Crystal Hunters: A manga designed for people learning Japanese!

Oh my god I find that so true. Out of all the subjects, maths I think has the highest dropout rate. Not necessarily because it’s hard (everything is hard until you learn it, then it becomes easy), but because there’s such a steep learning curve to get to the point where it clicks and you understand a concept. With other subjects you can have a partial understanding of something and mostly get away with it but with maths it really is a matter of either you understand it or don’t.

I just looked it up and japanese only has 22 phonemes while english has 36, and arabic 34. Danish has 52! :joy: Seems to be only surpassed by lithuanian.


I think it would be better if you can start this manga with something that introduces the setting. Like (昔々)あるところに、剣を使える男がいました。その男は剣がほしがっています。(to pattern with the words the manga uses) similar on how they do in children folk tales. Then proceed on his adventure and why he wants his sword or something like that. It was pretty confusing when there’s no context from the start, at the least.

I understand that it is hard to make interesting stories with few words, and its a refreshing idea to do a character-progresses-with-story type in manga, but this is really hard to appreciate with such limitations I think?

I agree with this. I think a lot of textbooks assumes the reader know something about the content despite claiming in their preface that they were written for beginners (specially in the sciences, I just give up with some textbooks).

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Just taken a quick look, and have two comments, two questions, and a suggestion…


  • My initial thought looking at this was “wow, where was this when I started learning Japanese?” It might be a bit easy for me now, but still it is brilliant. What little Japanese I have, I learnt from reading here in the WK bookclubs, so I know a bit about about learning from manga, and I love how yours is designed for just that. I love how you repeat vocab (I just learnt the word 剣 quickly and without effort) and the story seems compelling enough to keep me reading. Really, for a beginner, especially for someone whose aim in studying Japanese is to read manga by reading manga, I can think of no better start.

  • My other comment is simply to congratulate you on making your manga as unlike a textbook as possible. I’ve learnt my Japanese from only reading because I hate textbooks, they are boring and often really patronising. The worst kind of manga you could have produced would have been a story about an English guy who goes to Tokyo and is amazed by Japan and has to learn how to put out the rubbish and gets lost in Shinjuku station and takes a trip to Mount Fuji and so on and so dull. Utterly boring rubbish. You’ve gone for something much more interesting and closer to something authentic, and I absolutely congratulate you on it.


  • Are you offering this up for free? Or do you have plans to make future editions for sale? It would seem like a good idea!
  • Will a paper version become available? Personally I don’t like reading on screens, but if a physical copy were available I’d seriously consider buying one.


  • This thread is very good, but how about setting up a Crystal Hunters bookclub in the reading section?
  • I don’t know if you are familiar with the bookclubs here, they are totally amazing and a great place to study. I can really see a bookclub around CH designed for those at the very start of their reading journey. That would be great!

Anyway, once again, thumbs up! Really nice work! I wish you lots of success with Crystal Hunters!


Wow! Thank you so much! We’re really happy you liked it so much!!! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:

Yes, the first three chapters will always be free. Future chapters will be available in both print and ebook form.

Yes! We’re planning on doing amazon print-on-demand as soon as we have a full tankobon’s worth of manga (around 200 pages). This should be around June or July and it will have chapters 1-5 in it.

We literally made an account on WK less than 5 hours ago. Bookclub? They have that here? Cool. How do you set it up?


Great! I’ll definitely be buying a copy.

That would be the time to set up a bookclub too I guess, once both paper and online versions are available. It’s easy to set up a bookclub here. When you have time, take a look at the existing clubs to see how they work! Once again, all the best to you!


Have a look here. Not sure of the details as I haven’t started up one myself but I guess you make your own thread and then link it to the master list.


Wow! Thank you for the support!! Comments like these make us super happy :blush: :four_leaf_clover:

Thank you both for your recommendations! We’ll take a look and maybe get it set up when the physical book is released!


Well, its sort of both at the same time.
Its more like a spectrum, where you move towards “easy to do” as you advance, but the initial explanation of the concept should be brief and in such a way that it does not change throughout the spectrum. Meaning as one advances beyond the beginner stage, exceptions starts to be added to the already established concept.
The important part really is that the concept does not at any point change from its fundamental axiom, but is only expanded upon with other concepts building upon it, and with exceptions/rare cases.
It doesnt matter much at the initial point if its oversimplified as long as its true 9 out of 10 times, logical and specific(not vague) so its easy to follow.

