities.
Easy-Medium ひげを剃る、そして女子高生を拾う。 Mostly plain sentences, not too abstract with generous furigana. An IT professional takes in a runaway girl, which might sound like a sketchy porn scenario. However, we instead get something more like Dad Simulator with a very good girl that has some issues. Touching drama.
Easy-Medium 女同士とかありえないでしょと言い張る女の子を、百日間で徹底的に落とす百合のお話 Nothing really stands out except some descriptive terms for colors/clothing may be hard to look up. Popular girl has a hard time dealing with pretty loner girl (Fuwa) in class. Marika says she could never do gay shit, which seems to bother Fuwa. Fuwa offers Marika lots of cash for her company, saying she'll make her fall for her in 100 days. Marika accepts.
Easy-Medium 本好きの下剋上 Has a ジュニア文庫 printing which makes it more approachable with a full suite of ruby/furigana thrown in for help, and is written quite approachably. Urano Motosu, a book-loving post-secondary college student and soon-to-be librarian who ends up crushed to death beneath a pile of books at her house during an earthquake. With her dying breath, she wishes to be reincarnated in a world where she can read books forever. Urano awakens in the body of a weak, five-year-old girl named Myne in a world where books are scarce and only available to elites. Myne decides to create and print her own books so that she can read again.
Easy-Medium コンビニ強盗から助けた地味店員が、同じクラスのうぶで可愛いギャルだった Nothing too difficult here, the grammar is pretty easy overall and the vocab is mostly slice of life stuff. Teenager decides to commit suicide because he got rejected by his childhood friend. Sees a classmate getting robbed at her part-time job. Nonchalantly saves her without really wanting to. Pretty psychological with somewhat dark themes, not your usual slice of life romcom.
Easy-Medium NHKにようこそ! The author likes to use some yoji but other than that nothing too crazy. Tatsuhiro Satou, a university dropout entering his fourth year of unemployment. He leads a reclusive life as a hikikomori, ultimately coming to the bizarre conclusion that this happened due to some sort of conspiracy. One day just when his life seems entirely unchanging, he meets Misaki Nakahara, a mysterious girl who claims to be able to cure Tatsuhiro of his hikikomori ways.
Easy-Medium 魔女の旅々 Books are divided with many different stories. Somewhat easier than キノの旅 due to more SoL/Fantasy content/vocab. The writing in first person also makes it easier to get used to. Fascinated by the stories of Niké, a witch who traveled around the world, Elaina aspires to take the same course. Her determination of studying books and magic leads to her becoming the youngest apprentice witch to pass the sorcery exam. However, when Elaina attempts to receive training in order to become a full-fledged witch, she is rejected due to her extraordinary talents until she finds Fran, the "Stardust Witch", who accepts her. After earning her title, the "Ashen Witch", Elaina begins her exploration around the world.
Easy-Medium 冴えない彼女の育てかた Standard harem romcom fare with some simple doujinshi vocab. Nothing too bad, could be used as a first light novel. Tomoya Aki has been obsessed with collecting anime and light novels for years. Now, he wants to have a chance of providing the same experience for others by creating his own game. He successfully recruits childhood friend Eriri Spencer Sawamura to illustrate and literary elitist Utaha Kasumigaoka to write the script for his visual novel, while he directs. Tomoya now only needs an inspiration to base his project on, and luckily meets the beautiful, docile Megumi Katou, who he then models his main character after.
Easy-Medium 俺の妹がこんなに可愛いわけがない Overall easy writing style but you might not realize what is an expression/idiom. The story depicts high school student Kyosuke Kosaka who discovers that his standoffish younger sister Kirino is actually an otaku with an extensive collection of moe anime and younger sister-themed eroge she has been collecting in secret. Kyosuke quickly becomes Kirino's confidant for her secret hobby.
