First manga reading attempt

Yotsuba! is great.

It’s about a little girl who’s just moved town. Because everything is new to her, everything is explained to her. This means that everything is explained to the reader. E.g. you don’t need to know what global warming is in Japanese because Yotsuba doesn’t either and has it explained to her. It’s really basic but very funny.

Also there is a book club on wanikani which uploads vocab cheat sheets fro each chapter and you can post questions if you don’t get the grammar.


That’s basically what I said.

As for my level, I think I can only understand 5% of any manga right now.

To improve my reading, I use to read japanese short story… besides, I also do youtube my favorite content in japanese. For me, its about Shingeki No Kyojin manga. I look up 進撃の巨人 on youtube and read japanese comment about the anime/recent chapters… if you like dragon ball, then maybe you can do the same like me too. It is more interesting to read about topic that you like


Obviously opinions vary, but I think colloquial language being a barrier strongly depends on your goals and perspective. Yotsubato was my first manga, and it took some doing (because my Japanese was terrible), but it’s fun and enjoyable and the language is very simple… just casual. But like… colloquial language is how people speak, and most manga has a lot of it, especially easier manga for younger audiences. And I learned Japanese to read manga, not to read news articles. So, to this day I’m actually more comfortable with super casual slurred Japanese than anything else.


I think colloquial language is a barrier (regardless of your goals), but that doesn’t mean it’s not one worth pushing through.


Yotsuba was my first ever manga, my first ever Japanese reading. And yes, it was hard. Really hard. Painful. But, with all the help of the amazing people in the Wanikani Yotsuba bookclub, I got through that first volume and now, two years later, we are reading volume 9 together.

So yes, I do agree that Yotsuba is a great place to start, but no, it’s not easy!


Yay for Wanikani bookclub ! It really pushed me a lot too. Getting an explanation from your senpai and finally make sense of some difficult sentence is a great feeling.


Sooo, my first attempt was stupid suboptimal. I went with a manga called Working!. It has no furigana and since I was between N5 and N4 at the time, you can imagine I had a hard time. It was nice to learn how to use the search by radical feature of the online kanji dictionary I was using at the time. Then I pretty much had to look up everything. It felt satisfying, though, so I didn’t feel compelled to give up. I do remember having to stop at times because of getting massive headaches from the mental strain, though.

So yeah, overall, not the easiest way to get into native material, but I really learned a lot and got a strong sense of accomplishment. Not sure if I would recommend that way to anyone else, though…


Well I guess I should clarify that I’m don’t mean it isn’t a barrier at all, just that it doesn’t seem like a larger barrier than anything else in Japanese. Learning that sometimes ら -> ん seems somewhat inconsequential compared to the N2-ish grammar you need to comfortable read manga (imo).

Let me explain a bit more about my context.

When I read Yotsubato I knew pretty little. I learned early into it from googling that contractions existed and that’s why I had trouble looking things up, so I kept a website with a list of common contractions up. But my reading process often went like this:
“Oh, なきゃ is short for なければならない. What does なければならない mean?
Oh, ちゃ can be a contraction of ては. What does は after て imply though…?
してんの is しているの, okay. Why is there a の at the end of the sentence?”

So, like… learning the contractions took infinitely less time than learning the things that were being contracted. I understand that a lot of people go through years of textbooks before getting to real-world resources, and so then colloquial language will feel like one more annoying thing to learn, but I think you can see how the way I went about it made that not really the case and leads to my perspective on it.

@Naphthalene ugh I used to feel a nearly irresistible urge to sleep after reading anything. It was so annoying.


I read the first two volumes of Yotsuba some months before I joined WK. It was definitely not simple, but I felt it was accessible for someone with poor grammar and vocabulary knowledge.

This is pure speculation on my part, but I feel one of the reason Yotsuba is recommended for beginners, is that many japanese learners are anime fans. Having hundreds of hours of anime under your belt definitely gives you a sense of understanding about the tone and general meaning of many expressions, contractions and other elements of casual japanese. Personally I feel this helped me a lot back when I read Yotsuba, and continues helping me when reading manga in general.

Sure, back then I definitely couldn’t have explained someone in grammatical terms why I felt some expression meant what it meant, and probably missed the nuance of a lot of things, but I didn’t feel lost.

On the other hand, I can definitely see how someone with a different background and motivation for learning the language can find casual language to be a lot harder. If your intro into the language was a standard japanese textbook, I can certainly imagine that some casual expressions found in manga can look completely alien.


