"Did you read the light novel?"
"Did you read the manga?"
These are usual questions that come about at some point in any conversation about an anime show. It's almost exactly like when a movie comes out based on a book, a normal question is, "Did you read the book?"
To be honest, this kind of strangers me. Why? Well, there are a lot of light novel / manga readers out there that do not care if someone has done the same, but at the same time there are quite a few that nearly take offense. These kinds of people usually reply any question or comment you make about a show with, "Well if your read the manga …"
It's quite annoying. I personally believe that there is one big difference between a movie adaptation of a book, and an anime adaptation of a light novel or manga. What is that? Volume. Movies take a long while to produce. Anime do as well, but they come air new shows four times a year (anime seasons). So, how can you compare a movie, that is released once after a long time, to anime that is released four times a year?
That's just food for thought. The real question, that's what is about, is what should you choose? Should you start picking up light novels? Or maybe you should pick up some manga? You know what, you should probably just watch the anime.
Let's go over some pros and cons of each of these.
Anime is usually my go to whenever I hear of an interesting story. Why? It's easy. You can literally sit at your desk, lie in bed, and watch the beauty of animation and listen to the dialogue. You can watch a story unfold before your very eyes, without having to navigate through the words of a light novel or piecing together pictures of a manga.
The downside, usually, is lack of depth. There is only so much an anime can fit into the season, as well as only so much they can show via the senses. You can easily miss out on some background stuff that got cut, or not fully understand a situation simply because you are unaware what state the character is in.
That being said, it is still my personal go to.
If I like the anime, I usually go looking into the light novel. Of course, I have to wait for a translation. A light novel is quite an investment, as any book is, so I look at it as me liking the story enough to back it. I do not read translations online, I always purchase the book. One, because I love having the physical copy, and two, to support the author.
The light novel, as with generally any book, usually goes into quite a lot more detail than the anime adaptation. You get a more in-depth look at scenes. You can see what's going on in the background. The author can tell you what a character is feeling rather than you trying to decipher it yourself. You also get to exercise your imagination, creating the different scenes in your mind. Of course, illustrations help you with this as well.
What's the downside of any book? It's time consuming! This is why this is always my second option, to the anime. I want to know that I like the story before I go into more detail. Another downside could be the writing style. I could love a story to death, but if the writer's style is too odd for me, I know I will not enjoy it.
Then we have manga. I'll be honest, I rarely buy manga, so my thoughts are probably a bit bias. However, manga are generally quicker to read than a light novel, since you are dealing with images. Instead of trying to create scenes in your mind that may not accurately depict the story the way the author intends, a manga puts the scene in front of you. You can literally watch it progress.
Much like light novels, manga are more in-depth than the anime adaptation. The downside to a manga, at least for me, is that you have to go right to left. I know that's a silly accusation, but it drives me nuts. The images could be welcome, but, like myself, I love creating scenes in my mind with my own imagination, so a manga restricts that to some degree.
So what's the best? Depends on your taste, of course. Light novel and manga readers are almost always going to look down upon people that do not invest the time they do into particular stories. That's just the way it is.
My thoughts are, if you find a story interesting, go for the anime. Or, if you are someone that loves a good story, grab the light novel. From there, you can go to one or the other, and / or go for the manga. Typically I see manga as something that is visually appealing once I know the characters.
So, there you have it. My thoughts on this whole anime vs light novel vs manga situation. Of course, everyone is going to have a different opinion, and you are welcome to disagree.