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What Are Cell Phone Novels? All About Cell Phone Novels

What Are Cell Phone Novels?

Cell phone novels are ongoing serial literature generally written in poetic, short chapters of a max of around 100-200 words per chapter. Please continue reading for more details!

Intro to Cell Phone Novels Documentary and Interview with Takatsu

(Produced by Takatsu and Comex Media) Comprehensive information and guide to what cell phone novels are, the history of where it comes from and how it started in North America, English cell phone novel literature style, Secondhand Memories, Textnovel, eMobo and more!

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A Brief Overview

Japanese cell phone novel (keitai shousetsu, ケータイ小説, literally keitai = cell phone, shousetsu = novel) phenomenon began almost fifteen years ago and landed in the English-language world in 2008, beginning a new literary movement among thousands of young writers and readers globally first on The cell phone novel is a remarkably unique new form of writing, fusing serialized online storytelling with simple haiku-like poetic technique and with prose narrative. Each chapter or page is at most 200 words, but usually averaging around 50-100 words, using white space, line breaks, fragments, free flow poetry, deeply personal thoughts, emotions, and onwards. As it is about the literary culture, form and style, there is no restriction of genres or content.

The Origin

Cell phone novels originate from Japan almost fifteen years ago, where a young man by the name of Yoshi started writing a novel on his cell phone consisting of short chapters that fits in a multimedia email message, sent to friends and then forwarded and spread through word of mouth and other makeshift promotional strategies.

Cell phones in Japan were much more advanced than the Western counterparts back then and were capable of 3G internet networks and email messaging and did not have SMS text limitations. With the style and tradition of Japanese blogging which captures the essence of the sparse and ambiguous, context-based casual and personal Japanese language, the story started the style we see in English cell phone novels today.

Since Yoshi's "Deep Love", which he financed and made a website for, and birthed a TV series, movies, manga comics and more, publishers have picked up on this trend and created websites and apps where Japanese users can read and post these stories online under pen names and secret identities, inspiring a culture of serial spontaneity and improvisation, a new generation of aspiring and amateur writers – a majority composed of high school students expressing very personal, emotional, existential and controversial topics that are considered taboo to mention openly in Japanese culture, such as identity, subcultures, relationships, rape, bullying, abortion, friendships and betrayals using sparse colloquial conversational language (while in Japanese it isn't considered to be literature material, it would be however starkly different from “text message lingo” with short forms and abbreviations. It is simply the down to earth, casual, “vulgar”, realistic spoken language of pop culture which we may see used in young adult novels these days)

These books have then accumulated millions of reads and readership, published into print form and made into films, TV drama, anime and manga and so on. The top five bestselling books each year in Japan are often cell phone novels. Some famous examples are: "Koizora" (Love Sky), "Akai Ito" (Red String of Fate), "Kimi No Sei" (It's Your Fault), "Moshimo Kimi Ga" (If You) and more: Anime and manga often mention cell phone novels or cell phone novelists, most clearly in Watashi Ni XX Shinasai where the main character is a cell phone novelist hiding under a secret identity.

The Writing Style

Cell phone novels are designed to be written or read on cell phone screens and screensizes, regardless whether a writer chooses to write on a computer or a mobile device. The concept triggers the combination of poetry and narration, forming short bite sized chapters utilizing white space, line breaks, fragments, poetic devices and concentrated sensory, emotional or dialogue content, many cliffhangers, that capitalizes on actual real life rapid fire happenings and lack of ability to process information in perfect clarity. Each chapter is less than 200 words and averages around 50-100.

The style creates boundaries which actually opens doors to imagination and creativity within a box; it encourages young writers to think deeply on choosing the perfect diction and layout, to think outside the box and deliver the maximum potency in between the lines and in minimalism and the omission of detail. It also encourages a haiku-style sentimental art form and a return to art, careful visual structure, that actually easily allows writers to sound much more sophisticated and literary beyond their age by creating a hyper sensitivity, heightened perception, crystallization of tiny moments in life (or fictional life), because of the sparse form.

It encourages the return to literature and poetry in general, despite content being intimately connected with pop and youth culture. It is a bridge between the old and the new, even hearkening back to ancient Greek poetry and narrative poetry or plays through the ages, up to the verse novels of today. By bringing this onto a technological and social platform, it is widespread and easily accessible by youth worldwide. It is like having the best of all worlds in writing and reading experience.

Because of social media, serialization technology, community and reader interaction, cell phone youth culture, like in Japan, the experience is made fresh. Writing or reading in small chapter snippets in between classes, during commutes, in bed and whenever an idea strikes or there is even a minute, encourages a whole new way of looking at reading and writing. A single chapter may capture so much in just a few words and may leave a lasting impression after just a minute.

The English Language Movement

Takatsu, in 2008, pioneered the English cell phone novel and brought over the phenomenon from Japan after watching Japanese television drama like Koizora, Akai Ito and various. Like many fans of Japanese entertainment, he realized they were originally cell phone novels. After research and reading cell phone novels, discovering there were no English cell phone novels and seeing the potential of the literary form, he came across (the first site in North America to recognize cell phone novels). At the time, it was only a budding concept and there were no actual cell phone novel stories on the site. However, there was a member who had translated a few Japanese cell phone novels into English. The emotional intensity of these in English inspired Takatsu to experiment with his original cell phone novel in the Japanese style, and "Secondhand Memories" became the very first English language cell phone novel in the West and in the world. First written just for fun, Secondhand Memories then surprisingly gained popularity with over 60,000 views on Textnovel from the support of readers all across the world. Later, Secondhand Memories won various awards including Editor's Choice and moving through a series of stages in Textnovel contest 2009, finally winning the Reader's Choice award and literary agent representation on textnovel. In 2010, it was featured in a textbook in Japan.

After Secondhand Memories, many writers of all ages from all over the world began to take up the mantle and get involved in the community, following this movement. Over the past many years, with Takatsu's leadership, the form matured and evolved, and writers worldwide have been exploring the possibilities and the limits of the style, becoming more philosophical, artistic and poetic at times, or returning to the very root of the tradition with simple language and focusing on emotions, or even incorporating visual elements like changing fonts and sizes of fonts – all the while working with the short poetic chapter formats that defines cell phone novels. Textnovel became a niche site, a small tight-knit community and hosted the exclusive English speaking cell phone novel community and the largest collection of English cell phone novels in the world for many years.

The goodness of inspiration and connecting from art to heart, one heart to another, one life to another, is epitomized in the cell phone novel form, its deeply personal subculture and spirit, and its globalization.

The highly anticipated and award-winning Secondhand Memories after completion, was published and released six years later on Feb 14th, 2015 as a 558-page paperback book and ebook form marking the first historic step into the real industry for the English cell phone novel movement. Onwards, it continues to spearhead the physical manifestation of the virtual and online writing form through multimedia expansion into music, animation, illustration, merchandise, collectibles and more, ultimately aspiring to build the platform and open up a new route for cell phone novelists to come.

Here are the top cell phone novels of North America:


Feel free to contact Takatsu, Cell Phone Novel Genre Captain on for more information about the cell phone novel movement. Send a private message through here

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