Manga is a great tool for learning Japanese, but it only works if you find manga that fits your current reading level. If the manga is too easy or too hard, you will not learn from it! In this post, we look at how you can find easy manga for learning Japanese.
When I was learning Japanese, manga was one of my favorite learning tools. In fact, I think manga was one of the biggest reasons I was able to reach fluency in less than two years. One Summer, in an attempt to get more reading practice, I even read all 50+ volumes of the manga One Piece!
In retrospect, I would not recommend a manga like One Piece to beginners. It uses a lot of strange words that do not show up in everyday life. There are many better titles out there for Japanese beginners. In this post, we will cover what you should look for in a beginner-friendly manga. The ideas here are based on my guide, Learn Japanese With Manga.
Beginner-Friendly Manga: What to Look For
At Box of Manga, we divide manga into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. Here are some of the things we look for when choosing beginner-friendly manga:
- They contain furigana. These are the hiragana characters next to kanji that tell you how words are pronounced. This saves you from having to use a dictionary over and over.
- They have fewer kanji. The higher the kanji density, the more difficult it will be for a beginner to read. Look for titles that have more hiragana and katakana characters than kanji characters.
- They have lots of images. Images help you figure out what is going on. They also teach you the “context of use” for a word, which is as important (or even more important) than knowing the dictionary definition. Avoid manga titles with lots of text and not so many images.
- They use ordinary Japanese. Avoid manga that uses slang or dialects. These will confuse you and make it harder to look up things in a dictionary. Learning Japanese is hard enough already!
Manga that meet most of the above conditions will also be (in general) the easiest to read.
Finding Manga for Beginners: Choose the Right Genre
One helpful way to find manga that fit the above conditions is to choose manga by genre. In Japan, manga is divided into genres for various gender and age groups. Manga targeted at younger age groups will use simpler language and have fewer difficult kanji.
For beginners, I recommend two particular genres: shounen (for young males) and shoujo (for young females). These manga titles all come with furigana, and they also use simpler words that young students can understand. When riding trains in Japan, I often see young elementary school kids reading manga in these genres.
Personally, I prefer shoujo manga to shounen manga. Manga for females tends to, on average, have fewer action scenes and more “slice-of-line” scenarios. This is good for beginners because you will see more useful everyday language.
Learn About Easy Manga Titles From Others
Another way to find easy manga titles is to see what others recommend. If another learner has had success with a particular manga, then chances are it will work for you as well! See our post on the best manga for Japanese learners for our recommendations for beginners. You can also browse internet forums to find some good examples.
Or, if you prefer to let someone else do the research for you, Box of Manga sends you titles that are tailored to your reading level. This means less time researching and more time reading. Cheers!