Suggestions for Beginners? Are E-books an alternative?

to make it short: I am looking to buy my first japanese manga. I used to love reading manga when I was younger and now that my Japanese skills slowly improve I wanted to start reading manga in Japanese. I am nowhere near N5 level (I know about 60 kanji and ~300-400 vocabs) and I know it will be hard at first, but I also became fluent in English by translating other sources than just textbooks. I wanted to order Elfen Lied, because I really enjoyed the anime and I already know the plot which would make it easier to understand context, but for some reason won’t deliver them to Germany and I’m out of ideas what to read.
I can order the kindle version, though I don’t know if that’s a good idea. I like having physical books because I can take notes inside them. (Which would be super helpful, because I could add furigana myself.) HOWEVER I just ordered an iPad, so maybe I can even take notes on the digital version too? It won’t arrive until the 17th, so I’m not familiar with it yet. If anyone knows about that please let me know.
I would even consider reading novels in Japanese, but I guess in the beginning manga would be a much better choice because it has pictures which helps understanding context and its not as much text, meaning I will make page progress much faster and won’t be so frustrated.

For now I guess I will just continue studying, but I notice I understand more and more everyday as I am addicted to Japanese youtubers (especially That Japanese Man Yuta, I feel like I learn a lot about Japanese culture from his videos). The other day I was watching a documentary about a family in china and when they were at the airport I could already read some kanji. It makes me super excited, but I want more.

Any tips would be appreciated!!
Thank you
xx Amelie

Ooh, this is a nice idea!

I recommend taking a look over at the Beginners’ (and Absolute Beginners) Book Clubs, they have loads of resources and suggestions for books.

The main thing I took away from these threads is that it will be hard in the beginning - maybe take a few hours to read a page or two, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes! Good luck!

A few of my favourites to start with (I only just started reading books in all jp too!) are Polar Bear Cafe, and Chi’s Sweet Home :slight_smile:

Oh I also recommend this website which let’s you switch between different languages for a number of books:

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It’s not a Manga, but for a beginner I can’t recommend this site enough!

It has some cute little short articles to read and they are categorised by JLPT level so you can start with N5 and also see what each level is like. You can also hover over any difficult words/nouns etc. and it will show you the meaning so that you don’t have to keep referring to other sites. Other than that I’d definitely recommend Shirokuma Cafe’s Manga, there may be some things that you won’t understand yet but if you keep it to hand whilst working through Grammar, Kanji and Vocab you should be able to enjoy the cute/simple storyline and art!

Best of luck! :relaxed:


I’m all digital. I just don’t have the space for physical books anymore with a growing family.

I had an account for a while, but I must have messed up the VPN or something because they stopped allowing me to buy after 10 titles or so.

Now, I use exclusively. They take PayPal and I’ve only ever had one issue with a title that was domestic only.

The app is ok for what it does but it’s not as slick as Kindle. Also, manga are going to be escans, so lookups are manual.

Other than that though, I’m pretty happy with the service.


For beginner you should find manga that have furigana to make it easier to read. Elfen Lied seems to be seinen so I don’t know if it has furigana or not (They mostly appear in Shounen). Of course you can read one without it but searching for kanji become a shore after a while.

For novel ebook you can just press the words and they will show meaning, reading, etc. for the one that supported like in Kindle. Still can’t say the same for Manga Ebook since they mostly just images that you can’t interact with.

If you’re not fussy about what you read, it’s worth looking on Ebay. I’ve managed to get quite a lot of japanese language books on UK ebay, including kids books, gardening books, cookery books and complete sets of manga.

Also if you happen to be in Berlin, there’s Japanische Buchhandlung Yamashina which has a mix of new and second-hand books.


Have you looked into electronic manga? No import fees, etc.

BookWalker is great. You can easily get into the Japanese (non-Global) market and buy away in Japanese. In fact, you can get the Japanese Elfen Lied for roughly 6000 yen for the entire collection.

One reason going electronic is great is because if you read on your device, you can easily look words up, copy a sentence into a WaniKani forum to ask about a grammar concern or translation, etc.

But some people love the physical piece so if that’s part of your drive, I would recommend looking into They will give you a Japanese address, give you the ability to send whatever you want to that address, and then ship to you. Expect shipping to be PAINFULLY expensive, however. If you want someone else to order it all for you instead, buyee can do that for you too. Except, shipping is as expensive as tenso AND you pay extra fees you wouldn’t have if you used tenso on your own.

There is also CD Japan. They also offer proxy services and are less expensive, IMO, than buyee but you will pay more for it overall than just getitng it yourself.

My assumption on Amazon JP is that the title is out of print, so you can only get it from the marketplace, so you are at the mercy of whether a seller will ship internationally or not. Sadly.

definetly gonna write that down, next time I’m in Berlin I will check it out! :slight_smile:

I started with graded readers before attempting to read native material. If you’ve never heard of them they’re books specifically written for foreign learners of Japanese. Since they’re for learners they use controlled language and grammar so that the difficulty gradually builds as you go through the levels. They’re a good stepping stone to help ease you into reading Japanese as you can read them alongside your grammar studies to get a bit of confidence.

There’s a graded readers book club as such here on the forums as well if you want to look into them more as there’s a few different series.


I was never really fond of graded reader books tbh. Didnt like them when I just learned to read as a kid (started to read Harry Potter right away which made my mum furious because she thought they’re too scary for a seven year old) and never read those in English too when I learned that language. I think my first English books was the Hunger Games trilogy. I’d already seen the first movie so again it was easier to follow the story and understand context. I know that for a lot of people graded readers is a good choice, but for me? I know it sounds like I am overestimating my skills, but I am well aware that at first it will probably be like one page per day. But that’s the way I learn best.

For mangas I’d actually recommend buying the real books.
At least in my experience in some ebook manga the quality is low, so I always have trouble reading the furigana (which is tiny and if you zoom in it will become blurry :frowning: ).

For everything else I’d go with ebooks too. I use Bookwalker, setting it up is very easy and I think the prices are reasonable. I also read Bookwalker is a supplier for amazon, so it’s probably the same ebooks you would get there.
Amazon/Kindle seems so hard to set up, so I did not try that yet.

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