On kanji speedrunning, and how I avoid big piles of vocab lessons

Inspired from this thread, and in desperate need for karma since this is my first post in this forum, I’ll share to you a number of thoughts I’ve had so far after being 9.5 levels deep into Wanikani.

A bit of foreword: I am “speedrunning”, and am actively “cheating” and these suggestions reflect my view and my ability to speedrun and keep my throughput consistently high without getting a burnout. This strategy works for me because my vocabulary overall accuracy is >= 93% for now, my kanji overall accuracy is >= 96% and I am in general good at linking concepts together.

If you are reading you’re probably asking yourself: is there a way to complete a level as soon as possible without having hundreds of lessons from 2 or more levels ago in backlog? Will I get a burnout in trying? Short answer: yes, and you can even engage in the 0/0 strike challenge without ever hitting the 100-apprentice wall! Interested? Read more…

Step 0: preconditions to success

I assume that shortly before doing your final review that will unlock your level you managed to get to 0 lessons, and that you fully complete that review (and unlock the next level). If you haven’t done that, do it. It may mean for a while you may have to break your 100 apprentice for one day or two. Sorry for the small lie earlier on, but it’s a momentary pain you can endure and should (hopefully!) not happen again.

Step 1: requirements every speedrunner needs to know

In order to complete a level there is only one requirement: to complete at least 90% of the kanjis that a level offers. If a level has 37 kanjis you need to guru at least 34 of those. Learning vocabulary is required in vanilla Wanikani in order to do unlock kanjis because of the queuing system, but thanks to script you could hypothetically skip all the vocabulary and just go to the radicals/kanjis, right? But that would be stupid. After all, we’re all here to learn to read Japanese, not just to flex on fancy characters!

Step 2: some numbers

Assume today you complete a level, and this was a good day so you completed 100% of your kanjis and had no lesson piled up. How many words did you unlock?

In the case of progressing from level 10 to 11: you just unlocked 36 new words in level 10 and roughly 21 when in level 11 already (as they do not require extra kanjis). That’s 57 new vocabs, quite a lot to chug in!

Tu fully complete level 11 you need to do a total of 38 kanji (of which 25 kanjis are already available) and 13 radicals. In other words, that level alone will require you 51 lessons. As soon as your first block of lessons is unlocked you’ll unlock 75 new words.

Thus, your mission to avoid lagging behind is to do 57 + 13 + 38 + 75 = 183 lessons.

If you are speedrunning then you’d have to do roughly 26 lessons per day. But as we know, the first and fourth days are going the toughest…

In general, you may find that every level will take a similar toll on you with some fluctuations.

Step 3: get to know the beast, and avoid a fight head-on!

Also known as, use your reordering script wisely.

Remember what was said in step 1: your main priorities are to do your radicals as soon as possible, and to start your second block of kanjis as soon as the radicals are guru’d. That doesn’t mean you need to do all your kanjis of the first block as soon as possible, though. Your only concern would be that no kanji of the first block would have to be started together later than the second block, as that will become your bottleneck in your speedrun.

Then what can you do?

Rather than prioritise radicals, then kanjis, then vocabulary you should:

  1. Prioritise radicals
  2. Pick randomly between vocabs and new kanji, as a yardstick make sure to do at least NUM_KANJIS_FIRST_BLOCK / 3.5 days, in this case 25/3.5 = 7 new kanjis per day, and fill the rest up with vocab. On your first day you have 13+7 = 20 lessons that include radicals and kanji, and 6/7 involving vocabulary. The next day you will have 7 lessons involving kanji and 19 involving vocabulary and so on.
  3. If radicals are guru’d then don’t waste your time and do new kanjis already. If you’re lucky and past the first ten levels there will be a comfortable unbalance between the first and the second block, meaning you will be able to do more vocab and start catching up.