Thats probably the best answer i can give regarding simplicity


“Nevermore”, quoth the raven.
~Edgar Allen Poe, once he had figured out what he wanted to say

Yeah, I took care to distinguish between “correct” and “complete” in my little rant for exactly this reason. 大丈夫? isn’t a complete sentence but nonetheless you’ll hear it constantly and I doubt anyone would say that it’s “incorrect”.

I really have to disagree with this. Someone who reads this as their first manga is going to be utterly bewildered when they pick up a real one. I often see people watching shows and reading books for children under the misguided assumption that since that’s how Japanese children learn, it must work – without realizing that native kids are already completely fluent by the time they start reading. If you learn from children’s books, that’s all you’ll learn to read.

I won’t reiterate my comments on the strange word choices but in order to be completely certain that you’re not building on a shaky foundation, it’s essential to learn from material written by native speakers. It seems like the artist is native Japanese but I can only assume that " Sean Anderson" and “Nate French” are people who have learned Japanese as a second language.

Please have your friend give it another look. To pick one example from my list of complaints, using あれ here, to point to animal tracks that are this close to the speaker, is incredibly unnatural.

Strong disagree. I think it’s pretty easy to understand them, but it’s much harder to teach (or be taught) a holistic rubric by which you can discern the nuance of each use. I don’t believe it should be taught this way, and I think we agree on this point.

The key, as with everything, is to get more input and become familiar with how they’re used. In order to achieve that familiarity, you need some high-level description of each particle’s function, even if it’s not all-encompassing. Simply omitting it is no good.

You can write an academic paper on anything. Linguistic papers are especially notorious for spelling out concepts in detail that’s entirely useless to anyone but other linguists. Here’s a fun image that my linguist friend likes to use as an example of why attempting to understand language (as a layperson) at such a deep level is counterproductive:

This type of notation (known as Lambda Calculus) is entirely incomprehensible to me. Studying it isn’t going to help me get better at Japanese, and that’s not its purpose – it’s only meant to help other linguists communicate ideas among themselves in order to further their discipline. Invoking linguistics papers is a bit of an appeal to authority fallacy in this context – we’re not discussing linguistics, we’re discussing language learning.


Just pitching in to say that I would have enjoyed this comic a year ago as supplement to a textbook. In my opinion there is nothing wrong with textbook-style Japanese as a means for absolute beginners to learn some basics and get into the language. I’ve read the first two chapters anyway because it gave me some sense of achievement. Looking forward to the natural language edition.
Disclaimer: I’m still a beginning learner.

Edit: I get what concerns people in this thread have with the material, especially when someone uses this for shadowing or emulation. But I see it as the most fancy Hiragana practice one could hope for, no?


Hi Jacobalbano! Wow that’s quite a response you’ve made. Thanks for dedicating so much of your time to talk to us!

Which we are, not sure what you’re arguing here. You even quoted us mentioning that the Japanese version was written by a native Japanese speaking university teacher two sentences later. Maybe you meant that it’s best to read “natural” Japanese only? To that point I would strongly disagree, as natural Japanese is very very difficult and jumping in to the deep end is likely language learning suicide for most people. But I mean, you do you. If it works best for you, do what works.

Sure, if that was a stand alone picture, あれ would be a bit weird. But as you see on the next panel, she’s not just pointing to the footprints in front of her, but also the ones in the distance.

If we’re just talking learning は/が then sure. But like we’ve said before, focusing so closely on learning one grammar point 100% is not our goal. Our goal is to get people to enjoy Japanese. Our goal is language learning, not grammar learning. :wink:


We’re in agreement for the most part with this. The only difference is that we would take that initial 9 out of 10 situation and break in into two — Maybe 7/10 + 2/10. Or, if it’s really complex, into three — 5/10 + 2/10 + 2/10.

Not sure if that was the best way to explain that, haha. But bad metaphors aside, we agree with you, we would just make the first step smaller than you would.


We’re happy that our manga is helping you keep your motivation high! And we’ll get out the natural version as soon as we can!