Easy-Medium 灰と幻想のグリムガル
level.1 ささやき、詠唱、祈り、目覚めよ
Some chuuni vocab and medieval weapons vocabulary. Pretty standard isekai fantasy, but with the MC just being another out of countless regular joes that have been transported to that world. Makes it feel very grounded and relaxing.
Easy-Medium きのうの春で、君を待つ The writing style itself is not difficult, but there are lots of time leaps involved so you might get confused by the order of events if you don't follow the story closely. Two years ago, high schooler Kanae left his small island community of Sodeshima to pursue his academic dreams in Tokyo. When that life falls short of his expectations, he runs away from home to return to Sodeshima and his childhood friend, Akari. But before they can rekindle their old feelings for each other, the clock strikes six and Kanae finds himself inexplicably thrust forward four days into the future.
Easy-Medium 顔さえよければいい教室 While this is decently easy, it has a pretty heavy focus on show business/entertainment which makes it slightly harder than a beginner recommendation, but still approachable. Ryouran High School is a private arts academy full of geniuses in every field. But in reality, it's looks, not talent, that decide its students' success. My sister, Shika Ikebukuro, is a shut-in who can't do anything without her older brother, and I was sure that devastating lack of charisma would doom her. But I know a secret. Behind her mask, the internet sensation VSINGER is none other than my sister Shika! Her voice is one-of-a-kind, but will it be enough to overcome Ryouran High's entire social order?
Easy-Medium 時々ボソッとロシア語でデレる隣のアーリャさん Surprisingly difficult in terms of sentence length, but nothing else is difficult. The vocabulary is mostly slice of life stuff, the grammar is easy. The main character is your classic otaku nonchalant boy and the main girl is a beautiful half-Russian, half-Japanese Ice Queen. She only shows her emotions in Russian, but unbeknownst to her, the main character also knows Russian and sees through her tsundere ways.
Medium 丘の家のミッキー【おかみきシリーズ】 Longer sentence length (especially due to the use of parentheses) with some outdated vocabulary from time to time. The protagonist is an お嬢様 type character growing up and initally attending a Girls' Academy. It's a story of growth, romance and breaking away from expectations. It's a 少女 series that was written in the 80s.
Medium 恋に至る病 The sentences are easy to read even though it uses some pretty rare vocabulary at times. A girl causes the suicide of over 150 people. A boy protects her until the end. This is the story of how the boy fell in love with the girl.
Medium サマーウォーズ The sentences are usually long and can be hard to follow for a beginner with some harder vocab from time to time. The story can also be all over the place at least in the first few parts. When math genius Kenji Koiso is asked by secret crush Natsuki to come with her to her family’s Nagano home for a summer job, he agrees without hesitation. His “summer job” is to pretend to be Natsuki’s fiance and dance with her at the birthday celebration. As Kenji attempts to keep up with Natsuki’s act around her family, he receives a strange math problem on his cell phone. As it turns out, the solution to the mysterious equation causes a bizarre parallel world to collide with Earth.
Medium ノルウェイの森 Longer sentence length, pretty long novel too compared to something like light novels. The topic matter is handled in a more indirect manner. The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and burgeoning sexuality. It is told from the first-person perspective of Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a college student living in Tokyo. Through Watanabe's reminiscences, readers see him develop relationships with two very different women—the beautiful yet emotionally troubled Naoko, and the outgoing, lively Midori.
Medium キノの旅 —the Beautiful World— The books are divided into small stories with different perspectives and style. Grammar is quite straightforward despite some long monologues here and there but the amount of vocab will pose a challenge. For instance, depending on the story there might be military or scientific vocabulary. The protagonist, Kino, accompanied by a talking motorcycle named Hermes, travels through a mystical world of many different countries and forests, each unique in its customs and people. She only spends three days and two nights in every town, without exception, on the principle that three days is enough time to learn almost everything important about a place, while leaving time to explore new lands.
