It seems natural that someone who watches anime would like fantasy novels, too. After all, anime and fantasy fiction are akin to one another. Every time we witness our favorite characters power up, inherit new abilities, and journey across bizarre worlds with their animal friends and supernatural companions, we’re beholding elements of the fantasy genre.
Those very same elements are what get people hooked to fantasy fiction’s thick bodies of work, camping out at bookstores and burning through sequels like weebs binge through arcs. At Black Girl Nerds, we have a thing for uniting fandoms. So if you’re an anime fan who’s curious about diving into the vast world of fantasy novels, here’s a list of options that should make the transition easier.
The Cradle Series
Number of Books: 12
Author: Will Wight
Anime Vibe: Magic-based Shonen where the hero starts off at a disadvantage, sets off on an epic adventure, and advances in power along the way
If you love epic magic-based underdog stories like Hunter X Hunter and Fairy Tail, check out the Cradle Series by Will Wight. Reviewers say it’s perfect for anime fans because it has themes that anime fans are already familiar with, so it reads effortlessly. In the Cradle Series, we meet Wei Shi Lindon, a man forbidden from learning the sacred magic of his clan. However, after learning about a life-threatening event that threatens the future of his homeland, he sets off on a heroic quest to save it, testing the limits of his strengths and abilities along the way.
Over the course of its 12-book saga, we witness Lindon grow from one of the weakest magic wielders to one of the strongest in his universe: a premise we’ve seen in shows like Black Clover. The Cradle Series’ story of self-discovery and ascension — and its martial-arts-inspired magic system — make it comparable to every Shonen we’ve ever seen. And although readers say the beginning of the story drags a bit, they guarantee that once the action picks up, it never stops (tbh: if you made it through the Chimera Ant arc, you can do anything).
Journey to the West
Author: Wu Cheng’en
Number Of Books: 4
Anime Vibe: Shonen that focuses on the journey of a hero and his companions as they voyage to distant lands in search of sacred artifacts
If you like grand adventures like One Piece and The Seven Deadly Sins, pick up a copy of Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. Journey to the West is a mythological story that’s considered one of the best works of Chinese literature ever written. The story details the adventures of a monk named Sanzang, who journeys with his three disciples on a quest to find sacred Buddhist scriptures. If you read that description and immediately thought of Dragon Ball, that’s because the story draws direct inspiration from Journey to the West in everything from its iconic cast to its setting and art style.
Journey to the West has been enlightening readers since the 16th century, fascinating people with its bizarre tales and memorable cast that readers to this day can relate to. Reviewers say the epic tale — which is comparable to Grecian classics like The Illiad and The Odyssey — does a phenomenal job of immersing you in every step of its 36,000-mile journey, painting vivid pictures of spiritual realms, perilous fights, and breathtaking views of Asia along the way.
The Burning Series
Author: Evan Winter
Number of books: 2 (2 more to follow)
Anime Vibe: Shonen set during a time of war where the hero trains to avenge the death of his loved ones
If you’re looking for a cleverly written story about war and revenge like Vinland Saga and Attack On Titan, then check out the Burning Series by Evan Winter. This fantasy gem manages to set itself apart in the wide world of fantasy thanks to its African-inspired civilization (a rare setting in fantasy fiction).
The Burning Series follows Tau, a man born to a tribe constantly under attack by their surrounding enemies, dooming them to a fate of endless war. Rather than accept his predetermined fate, young Tau formulates a plan to escape his bleak future of war and violence. However, his plan is deterred when his parents are murdered, sending Tau on an unrelenting quest for revenge. The Burning Series’ addictive battle sequences and grandiose story of vengeance and power would fit right into the anime universe, alongside shows like Code Geass (known for its impressive world-building, warring setting, and cleverly written revenge plots). The Burning Series’ unique POV and page-burning tales of revenge and war helped skyrocket the book’s success, earning it the title of one of the best progressive fantasy books ever written: not bad for a book that was initially self-published.
The Atlas Dystopia Apocalyptica Series
Author: Xander Cross
Number of books: 3
Anime Vibe: A supernatural seinen that depicts a hero’s struggle with his fall from grace
The Atlas Dystopia Apocalyptica Series oozes Japanese influence and is very clearly inspired by Japanese fantasy (author Xander Cross admits to being a lifelong fan of Japanese culture and is known for cosplaying his own original characters.) The Atlas Dysoptia Apocalyptica follows the struggles of Hayate, a kitsune fox whose need for survival supersedes his better judgment, leading him down a dark path in a world overrun by greed and corruption. As you journey through the series, you’ll watch Hayate’s fall from grace as he adjusts to his life in New Tokyo, driving him further away from divinity and deeper into the shadowy lifestyle of a shape-shifting demon. Critics say the Atlas Dystopia Apocalyptica Series is addicting, declaring it the perfect introduction to fantasy novels thanks to its complex characters, fascinating plot, and expertly descriptive prose that quickly immerses you into a fascinating world that combines cyberpunk with classic Japanese folklore.
With the appearance of everything from kitsune foxes to brutal martial arts battles, anime lovers will feel right at home between its pages, fitting in right alongside manga titles like Tokyo Ghoul and Devilman Crybaby. Readers say its incorporation of Japanese culture and folklore is impressively accurate, making this a must-read for fantasy-loving otakus. Fans of the series can also check out the free novella Come By Night: the official Apocalyptica companion.
If you’re an anime fan who is curious about crossing over to fantasy novels, consider giving books like the Burning Series and Journey to the West a try. Their similarities in style and storytelling should make the switch a piece of cake. For more anime and book recommendations, subscribe to Blackgirlnerds.com or follow us on social media @blackgirlnerds.
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Kaillaby is a writer from The Bronx with infectious high energy and a passion for geek culture. She loves connecting with Blerds like herself and hopes to create her own cartoon someday.