Anime is by far the most popular piece of Japanese popular culture to leave Japan and spread to other parts of the world. But as the vast majority of anime series are adaptations, that leads to the question: From what are these anime adapted?
Of course, most are originally manga series that become popular in serialised manga magazines — e.g. Naruto, Bleach, Dragon Ball, and Full Metal Alchemist. A much smaller number come from visual novel games — e.g. Fate/stay Night, Steins;Gate, and Clannad. But oft overlooked is the third place anime adaptations come from: light novels.
Light novels are a type of Japanese novel aimed at young adults that usually have around 200 pages.
While most anime and manga are regularly released outside of Japan (either legitimately or by fans) comparatively few light novels are put into print in the English-speaking world. Series with popular anime adaptations like Haruhi Suzumiya, Slayers, and Vampire Hunter D have gotten at least partial English language releases of their light novels. But other series, even incredibly popular ones like Sword Art Online, Accel World, and Bakemonogatari, have not been licensed for a Western release.
Thus, as with manga and anime, the task of translating has fallen into the hands of the fans themselves. But unlike manga and anime that have scanlation and fansub groups (respectively) spread seemingly at random across the net, the light novel translating community has largely centered around one point: Baka-tsuki.org.
Started back in 2006 to spread word about the Haruhi Suzumiya light novels, the site now acts as the go-to place for fan-translated light novels. The main site uses a wiki layout and acts as a hub for many light novel projects. Each light novel's wiki page includes not only the translated novels themselves but also information on who is working on the projects, how much has been completed of the series in total, and a list of updates.
The site now sports over 50 different light novel series in various states of completion — and in many languages besides English. Of course, like many manga and anime translation sites, if and when a series is licensed, it is removed from the site.
Despite the dubious legality of this activity, it is nonetheless truly interesting to see how most of these translators have all come together in one place to ensure the light novels they love are translated as efficiently as possible.