Manga recommendations for practicing Japanese

Hey all,

I’m currently at level 14 and looking to start reading manga to help practice my Japanese. Any recommendations for going about choosing manga to read? Where is a good place to look? Any specific recommendations?
Thanks yo

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よつばと! is usually the go-to beginner manga recommendation. Since it is about a very young girl, the language that they speak to her is very beginner friendly.

bild

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You can read Aria the Masterpiece with the beginner book club if you want. We’re going to start reading it on June 23rd.

https://community.wanikani.com/t/aria-the-masterpiece-home-thread-beginner-book-club-start-date-tbd/30798

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I started with D.Gray-Man because they have a VERY small vocabulary once you learn some random weird stuff…

I like Fukigen na Mononokean because most of the dialogue is fairly simple. There are some archaisms in the minor characters’ speech patterns but you get used to them, and can look them up easily enough cause there’s furigana.

Basically go with what you will be motivated to read.

I never really got what the fuss was about with よつばと and why it’s constantly recommended. I got about 50 pages in before I just couldn’t deal with it anymore. Sure it may be easy to read but personally I also found it pretty dull. I will go with something more difficult but interesting over something easy but dull any day. I would think that should apply to most people studying something like a language. The things that keep you interested will help you overcome the difficulties that you will face along the way.

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Dull?! Oh well, it takes all sorts I suppose! Not everyone will like everything. But personally I love よつばと!and have really enjoyed reading it. (Though, for me, it is quite a challenge).

Anyway, we’re just having a poll about when to start volume 4 in the Yotsuba Reading Club.

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Besides the mentioned よつばと, I personally find ソウルイーター of similar difficulty.

I’m just not a fan of that typical Slice of Life stuff. I prefer reading action, fantasy, etc. I can enjoy a Slice of Life manga every now and then if the particular theme of the manga interests me, but from the amount that I read of よつばと, it just didn’t seem like much was going on.

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I get you. I actually had pretty much the same experience with it and stopped reading after the 3rd chapter but I am planning to come back to it later.

Since I have the whole death note collection I’m currently trying my best to go through it and I’m enjoying it a lot more. Even though I don’t understand all of it it’s pretty fun to realize that I can grasp more interesting and complex situations.

I also found it pretty dull (and I like slice-of-life (anime, at least)). However, for many many people it is genuinely really hard to keep slogging through something that is too difficult for you to read, and when I’m focused on the Japanese the story doesn’t even really matter so much to me. If it takes me an hour to read the page then any excitement will have been lost anyway, even if I’m reading the most thrilling action story.

There aren’t too many other manga out there which are as easy, and as it’s so widely recommended there is a lot of support for it, which really helps as well. Plus, some people do like it!

@QuiGonJon other easy manga I know of include Chi’s Sweet Home and ShiroKuma cafe, but I haven’t read either of those to be able to comment. A disadvantage of Yotsuba is that there’s quite a lot of slang. I read Flying Witch first, which is definitely more challenging, but still doable for me. I had to look up a lot of vocab, although I found volume 2 much easier (thanks, WK!).

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I think that’s why reading Death Note for me absolutely works.

When reading a Manga where you already know the story and love it (I watched death note 5 times oops), it is a much more pleasant experience.

If I don’t understand something (which happens a lot) i can still follow the story while:

  • Practising the vocabulary and grammar that I already learned
  • Realising which recurring grammar points are important to know
  • Improving my reading speed

You get a great motivational boost when you suddenly read a page where you to your surprise are able to understand all of it.

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Yeah, I also agree with @Radish8 and @heisamaniac.
I went directly for mangas I would read anyway if they were in French or English. It was damn hard at first, but wanting to know what happens next kept me moving forward. Finishing a page, a chapter, a book, felt awesome and gave me even more motivation to keep going.

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My recommendation is to start with something you like. First few could even be repeating things you already know. Naruto feels very easy to me, but will be hard to anyone not used to it since there is a lot of made up words, but most of those were kept in translations (at least the unofficial ones I’ve used :wink: ) I also have the official English version of the manga and can use it to compare instead of looking up every word when I want to read for sake of enjoyment and reading speed.

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I think よつばと is recommended a lot since it has short unrelated stories, and if you don’t get one story, you can switch to another without loss, which is hard to do on much more involved mangas such as Death Note.

That said, I think all responses chimed on the same thing. Pick any manga you find interesting. At the beginning of language learning we’re bound to be worse than a native child by a huge margin. Yet, for learners, mangas provide much more value then getting every nook and cranny of the story.

You’ll enjoy learning trip more by supplementing it with part of the culture natives enjoy as well. Grammar and vocab alone are utterly boring but when you see them dance on the page, it’s quite exhilarating even if of the whole page you recognize just a sentence “Five minutes ago…” or “Look behind you!”.

You need something above your level and yet not strictly related to language study too keep things fresh and keep you motivated. Picking one comic, or five, can have a nice outcome even if you find them too hard on your first flip through. But you’ll inevitably pick them after two weeks, or after a month, or a year and see your progress in a much more practical manner then WK level you’re on. Even if you then can only read two and a half more sentences from a page than last time you held it, it is a wonderful feeling of progression.

