I started reading it a lvl 40+ and I knew most of the kanji. Even if I didn’t know them in many cases there’s furigana. But I had to look up over 300 words/phrases. I pretty much had to read it with a dictionary app open all the time. Luckily once I read a few chapters the vocab starts repeating and I can read it more and more freely.
I’d say you should be at least lvl 30 with solid grammar knowledge up go N3 and be ready to look up N2 grammar points.
Really depends on the author’s style, because even within the LN category, there’s a whole range of difficulties. I’ll use the three LNs I’ve mentioned so far as examples:
Overlord is brilliant in terms of the amount of detail and effort the author puts into it. However, I find the story a little hard to stomach because I feel that there’s a bit too much scheming and potentially cruel behaviour involved. (It’s ‘dark fantasy’ after all, so I guess we shouldn’t be surprised, and I can still respect people who like the series.) On a linguistic level though… even fan translations in English are challenging to read. They’re really long, with lots of political vocabulary and so on. I don’t think the Japanese is any easier.
Konosuba is on the other end of the spectrum, in my opinion. There are quite a few relatively short sentences, and there aren’t that many long relative clauses, meaning that the sentences essentially still read (sort of) like English sentences: you can relatively easily process one clause, understand it, and move on. (I’m saying all this based on the excerpts that I have read, though I’ve never finished a whole volume.) @d-hermit is right about grammar, but sometimes grammar alone isn’t enough. You’ll sometimes need to try to work out what something means by looking for the link between different parts of the sentence, and that requires looking things up and trying to see how they fit together. Some grammatical structures have multiple meanings, after all.
The Rising of the Shield Hero is probably somewhere in between. I tried to read Volume 18 a year ago (there are excerpts online), and it took me ages to get through each page. I personally think it’s a little more challenging than Konosuba because of all the long embedded relative clauses. Here’s an example that I’ve posted elsewhere on the forums:
出された 飯 を もりもり と 食べる 食欲 魔人 共 を 見習って ほしい もん だ。
take-out-passive-past meal [object] energetically [adverb] eat appetite demon [people-plural] [object] see-learn-TE want [strong desire/opinion] be
[I] really want [them] to learn from (the example of) the demons with a huge appetite who energetically eat the food prepared [for them].
Of course, every LN will have sentences like these, but I think that the ones in Shield Hero are more complex because you have multiple layers: 飯 is modified by 出された and in turn becomes the object of 食べる, which creates a verb phrase modifying 食欲魔人共, which itself is the object of 見習って, which is connected to 欲しい, which modifies もんだ, which is a set expression (ものだ, in its full form). I could start parsing Konosuba sentences a few months after starting Japanese, even if I needed a dictionary a lot. For Shield Hero, I tried reading it after a year of Japanese, and I kept having to ask my friend for help because I kept getting stuck. I couldn’t see how to process the sentences. Konosuba sentences are more linear, and you don’t have to keep track of everything at once as often.
So to answer your question… I think you need at least intermediate-level grammar to tackle LNs without too much difficulty. A good dictionary is extremely helpful too. I can’t help you gauge the amount of kanji knowledge needed because I’m a Chinese speaker, so I can’t remember what it’s like to learn from scratch. @d-hermit’s remarks seem like a good guideline though.
Oh, crap! So sorry, I had no idea No wonder I hadn’t heard it recommended recently… I wonder why they closed it off. Before I posted I logged into my account to make sure it was still running, and people there still appear to be active…
Ohh I see, many thanks for the detailed breakdown!! I´ll definitely wait a bit then until I have more vocab-grammar in order to start reading such intermediate-advanced books. I´ve also heard many people say that slice of life LN´s are “easier” because since they deal with real-life issues, the vocab is less technical and less subject to interpretation. However, for sure at least a solid N3 is needed, as you say, to enjoy the reading and not spending hours and hours with just one page (even though at anytime for sure something will have to be looked up or checked online at a dictionary or a grammar page)
*as @d-hermit said. Credit where credit’s due. Hahaha. I’m not so good at gauging JLPT levels because the materials I use for studying don’t really line up clearly with the JLPT. My first textbook was some book from France supposed to bring someone up to the B2 level of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) for languages, then I moved on to Tobira. B2 is theoretically around N2 (except that the JLPT doesn’t really test speaking and writing ability), but I still find a few things I don’t know in Tobira, which is pitched at N3-N2. But yeah, I guess you could say that N3 is around the point where you can start parsing longer sentences. Truth be told though, in the world of anime, you’ll often find that the things you don’t know are really all over the spectrum: it’s not uncommon to be searching an N4 structure one moment and an N2/N1 structure the next. Real life isn’t as neat as test rubrics.
Sure, good idea. However, as I might have said somewhere above, I think anime is a good intermediate medium while you work towards that, provided you like anime. You can use it to pick up plenty of interesting structures, and you’ll have subtitles to help you. (Subtitles can be a hindrance sometimes though, because translations may not match exactly what’s being said on screen, and sometimes, even though they’re accurate, their phrasing is misleading. I just rewatched an episode of Oregairu and realised that it was the subtitles that were throwing me off – not a good thing when the story itself is full of implicit meaning and hints.)
I can’t say for sure because of a lack of experience, but I think it’s fairly true. The few ‘slice of life’ anime I’ve seen have a more relatable basic set of words. However, if you like a particular genre and keep looking at it, you’ll probably start to pick up the words you need as well. For example, there are so many isekai anime out there, and they’re often in a sort of game setting, so it’s not rare to hear stuff like 経験値 (experience points)、転生 (reincarnation)、鎧 (armour)、パーティー (party) and so on. Very normal once you’re familiar.