Medium イリヤの空、UFOの夏 It's not hard to follow but it does have higher vocab than your average LN, the writing is very striking and peculiar so wouldn't recommend it until having read a few other stuff at least. The protagonist sneaks into the pool at night and meets a strange girl in a very weird encounter, she happens to transfer to his class the next day and be related to the military and war going on. One of the classics of the セカイ系.
Medium つめたいオゾン The writing is very straightforward but it does have some very long sentences and uncommon words here and there (at least compared to random LNs). It's about a new disease that makes two different person completely behave like if they were the same one. Follows the file of two protagonist since they are born with it, until they meet and it gets into the late stages of the disease.
Medium 鉄コミュニケイション Same as イリヤ above (same writer). Not hard to follow but the writing is very speculiar so you should a few other books first. Sci- fi story about a girl that wakes up in the future as the last human left on earth and starts living with robots until one day she meets a robot that looks exactly like her. Very heavy on AI and transhumanism.
Medium 左巻キ式ラストリゾート Nothing too complicated language-wise but not extremely straightfoward either. Half a mistery book half a エロ本, very heavy on metafiction and escapism, kind of hard to describe but it is one of the most unique and influential books in otaku culture probably.
Medium Re:ゼロから始める異世界生活 Average fantasy light novel difficulty. Modern day teenage gamer, Natsuki Subaru, is thrust into a mysterious fantasy RPG styled world on his way home from a convenience store. As he searches for the heroine who he assumes summoned him he crosses paths with a silver haired half elf girl.
Medium 海辺のカフカ Sentences are pretty easy for a literary fiction work. Vocabulary has nothing particularly worth mentioning. The book tells the stories of the young Kafka Tamura, a bookish 15-year-old boy who runs away from his Oedipal curse, and Satoru Nakata, an old, disabled man with the uncanny ability to talk to cats. The book incorporates themes of music as a communicative conduit, metaphysics, dreams, fate, the subconscious.
Medium 霊媒探偵城塚翡翠 Detailed descriptions of environments and lines of logic that the reader must be able to understand to keep up with the mysteries. Mystery novelist Kougestu teams up with Hisui, a spirit medium, to solve four different murder cases with the help of Hisui's supernatural powers. (Winner of the Honya Taishou Award in 2020).
Medium 裏世界ピクニック Scifi/scientific concepts and some more advanced vocabulary, but nothing crazy. Mixing a yuri couple (of university students!) in the making with exploring a dangerous foreign world with said world having horrors based on Japanese creepypastas... Urasekai Picnic takes disparate elements and mixes them together with surprising success.
Medium なぜロジカルな人はメンタルが強いのか? Average sentences but there are some baseball and mahjong references. A pro mahjong player explains how to be strong mentally and deal with stress.
Medium やはり俺の青春ラブコメはまちがっている Quite a few cultural references, especially to Chiba prefecture. The main character is quite cynical and tends to go on somewhat long tirades. Other than this, pretty alright. The story follows two loners, the pragmatic Hachiman Hikigaya and beautiful Yukino Yukinoshita, who despite their varying personalities and ideals, offers help and advice to others as part of their school's Service Club, assisted by the cheerful and friendly Yui Yuigahama. It largely depicts various social situations faced by teens in a high school setting and the psychology driving their interactions.
Medium むかし僕が死んだ家 Some vocabulary that's fallen a bit out of use, otherwise relatively straight forward. To get back the lost memories of his former lover, the mc (whose name I forgot) travels with her to a mysterious house that was connected to her father. A slightly creepy mystery that kept me guessing until the end.
Medium 告白 It mixes writing styles across the whole book, with some of them being harder and some being much easier. "Manami's Death wasn't an accident, she was killed by someone in this class", Yuuko reveals to her students. A mystery about what led to the death of her daughter and the circumstances surrounding it.