The only problem is that manga recommendations are hard to give, since we all find different things interesting or boring. It’s the same as English learner asking what movie/book would you recommend. There are lots of genres out there and lots of preferences.

よつばと is a quirky lil’ girl and throughout those volumes, 14 of them, you’ll find many topics, from dancing in the rain, to star watching, to school festival, to trip to the sea. So it is welcome not only because stories are short and unrelated, but also touch on so many life situations, and even touch Japanese specific customs.

Yet, there are slew more of mangas you might like to often flip through as you progress in your studies:

New Game! - is a story of young computer programmer in a gaming company. Also has anime, but I think language is doable for beginner, yet a bit more adult then よつばと though very moe.

新米姉妹のふたりごはん - cooking manga of two sisters creating food for themselves.
衛宮さんちの今日のごはん - is another variant of cooking manga

Chihayafuru (ちはやふる) - bilingual edition (first two volumes) has Japanese and English on the same page, so it can be interesting for us beginners if you don’t mind かるた topic.

You can mimic Chihayafuru bilingual style if you can find manga in English so you can peek ahead if you don’t get the idea from the native manga.

Don’t forget there are some non-manga reading resources valuable to beginners like cheaper 10分で読める series for first graders and onward, or more expensive Japanese Graded Readers with accompanying audio which foreign learners might find additional value in for pronunciation and/or immersion.

In general, if you have anime you like(d), see if there’s manga of it and pick it. That level of interest will peek over any recommendation anyone can point to, be it よつばと or whatever.

Also, though they are not expensive, try to find a few pages of each recommendation to see if you’ll like drawing style or overall feeling of what you’ll get. For example I found Parasyte (寄生獣) anime quite interesting, but the drawing style in manga kind of lacked…

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Just to expand a little on why you should primarily read stuff you’re actually interested in; regardless of what you start with, it’s going to be balls hard. Even Yotsubato is difficult if you’re a beginner. All manga are. No exceptions, aside from that one that doesn’t actually have any text.

Even with this in mind, you should be a bit mindful of how frustrated you’re willing to allow yourself to become.

I personally found Yotsubato kind of boring as well. Yeah, she’s cute and all, but I don’t find anything that happens all that exciting. Try it, but if you don’t like it, just toss it. It’s no big deal. There’s a ton of slife-of-life stuff out there if that’s what you like, anyway. I see Chi’s Sweet Home recommended too, but I wouldn’t recommend it myself. Not only is it really dull (and I like cute cats), but there’s actually not a lot of proper dialogue in it either.

Keep in mind that you can tachiyomi stuff for free on most ebooksites, like eBookJapan, Renta and Honto, so what you could just do is find a bunch of manga you’re interested in, then try a bit and see how it feels. If you don’t like what you see, just toss it or save it for later. Those that are set in a school (and there’s a TON) are usually the easiest to understand, because the characters use contemporary language with no made-up or strange vocabulary. Personally, I’m a sucker for shoujo and yuri, so there’s no real shortage of stuff for me to bumble through.

Edit: I’ll add some stuff that I personally found enjoyable, and some that I would recommend against.

人魚王子 and 神様がうそをつく are both by the same mangaka, and the latter especially was very sweet. 弱虫リザウンド is more difficult, but it’s also self-contained and I really like the art style. It’s made by the same person who later made ReLife. If you like romance, check out 王子とヒーロー or やがて君になる, both are very cute and probably not anything you’d find on most recommendation lists.

I’d avoid 魔法使いの嫁 (way, way too difficult) and ほしのこえ (incredibly confusing). If you’d like something from the latter that isn’t a hot mess (Makoto Shinkai wrote the story), the light novel version of 君の名は was a great read.

TLDR: Just try stuff that seems interesting, you’ll be happier for it.

Edit: @Invisible said it way, way better.

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I started reading manga around your level too.

I made sure my first manga had furigana still, since my kanji level was low. It helped a lot and places like ebookjapan and others you can preview the manga to see how they read.

Chihayafuru is really awesome, but from the tachiyomi I’ve tried I think it would be too difficult for a first time reader.

Have you read 青い花? I really enjoyed the anime, but I haven’t tried the manga yet.

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I have not, but you can bet your ass it’s on my plan to read list! :slight_smile:

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@Dwarsen in regards to the light read version of 君の名は, would you recommend that for someone who is just starting to exploring reading in Japanese? I picked up Yotsubato a few days back which feels like a real challenge.

If Yotsubato is a big challenge, then any light novel would probably feel almost impossible. It should be noted though that in contrast to manga, novels have way less dialogue, so parsing them doesn’t necessarily get that much easier by churning through manga either.

I’d recommend you reading a few pages yourself: https://www.ebookjapan.jp/ebj/375542/volume1/ Just press the blue 立ち読み button and you can flip through the first part right in your browser.

Another one I like recommending is 時をかける少女. Check that one out here: https://www.ebookjapan.jp/ebj/243035/volume1/ It’s a very enjoyable book that I was able to read without huge amounts of trouble after like 1,5 years of study.

Both are, I would say, “easy” for being light novels. You should be able to judge whether you can get the gist by the first few pages.

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