While one can tell through the next panel, it would be potentially less confusing to not have the nearby foot prints being pointed to as well? あれ, これ, それ are easy to confuse in the beginning.

EDIT: This does look really good though, as a “first read” for beginners. Being able to read something is always encouraging :3


This is a great point, and it really exemplifies one of the reasons why it’s hard to write at this level of difficulty. We wanted to match the あれ to the あれ on the next page too. If we did これ for the first panel, but then used あれ on the next page, we were worried that people might think これ and あれ were talking about different things. We could have done that though, yes. Which is the better way? I think that depends on the person, but sometimes you just have to make a judgement call and stick with it.

Thank you! We hope our manga encourages a lot of people to learn more Japanese!


Exactly my point. Use これ for pointing it out when it’s directly underfoot, and あれ when pointing to something in the distance.

To be completely honest, I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. I don’t necessarily believe a lot of the credentials that you claim. Your site claims your artist “Currently draws for a YouTube channel with hundreds of thousands of followers” but I couldn’t find him anywhere. Some links would go a long way. I’d much rather see a professional profile in your bio than a fact like “likes unicorns”.

If your translator is in fact a native Japanese speaker, what was your localization process? did you show them the text in context, along with the images? did they push back at all on phrasing like いっていい coming from a rough guard, or the weird register shift from どうぞ to 知らない coming from the woman who gives the hero back his scabbard?

See, I don’t understand this at all. What would you do in a situation like

Aさん: それはなに?
Bさん: これは剣だ

Surely you wouldn’t have Bさん reply back with それは剣だ, right? Not only would it be totally unnatural, it’s arguably poisonous to the learning experience. Positional pronouns are super important. You can’t just simplify them away.

Native Japanese is natural Japanese. I certainly don’t mean that you should read colloquial Japanese only, just that you should read material that actually resembles what you’ll find in the wild.


I was looking through the guide, and I really don’t think this is a good way at all to introduce people to が

I’m a beginner, but I was taught that Japanese is not “I” centered like English is, and this way of teaching が leads to confusion.

This specific example has monster as the subject, not the object.

This potentially causes further confusion in the next example:

This is more accurately translated as “a monster exists(is) over there”

I now understand what people were getting at about the potential for confusion.

For those confused, here is Cure Dolly’s explanation of が, which is among the best I’ve come across: (Warning: do not click if you have a fear of dolls)

EDIT: Fixed my translations, “exist” is better
EDIT 2: Added warning about Cure Dolly being potentially scary


Artist’s twitter:
The youtube channel our artist draws for:

Sorry to disappoint. We do have a unicorn girl as one of our main characters in the manga though, so yeah… lol.

We talked in person, with manga pages printed off in front of us. Like we’ve mentioned already, we got this down to 87 words and 5 verb conjugations. But yes, 行っていい was something that we talked about, as was 知らない being said by the woman in the dungeon. But we’re actively avoiding command form and desu/masu, because teaching that in addition to everything else we taught would have made the manga harder, which we didn’t want. We wanted easiest possible Japanese. It’s a tradeoff for sure, but one that many people have appreciated so far.

Are you familiar with the concept of “graded reading”? There’s a whole branch of language teaching research which argues against this point that you’ve just made.


I think your critique is fair. Not everything we teach is going to be done better than how others teach it. Thanks for sharing the が explanation though, we’ll look into it.


Thank you for the links. Please understand that it’s not my goal to distrust you. Regarding the “professional profile” comment, that wasn’t a dig at the friendly way your website is presented, just that I’d like to see some citations. A link to the website of the schools or universities you teach at, for example. When I tried to research your artist I couldn’t find anything on youtube (for either of the terms I tried).

I’m more of an “extensive reading” guy myself, but yes, I’m familiar. I haven’t used it myself but I don’t fundamentally have a problem with it as long as it resembles real-world material.

I can respect that, but I have to wonder what happens down the road when someone who learned by reading this has to go back and re-learn a bunch of stuff they took for granted due to not knowing any better.

I see so many new learners greeting everyone with 元気ですか and using 私 and あなた in every sentence. It sucks to see people carrying baggage because they were taught something strange at the very beginning.