Medium 岸辺露伴は戯れない The main character is pretentious and that tone is established in the dialog and descriptions through uncommon words; it's a short story collection so there's a lot of new vocabulary every 60 pages or so. Manga artist Kishibe Rohan investigates a series of strange, paranormal occurrences throughout Japan, sometimes by request from a client and sometimes simply out of his own curiosity. However, Kishibe Rohan is himself supernaturally gifted, possessing a power called "Heaven's Door", which allows him to open people like a book, seeing their memories and allowing him to write commands in the pages of their minds.
Vocabulary on the more advanced side, fantasy story that can be harder to follow at times, and rare but present more poetic bits. If you're familiar with the prequel, I heard
SukaMoka is about the same difficulty. Not a beginner recommended light novel series.
The Noverland Empire's army led by the dragonslayer Sigbert has long been obsessed with capturing the island of Eden. Sigbert and his army have been rebuffed many times by Eden's dragon protector. On one such expedition, whether by chance or fate, Sigbert's daughter Brunhild was left behind on the island's shores. Eden's dragon found her, cared for her, and began to raise her as a daughter. But 13 years later, Sigbert finally claimed the dragon's life, and "repatriated" Brunhild to her motherland.
Medium 響け!ユーフォ二アム Dialogue has written Kansai-ben that might be difficult to get used to and there's lots of music vocab, but it also makes it THE best story for mining music vocab. A story about a school band's struggle to grow from a for-fun laidback group to one worthy of participating in national competitions, and its members' relationship with music and themselves.
Medium-Hard ノーゲーム・ノーライフ Some characters have very strong dialect or talk in an old fashioned way, writing style is not straightforward, many references to other media can be seen throughout the novel. Sixteen sentient races inhabit Disboard, a world overseen by Tet, the One True God. The lowest of the sixteen—Imanity—consists of humans, a race with no affinity for magic. In a place where everything is decided through simple games, humankind seems to have no way out of their predicament—but the arrival of two outsiders poses a change.
Medium-Hard 薬屋のひとりごと Japanese light novel based on a Chinese background, lots of old Japanese vocab is used. Authors employ a wide range of vocab and expressions that add to the difficulty. Even the character names will throw you off because they use the Chinese pronounciation in the furigana instead of Japanese. Set in a fictional country based on Ming-era China, the series follows Maomao, a young girl working as an apothecary in the red-light district, who is kidnapped and sold to the Imperial Palace as a servant. However, she still retains her curious and eccentric personality and plans to work there until her years of servitude are over, without drawing the attention of anyone. One day, after hearing rumors that the emperor's children are critically ill, she begins to investigate the cause.
Medium-Hard 刀語 Has some harder words/kanji for ability names and the characters speak in an old fashioned way occasionally, but otherwise very readable. Does include a bunch of wordplay though which intermediate learners and below might not be able to spot. Experience with chuuni style games might make this slightly easier. "Historical" fiction novel by the author nisioisin. The novel is about a swordsman who fights without a sword and a woman working for the bakufu traveling across japan gathering legendary swords in historical post-sengoku-period Japan.
Medium-Hard 魔法科高校の劣等生 Complete magic system, protagonists use keigo constantly, lots of fights with difficult vocabualries, extensive descriptions (especially of trains and public transportations for some reason) make this a bit of a tough read for a beginner. The year is 2095. Magic has been tamed as another form of technology, and the practice of magic is now a rigorous discipline. Brother and sister Tatsuya and Miyuki Shiba are just about to start their first year at the renowned First Magic High School of Japan. But the school's ironclad rules mean that the brilliant Miyuki enters the prestigious Course 1, while her older brother, Tatsuya, is relegated to Course 2—and that's just the beginning of their troubles!
Medium-Hard 化物語 Written by Nisioin so expect clever dialogue with word play and a lot of cultural references, making it harder than average to fully comprehend. The story of Koyomi Araragi begins through a fateful encounter with the all-powerful, blonde-haired, "hot-blooded, iron-blooded, and cold-blooded" vampire, later introduced as Shinobu Oshino. Their tragic rendezvous results in the end of Araragi's life as a human and his subsequent rebirth as a vampire—a monster. However, this encounter is only the start of his meddlings with the supernatural.
Medium-Hard Re:ゼロから始める異世界生活 Standard isekai and fantasy vocabulary but relatively long sentences with decently hard structures. Takes a bit of time to get used to, Exiting the convenience store, Subaru Natsuki emerges to a busy town inhabited by humans and demi-humans. Using dragons and carriages as transportation, the town is clearly not the modern-day Japan that he is familiar with. However, as someone who spends his days engrossed in comics and games, Subaru assumes that he is a protagonist in this new fantasy world, harnessing supreme magical powers. Much to his dismay, that is not the case and things quickly go awry as he bumps into a group of thugs.
Medium-Hard 恋する寄生虫 The main difficulty is that there are a lot of technical words on pathological conditions and parasites. A sad story about a middle-aged man with a cleanliness OCD who develops computer viruses, and a high-school dropout who can't look into people's eyes and who's fascinated with parasites.
Medium-Hard 羅生門 Old kanji, old grammar make this harder than your average novel, but it is still understandable to more advanced learners. It's a classic for a reason though. The story recounts the encounter between a servant and an old woman in the dilapidated Rashōmon, the southern gate of the then-ruined city of Kyoto, where unclaimed corpses were sometimes dumped. The man, a lowly servant recently fired, is contemplating whether to starve to death or to become a thief to survive in the barren times. He goes upstairs, after noticing some firelight there, and encounters a woman who is stealing hair from the dead bodies on the second floor.
Medium-Hard 妖氛録(中島敦) Written in an oldish style, has some hard words, not too difficult to read past that. Extremely short. A short book set in ancient China that revolves around a beautiful woman named 夏姫. It speaks of the misfortune of the men who get involved with her meet, as well as the politics of the time.
Hard Fate/Zero Sentences are challenging and the author uses a wide range of vocabulary. Fate/ Zero is set ten years before the events of Fate/stay night, and tells the story of the Fourth Holy Grail War, a secret magical tournament held in Fuyuki City, Japan, where seven mages known as Masters summon Servants, reincarnations of legendary souls and heroes from all across time, where they fight in a deadly battle royale where the winner obtains the Holy Grail, a legendary magical chalice capable of granting wishes.
Hard 幼女戦記 Challenging isekai light novel involving politics, war and some fantasy elements. The series focuses on a salaryman whose reincarnation as the character Tanya living in an alternate version of World War I leaves her to be trapped in an endless cycle of reincarnation. Willing to avoid being killed whilst dying of natural causes, Tanya must take it upon herself to don a bloodthirsty, sadist ego in hopes of joining the ranks of the Empire’s Mage Corps as part of her plan to become a seemingly indestructible foe.
Hard 人間失格 Old readings that aren't used anymore, old things that aren't common anymore, extremely long phrases where you have to pay attention to the whole sentence to understand anything by the end of it. Old forms of verbs that aren't really used anymore either. Excerpts of translated poetry that you can't find in the original to compare as it's actually a unique interpretation of some japanese writer. Tough read. No Longer Human is told in the form of notebooks left by one Ōba Yōzō, a troubled man incapable of revealing his true self to others, and who, instead, maintains a facade of hollow jocularity. The work is made up of three chapters, or "memoranda", which chronicle the life of Ōba from his early childhood to his late twenties. One of the elusive "classics."
Hard ロスジェネの逆襲 Harder than your average novel. The novel has a lot of formal business, corporate and economic terms. It also has some rare expressions. It can only get difficult due to the words used, other than that the writing style is not hard to follow at all. Recommended to learn formal Japanese words. Third novel in the Hanzawa Naoki series. It follows the story of Hanzawa Naoki, a banker working for the largest bank in Japan, Tokyo Chuo Bank. He faces numerous obstacles from upper management as he climbs his way up the ranks.
Hard 鼻 Old kanji and old kana usage, very specific buddhist vocabulary with older grammar and vocabulary more generally makes this a challenging read. Zenchi Naigu, a Heian period Buddhist priest, is more concerned with diminishing his overly long, dangling nose than he is with studying and teaching the sūtras.[5] He pretends to ignore his nose in fear it will be mentioned, and studies religious texts in a desperate attempt to find a person with a nose like his. When in private, he constantly checks his nose in a mirror, hoping for even the smallest amount of shrinkage.
Hard 同志少女よ、敵を撃て Very involved descriptions of historical war tactics, group movements, and general combat lingo are what makes this difficult. The interpersonal and action scenes tend to be a bit easier in comparison. A story about a female sniper and the squad she belongs to in the soviet army during WW2. A gripping story with heavy themes surrounding it.
Hard 坊ちゃん Souseki uses a lot of archaic and rare vocabulary, and some of the example sentences used to explain these words come from Souseki himself (!). It's also sometimes hard to discern whether the narrator (or someone else) is speaking. Nonetheless, his writing largely makes up for it. The main characters takes up a job as a middle school mathematics teacher in Shikoku. There, he has arguments with both the staff and the students. The story discusses morality more generally and is a Japanese classic for a reason.
Hard 或阿呆の一生 Shorter than the one above, but extremely abstract with weird pacing due to the disconnected nature of the book. It uses old kanji and kana but the main difficulty is how abstract it all is, rather than the sentence length or anything like that. A Fool's Life is an autobiographical collection of reminiscences, observations, and ideas about a man on the edge. There are fifty-one pieces, ranging from proper anecdotes to incomplete sketches and observations. Again, autobiography is central, with much addressing situations that Akutagawa himself faced -- revealing also how much of this weighed on him.
Hard 舞姫(森鴎外) Vocab isn't too difficult, however it'll be difficult to understand for those not familiar with the style of writing. The story is straight forward and quite short, there's also many 解説 available which makes it a good introduction to 文語體. Story of a Japanese exchange student in Germany who falls in love with an 踊り子 and the resulting struggle he goes through in choosing between her and his career.
Hard 三国志1-3(吉川英治) Uses difficult vocab, but its surprising pleasant to read once you get into it. Difficulty mainly comes from keeping track of what's going on, as the perspective is constantly being changed. 吉 川英治's rendition of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Follows the stories of several 英雄 through their triumphs and adversities in war, politics etc.
Hard-Very Hard 義血侠血(泉鏡花) Outdated, rare words. The writing is hard to follow in general, especially dialogue. A travelling entertainer meets a young man who aspires to be a lawyer, but doesn't have the means to. She ends up periodically sending him money to pay for his education, but has to turn to other means after the money she intended to send off one day is stolen.
Very Hard 十二支考1-12(南方熊楠) Old, scholarly writing. References many historical documents, books, etc. Twelve books, each of which focuses on one of the 12 animals of the zodiac. Each goes in-depth into the history, folklore, nature, etymology etc. of the 十二支.
Hell 運命(幸田露伴) Old. 10/10 vocab difficulty, words that will only show up Chinese dictionaries, made up words, made up 四字熟語 etc, unless you have expansive kanji knowledge it's a struggle. Hard to read in general, especially if you aren't familiar with 文語體, very long sentences. A historical novel set in China, based on several Chinese historical records. A young man is made emperor after the death of the previous emperor, but loses the position in a power struggle and is forced to go into hiding.
Hell 古事記 校註(太安万侶,稗田阿礼) Very old style writing, very difficult to decipher. Even with the 校註, you'll likely finish a section having no idea what you just read. Many difficult words, many gods with long names that are hard to keep track of. There's also quite a bit of poetry that, unless you have experience reading old Japanese poetry, is very hard to understand. A modern (for the time) translation of Japan's oldest 神話.