That’s still a large reason I don’t read that much. After a while (especially with books) I get mentally drained, so I don’t want to keep reading.


I got it. It was more a disagreement of degrees, I guess. There’s a lot of language mutation in Dragon Ball/Toriyama’s dialogue that isn’t covered solely by knowing about the dialectical vowels. Just didn’t want the OP to feel like it was somehow their fault if they were getting stuck more than they expected.

Now with much more Japanese manga reading under my belt, I’d still say that Toriyama uses more vernacular dialogue than most. Which is one of his work’s charms (his dialogue is so much better and more strongly characterized/lively than most shonen fare), but also a hurdle to learners.


I often recommend putting a sentence into to get a breakdown. I did a Google image search for a random Dragon Ball page in Japanese, and put a sentence from it (「足もとがおるすになってたよ!」) into, so you can see the result.

I think I found a really good sentence to use, too, as you can see some word combinations/compound words that mean more together than you could get looking them up separately.

I was just about ready to write up my own history with manga reading, but @Greya quoted me so I don’t have to =D (Thanks!)

It’s a bit hard for me to add to what all I already wrote there, so I’ll reiterate a point:

Decide whether you want Dragon Ball volume 1 to be the manga you force yourself through looking up words and especially grammar along the way, or if you want to stick it on your bookshelf version of a hope chest ("I hope to read this one day.)

My sometimes-grueling experience reading the first volume of ごちうさ really propelled my formal knowledge of Japanese grammar forward (although I still have a long way to go).

But I’m not ready to pick up volume two for learning from (I’m just casually reading through it and wishing it had ふりがな [but if I can spend less than three weeks per level in WaniKani, then maybe one day…!]) Instead, I’m working on easier manga (absolute beginner book club and beginner book club materials, for example) to build up my reading and recognition speed.

I have a bunch of Japanese manga I failed to make any progress yet, but I’m certain reading through all of it will take me only one day. After all, I spend years telling myself, “one day I’ll be able to read this”.

When I read through ごちうさ, I relied on a bunch of books on Japanese grammar that I’d bought a loooong time ago but never really utilized. The Internet is a bigger place than it was back then, and Tae Kim was invented, so it’s easier to find answers now.

In modern times, if you see (for example) 「になると」 in a manga ,you can type "になると" grammar into Google, and get a lot of informative results. (You can swap “meaning” or “Japanese” in place of “grammar” and get similar results.)

Aside from utilizing Google (and which was indispensable), I created flash cards in the SRS flash card program Anki. Every first instance of a word, and also each first instance of a conjugation of a word, I made cards for, giving an Anki deck of something like 2,300 words. Some days, I added as many as 30 cards from four panels of material…

Yotsuba is one of those ones I tried and failed. With much of しろくまカフェ and my progress of learning with ごちうさ under my belt, it was a lot easier reading the first volume of よつばと! this time around. But it still wasn’t easy! (Now the first chapter in volume 9 I read in the book club this week, that was easy.)

I have 三ツ星カラーズ as my beginner recommendation now. It’s not anywhere near as easy as that first chapter in よつばと! volume 9, but the three young main characters are closer in age to よつばと! 's Ena and Miura (maybe a year or two younger), so they speak more clearly than Yotsuba (pain point one in よつばと!). And you mostly get adults talking to the kids, not talking among other adults (pain point two in よつばと!) For anyone curious on 三ツ星カラーズ, the firstthreechapters are freely available on the author’s Pixiv account (no login necessary).

I won’t say 三ツ星カラーズ isn’t hard, but I had an easier time of the first three volumes than I did more recently reading the first volume of よつばと!.

This is one of my “hope shelf” items. I’m curious if the English release will finally get fully translated, but I don’t care for omnibus manga. I have the whole series (original release) in Japanese, so the choice is “buy and read omnibus” (if they continue the translation) or continue learning Japanese. Tough decision!

I wish this were available to buy digital, as it’s easier for me to look things up when I’m reading digitally. I did try reading the first few pages not too too long ago, but all the sci-fi-y terms picked me up from my chair, took me out into the hall, and shoved me down the stairs. (True story.) Next time I try reading it, I’m going to skip over those parts. Or maybe I’ll just rewatch the anime.