Step 3 part 2: reviews

You probably heard about this piece of advice already but it can never be repeated enough times: spread your reviews. If they are big (i.e. there are 20 or more items belonging to the same SRS stage) then split them in smaller chunks and reorder them so that critical items are done immediately. This is especially important if you have a busy working life, and ultimately to avoid burnouts. Doing 183 lessons in one week will necessarily imply having 732 reviews to do in a week, or roughly 104 reviews per day which is perfectly manageable. That’s a lower bound: it doesn’t take into account older Guru’s, Master’d or Enlightened items. (Actually, if you start a vocab lesson at the end of your week you won’t have the time to guru it, but the vocab of the previous level will be guru’d instead, thus balancing everything out).

Step 4: keep track of your sanity

Remember that when you start a level you don’t start from a clean slate: before your 3.5 day review you will reach a peak of 25 initial kanjis + 13 radicals + 57 vocabs in apprentice. That’s 95 elements in apprentice! Because of the way queueing works, if you stick to this strategy you will always have 100 elements in Apprentice, hardly less, rarely more. However, that also means in the long run you will always have 500 elements in guru. That’s okay, given that their reviews are spread across 30 days.

A note of warning: while it sometimes is tempting to do more lessons, refrain from doing so if the apprentice count is close to 100. And even when it’s at 80-85 or less, unless you’re catching up your daily count just avoid exceeding that number or you need to achieve your 0/0 streak, you may waste energies you may need for another block of kanjis at a later moment.


I’m gonna say welcome now, before I read your post cuz that’s gonna take a while!


WELCOME, WELCOME!!! :confetti_ball: :partying_face:

(welcome even if you’ve been here for 10 levels… here’s to late intros :beers:)

Now, go do your reviews!

I’ll welcome you again when I finish your post…

Here I am, several years later!

Pretty interesting, very useful for those who have time to do all those lessons…
T oo many numbers for a vacation-numbed brain at way-past-bed-time hours haha :joy: (shame on me!!)

My strategy: ‘y’know what?! just do them when you have time and feel like it! hehe’

I’m lazy, but I’ve gotten pretty far at a fast pace so… ¯_(ツ)_/¯

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This is pretty much the strategy I used to get through the regular levels. Being more lenient with the first wave of kanji allows you to focus more on the newly unlocked vocabulary items. Although,

I can’t say I completely agree with this, from a speedrunning point of view. At some point it becomes pretty much impossible to have both a sub-hundred apprentice count while still speedrunning. This happens fairly quickly if you’re less disciplined with your lessons (like me, lol.) I tried to have a sub-200 count in the middle levels, and then the fast levels hit, at which point even that becomes unsustainable. Sub-300 is more likely at that point.


I am also starting the speed run from the last level, changing my strategy from doing all the lessons to only radical and kanji. For even faster speed, do all radical and kanji when they are available. That’s what I do now. For example, I do all 8 radicals and 24 kanji at once, no need to separate them on different days. I can do that because my vocabs are way ahead of my kanji, so it was not the first time I encountered the kanji.

However, if you do vocabs too, your enlightened numbers will dominate on higher levels…the point of leeches. You will start to get leeches, and battling leeches would be your daily chore; they will also pile up your apprentice number. It would be hard to keep with speed run and maintaining your apprentice number. Expect hundreds of reviews when you get there. I’ve seen some people getting like 400 reviews a day. There’s no way I can handle that :sweat_smile:

I assume you only do WK for both kanji and vocab learning, so you have the time you need to do them all. For me, I’d rather skip vocab and spend my time building vocab outside WK.

Ehhh, those are problems I am still too young and inexperienced to have witnessed :sweat_smile: , but I guess the whole point of this discussion was “how to keep on doing vocabs while speedrunning”. My first burned item will be in early december, that’s going to be a truly suffering route.

Correct! Actually, I am trying to pick up vocabulary from another Anki deck, mainly in order to get to the N5/N4 level and start getting ready for the N3 (which is currently my goal). My current study plan isn’t optimal (not enough time to practice grammar and listening…) and I am afraid it’s going to become more and more kanji-centric but if I could get to level 30-40 without losing my sanity I could probably slow down :sweat_smile:

That’s a lot of info for something very simple, even if you binge all lessons across a couple of hours from leveling up (like I did), you don’t necessarily have to wade through piles of vocab if you simply:

  1. do reviews normally = failing several kanji reviews = spreading out when the kanji will get guru’d
  2. make sure to do vocab lessons from guru’d kanji as soon as they become available

→ success!

(if need to, intentionally avoid guruing enough kanji to level up, before you’re make it through a majority of them, leaving around 1-3 kanji before level up.

Now: the last level vocab lessons should be quick business to get through, and you can immediately start in on radicals + as many kanji as you like doing. Only the radicals matter in the first part of a level for speed running)


Yeah, I stuck with the 100 apprentice limit and my “fast levels” ended up taking longer than my average of around 11 days. That long tail adds up quickly.

this sounds so terribly complicated and stressful…


If you are speedrunning you have to accept you will exceed 100 apprentices items to keep a 0/0 challenge. Once the burn items start coming, you are bound to have quite a few things that drop to guru 2 and again to apprentice. I would say there is a triangle of (Apprentice limit) (0/0 Challenge) (Speedrunning) where you can only pick two.

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☆☆☆☆Saying hi from the slow side of things!! Hi!!!☆☆☆☆

Like this comment when you surpass me in levels

Go go go go
Cheering you on


too much thought required, when i see button light up, i click


To be honest, I read this thread and I don’t understand it lol. I doubt it would go well with your study when these 3 words are together; “speed running”, “cheating”, and “skipping vocab”.

However, I won’t argue with something I don’t understand and I wish you the best of luck in learning Japanese.

Welcome, @theofranx!

Not sure why people think what you’re describing is complicated, it’s basically what I’ve been doing (and many others I’m sure), just with less maths.

I’ll attempt a summary: Reorder to do radicals first on level up, and always do radicals first until they guru. Meanwhile, work on all lessons, vocab and kanji, at a speed rate that suits you. When radicals guru, do the remaining kanji lessons at once, and always do them first until they guru (which will unlock the next level). Meanwhile, continue with the rest of your lessons at your own speed.

I have used this system and so far have always hit 0/0 at least once per level (apart from a couple of levels during the holidays, where keeping a routine was much harder) . No burns yet though, so I’m not sure how that will go when the time comes (should be very soon).


I love making word salads and yes, that is a perfect summary. Thank you.

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For those who are struggling in a mountain of reviews and find OP’s strategy a bit too much, I like my strategy:

Do 10 lessons a day (except for radicals and when going through kanji for the first time).
Never skip reviews.
No reordering scripts.
Just good ol’ vanilla out the box wanikani

Averaging 14 days level up at the pace I’m going, I will finish in about 1.9 years. Absolutely no stress with piles and piles of reviews. My reviews are always less than 100 a day (sometimes 110). :slightly_smiling_face:


You might be interested in something like KameSame or Torii, then, which have a few options that allow for the filtering out of WK vocab items from popular lists such as the core 10k or the JLPT decks, to avoid repetition. One of the annoying things about WK is that it’s a strictly JA > EN SRS, so you don’t get to practice your production at all. These tools also work in the reverse (EN > JA) direction, but since a sizable amount of WK items are in the 10k/those lists you might as well just go for the unfiltered decks if you’re also looking to work on your production instead of just reading/recognition. It’s up to your goals.

One thing: from what I’ve seen on the forums, there seem to be two kinds of users here; those who have a ton of leeches and use a ton of scripts to combat them, and those who don’t for whatever reason. I have a collection of like 50 or so items that keep falling from enlightened for whatever reason, but I wouldn’t call them leeches because they don’t really bother me all that much. For some reason this kind of leech problem isn’t universal, so it’s probably advisable to see how many leeches you pick up first before jumping to conclusions.