At what level and can I start reading light/visual novels?

At which level am I able to read light novels and visual novels on WaniKani?
I have been using GENKI and also Tae Kim to get a feel of the grammar and have been using WaniKani as Kanji/vocabulary learning.
Was wondering which level is it the most appropriate to start reading Japanese novels if I have already started to build a foundation on Japanese grammar through GENKI and Tae Kim?
and if I have finished both of these two grammar resources what resources should I use afterwards to go N4 and higher?


“Tobira: Gateway to Advanced Japanese (上級へのとびら)” is the most common recommended textbook after Genki I and II. I think Genki II covers N4 but I skipped Genki. Tobira was a huge breakthrough for me in terms of grammar and vocabulary.

I still haven’t read any novels (my first will be the Intermediate Book Club’s next book) in Japanese so I cannot answer your question yet, but I’m pretty comfortable with manga after Tobira.

I saw somebody posting here with vocabulary breakdowns for several popular manga, and iirc you should have 90%ish kanji recognition around level 30. That being said, looking up every tenth kanji can still be annoying. I don’t mind it too much myself.

I recommend using other resources like a specifically JLPT or Genki vocab deck to learn vocab in addition to WK, which is more of a kanji resource anyway. This will A) give you a working vocabulary faster since WK gives some weird specific words and skips over or leaves until later very common ones and B) help you think of vocab as individual words and not kani, which is an issue I’ve seen with several people who started with WK right off the bat. That seems to be the only potential disadvantage to WK, however. Welcome to the platform and forums! You’re in for a good time and good kanji knowledge!


This is a harder question. I remember being able to read NHK easy and basic kids’ books (3rd Grade) by level 20.

But if by reading you mean being able to read with the speed you read books in your native language, I think even level 60 is not enough. At level 20, it took me an hour to read something that would have taken me 10 mins in English. This could be very frustrating as we lose a sense of enjoyment in reading because it becomes more about grammar and vocabulary, not about the actual content of what you’re reading.

Right now, at level 41, I am able to read intermediate books like manga and even simple articles on newspapers with struggle but it is still not about the content of what I am reading. And grammar is a major blocker, especially because they use 敬語(polite grammar) which no one really uses in their daily life.

I am curious about other people’s experiences on this topic too.


I’ve started reading light novels and novels just recently. I was around lvl 50 on WK and learned most of N2 grammar with a tutor.

Of course it depends on a book but I feel quite comfortable reading, although I have to look up a lot of vocab.

About half a year ago when I passed JLPT N3 (WK lvl 30) I wouldn’t even consider reading a book. My reading was very slow and I knew too few kanji. I guess technically I could’ve started reading a light novel but that would’ve been a waste of time because I’d be looking up every other word and getting stuck on unknown grammar.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t read anything! I read manga and news. Later started reading other sites. Then tried playing games in Japanese. All of this was building my reading confidence so when I realised I knew most of N2 grammar and almost all common kanji I dived into reading.

So, since reading novels written for teen and young adult natives expect to need to be around lvl 50 wk and know at least some common N2 grammar. Until then best stick to easier content. I like the +1 rule: read content with complexity that’s a little over your current ability. This way you’ll be able to complete things without being frustrated, thus getting practice and learning new things too.


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Take the time to check out the FAQ and GUIDE if you haven’t already.

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My reading ability is far below light novel reading, though I’ll probably try the next Absolute Beginners Book Club, just to see if I can.

As others have said, it largely depends on your grammar and how happy you are looking vocab up :slight_smile:


As i’m a total beginner would you suggest me to start reading something? like a manga? even if i can’t understand nothing but some basic grammar structure will this benefit me in some way?
I’m spending a lot of time trying to learn japanese in these days and i’d like to tryhard more xd

Wait, but may I ask how do you know that level 60 might not be enough to read if you’re not on level 60 yet?
I heard that getting on N3 or level 51 is enough to read most novels, of course not newspaper, but maybe more casual novels?

I have started working on grammar, but very simple one on GENKI and also Tae Kim and I was thinking that after level 20 on wanikani, I might start on Tofugu’s grammar resources.

I mean, if you have enough patience you can start at any level.


I only started reading once I had enough vocab down. I think that’s a major point. You might wanna start with anime with subs instead. Just to orient youself in the language at first. Because, even with furigana in manga, you’ll still have to tackle knowing the words used. …

But, don’t worry too much about kanji as a threshold for reading. I started reading long before I knew kanji…I used manga with furigana. :slight_smile:

Just choose something you like, so you have the passion to keep going when you get stuck. And have patience with yourself. ^>^

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You can probably start a bit earlier than that. But, it sounds about right.

I think what is more important as to what you can read is vocabulary, not really grammar or kanji. Especially the latter. But as for light novels and VNs, they pose specific problem, because they typically don’t have furigana.

There are technical tools that can help you tackle VNs (extracting the dialogue, so you can use digital dictionaries to look up kanji for example), that makes playing VNs viable pretty early on. If you only have the patience to do it.

I have played several games that way, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Let’s put it like that.