Very interesting idea ! It’s short and give a way to get better at reading non conventional japanese while having this kind of excitement to discover things and opinions about something I like. Thank a lot :smile:

Sorry for the general answer but gosh you are so dynamic, it is a real pleasure to have a community like that !
It’s really interesting to see how each person reacts in front of the difficulty and it has really helped me fix my mind about this : I’m going to try with all the resources you gave me and try to build a routine with them… And eventually fail to come back stronger. All of you who haven’t been discouraged seem to have gained a lot through this and it’s quite an habit for me to fail (yay :sweat_smile:) to improve.
Been on the phone it is really annoying to get the names of all of you to thank you personally but the intention is there !
Thank for all of your experiences and tools and I hope it will help others beginners like me

Good luck to you all :smiley:


Well… my first manga was よつばと as well :slight_smile:

I did have a short list of manga I’d like to try reading and I would check the excerpts once or twice a month to see if they’d become legible or not. よつばと was the first one where this happened. I also remember having Patlabor on the list, but at least the first few pages were way harder for me at the time!

I went into it with the mentality that I didn’t need to understand more than what was required to get what was going on (I have the same mindset when reading novels), so I don’t think I felt like I had that much trouble with it.

I will say though that casual language always threw me off more than whatever “difficult” language there may have been. Especially since said difficult language is often kanji compounds and therefore a lot easier to intuit if you know the kanji…

Throughout what I read of the series I’d switch it up between just reading and looking up nothing, and looking up everything and adding to anki, depending on which felt less like a chore at any given time :slight_smile:


Gonna be the odd one out here (I think?) for a sec, I didn’t attempt to read any native material outside of what came across my desk, or what I saw in the wild, until I was well into the late 30s/early 40s of WaniKani (about 4-6 months after moving to Japan), and had finished all the N3 grammar on Bunpro. I obviously do not recommend this, but it’s what I did so しょうがない now, I guess.

That being said, my first manga I tried to read was 四月は君の噓 after I had already binged the anime, and I actually found it to be quite manageable. I was obviously looking up words/kanji here pretty regularly, but all-in-all it wasn’t a horrible experience. I only ever finished the first volume and then never had the motivation to order the rest (I haven’t read for leisure in years, it was rough in that sense).

Then I decided I really needed to start reading as that’s obviously one of, if not the, best way to pick up new vocab and solidify vocab/grammar you already know. Joined in on the Beginner Book Club with ふしぎ駄菓子屋・銭天堂 and I love it! I’m able to understand enough of it that when an unknown word pops up, I can sometimes understand it just from context (barring the incredible amount of onomatopoeia this book uses that I find myself looking up constantly).

As for what I use, it’s a combination of J>E and J>J dictionaries, the BunPro grammar search function, though the grammar doesn’t usually trip me up so much as words do, recently. I also try not to stop too frequently if I don’t understand something 100%, because that wouldn’t help with my ability to deduce what’s going on from context and can make it immensely tedious. If I still feel like I just really don’t know what’s going on, I go back and start looking things up. Reading the book club book also has the added benefit of being able to jump to the forums and see if anyone has already asked any questions I have while reading.

Sorry for the rant, best of luck with your studies! Enjoy them!


I’m a professional translator, not in Japanese though. My first attempt to read manga in the original, a few weeks ago, taught me that Google Translate is not the right tool for translating Japanese, because the results are very often completely and utterly wrong (while giving you no hint of being wrong) and so have you waste your time trying to make sense of nonsensical garbage output. Unnecessarily frustrating, especially in the hardest first days.
I ended up using (still my favourite tool), translating mostly word by word (thank god it knows the common idioms too), writing everything down, and then trying to make sense of whatever puzzle this presents me. Sometimes easy, sometimes hard, but most of the time I get a satisfactory result. This method produces a far better translation quality than Google Translate, even for a total beginner who makes stupid mistakes all the time. But it is rather time-consuming. Only one or two panels in the first sessions, now it’s a page or two before I give up and need a pause. Maybe in a month or so I’ll be able to read entire chapters in one go.


I highly recommend よつばと!as a beginner manga. It might not be the most interesting content for you, but it’ll help you get a foothold in reading. It has much less slang and more everyday expressions. It was still incredibly difficult in the beginning. I’d spend 20 minutes looking at one phrase trying to figure out what the heck it meant.

I’d recommend trying to skim through a few pages or the first chapter trying to get the gist of what’s happening before going back and looking up words that you don’t know. After that, try not to look up words unless you see them come up more than once or you really can’t understand what’s happening (or if you’ve seen it on wanikani but can’t remember the reading).


I’ll try slowly with ようばとas so many of you recommend it and I’ll maybe add a comment on my own experience :smiley: