Light Novel vs Manga [Review]

Our English edition of Classroom of the Elite’s light novel comes in at 384 pages (we have the Seven Seas 2019 edition). And for reference, the digital version of the manga volume we read has 195 pages.

Elementary-grade math teaches us that the manga should therefore contain roughly half the content of the novel, but instead, it feels like only about every fifth page was adapted. In a flurry of torn-up pages and half-scribbled notes, whoever planned the manga jotted down the main plot points they had to cover, before blazing ahead without ever glancing back at the source material.

To be clear, we’re not talking about removing visual descriptions — that’s a given in a manga adaptation. A picture tells a thousand words, after all. No, we’re complaining about the context behind many of the character interactions just disappearing into the void. All of this reduces our main character, Ayanokouji, to an empty pilot to drive the plot forwards.

Ayanokouji greatly struggles to make friends in this new high school, likely because he strange desires “avoiding trouble” at all costs. That doesn’t mean he’s a loner, however, unlike his classmate and walking-tsundere-trope, Horikita, who often proves to be a thorn in his side. At least most of their conversations made the cut into the manga, but Ayanokouji’s failed attempts to form friendships are sidelined into singular panels without much gravitas.

When our class of misfits and failures, Class D, learns that their academic futures are an endangered species thanks to their awful behavior and test results, Horikita goes into mom-mode and forms a study group. In the manga, this event is reduced to roughly four pages, and entirely cuts out Ayanokouji’s actions. In the light novel, Ayanokouji takes great pains to help Horikita form the study group, and when he eventually fails, he turns to the bubbly (but two-faced) Kushida, whom Horikita seemingly hates.

In the manga, Ayanokouji immediately goes to Kushida, seemingly betraying Horikita’s trust without a second thought, while in the, it’s a “novelt-ditch” effort. In fact, the tension between Kushida and Horikita isn’t particularly obvious, which weakens the character-building that the novel takes a solid amount of time to establish.

Overall, reading the light novel after reading the manga is like reading the actual book after the CliffsNotes. Or rather, it’s like reading the book after reading a sticky-note-sized summary of the CliffsNotes – it feels like we were sold a horribly reduced version of something rather great.