Light novels are much harder. Then you really need to have enough kanji under your belt to make it feasible. Not impossible, but too time-consuming to make sense to me. So make light novels a long-distance goal for yourself, perhaps, and try out VNs earlier than that with the proper tools to help you! :slight_smile:


Visual novels are not that hard at least the one’s I play. They also usually have all dialogues voiced which will help looking up unknown kanji. But there will still be lots of unknown words to look up.

In my opinion at Wanikani level 30 and knowing at least all N5 grammar points will make reading visual novels possible. Of course you will still need to look up unknown words, grammar and kanji. Reading will be very slow in the beginning but it will get easier over time.


Even at level 60, you are missing almost about 6k words to read novels somewhat “comfortably”, even then you’ll probably lookup a lot of words depending on the difficulty of the novel. Furthermore, WK level also doesn’t ensure you have the grammar for it. Reading is also a skill in itself, and it’ll take a handful of books until it starts to feel more fluid.


N3 is enough that you won’t constantly get tripped up by grammar and kanji (but you still will sometimes). As mentioned, the bigger problem is vocabulary. I’ve been level 60 on WaniKani for over a year, passed N3 last December, and have read a handful of books. But I look up a ton of words when I’m reading, and sometimes I still find myself unable to comprehend a sentence even when I know all the grammar and words in the sentence. It takes time to get used to reading Japanese to the point where you understand what’s written without thinking and analyzing the sentences.


You will need a lot of time to read something but you’ll learn a lot. I’d recommend joining the absolute beginner bookclub. The manga/books are very easy to read and you can ask questions for everything. Also you don’t have too many pages to read in a week. I am reading my first manga with the bookclub and even though I struggle a lot I see a lot of improvement in terms of grammar for me.


It depends. If you don’t mind looking literally everything up and hating every step of the way, you can do it with absolutely no knowledge.

That being said, the two real questions are “when will it become an enjoyable experience for me?” and “when does it become more efficient than studying” to which the short answers are “it depends” and "it’s complicated. "

For a longer answer to the first, I would say that it depends on your standards for reading, but I would guess no less than N3 grammar and kanji up to level 30 on the low end, to (on the high end) level 60, N1 grammar plus a decent amount of grammar not on the JLPT, plus a few hundred kanji, plus the part of the core 10k not on WK, plus a few manga under your belt. Both are rather extreme, and I would guess level 50ish kanji plus N2 grammar plus maybe a thousand of the most common words not on WK (kana only and kanji words just not chosen to be covered) along with having read at least one manga or other comparitively simple work.

For a longer answer to the second, I believe that reading is most beneficial for upper intermediate to lower advanced learners. And even then, there is still room for studying for a variety of topics. That being said, that is just an opinion, and others would disagree.


It doesn’t depend only on WK level. But if you have mastered basics of grammar, you should start whenever you can, it’s just a matter of exposure to different vocabularies after that. I started reading a manga when I was level 20, and I had to look at the dictionary most of the time, but I liked the manga so I bested it until the end. At least for me, school and slice of life manga were easiest in terms of vocab. I don’t recommended reading light novels with different world/historical/sci-fi right away, not only you need to familiarize yourself with unknown vocab but you also need to learn different terms that only exist within that novel’s setting.

Then are there are other resources for improving vocabularies that wanikani might have missed out??

Sure, there is the famed 10K deck (and if I’m not mistaken both Toori and offer a way to exclude any Vocab you might encounter on WaniKani), but even if you memorized the entire 10K deck, this would mean that you know around 90% of words you might encounter (meaning you’d still need to either look up or infer from context 1 in every 10 words you read), so the optimal way (in my personal opinion) is to start reading, track the 10K deck in some way (Anki, Toori, Kitsun, …) and any words you encounter in the wild, first check if they’re in the 10K deck. IF they are, definetly learn them first. IF they aren’t, think whether you might encounter this word again (same author, same series, same context, …) if it’s a word you may encounter again, add them to some form of SRS. If you don’t think you’ll encounter it again (frequently) just look up it’s meaning, figure how it fits in the sentence and move on with your life, you might even remember it, but it’s no big deal if you don’t!

And the most important thing is, get comfortable looking words up, you’ll have to do this a lot! There is no single list, resource, book, … that will provide you with every word you should learn to read every book, manga, game there is, so looking things up will become a part of your life until your passive vocabulary reaches that of a native speaker.


Thank you for the resources. May I ask, have you used [or possible anyone else used] Memrize. I have been shadowing older forums and have seen that popup a few times
Dunno if that’s like a viable option or not??

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I haven’t used it personally, so I can’t really comment on it, but I’ve seen it mentioned here and there, so at least it shouldn’t be a bad resource. In general, as long as it gets you to study, whether it is something like Memrize, Anki, Manga, Anime, … if it gets you motivated and engaged with the language I’d say give it a go! Just know that whatever resource you use, depending on your needs you may in the future decide to give up on it, there is no shame in changing your study tactics!

So, feel free to give Memrize a shot! If it doesn’t work out, you’ll still come away having learned some things you didn’t before and you’re one experience richer on your way to Japanese proficiency :wink:

(This advice doesn’t take in any concerns about the price, haven’t checked, but if it’s expensive do look out for potential alternatives, there are quite a lot of - often free - resources!)