Translating Japanese Manga PDFs


Is there a program that recognizes Japanese text on PDF documents?

Currently, I’m reading manga in PDF, and when I encounter words that I don’t know, I have to manually look them up. I currently use Rikai-kun in my web browser, but this doesn’t work on PDF documents. If you’re not familiar with Rikai-kun, it is a plug-in for your web browser that translates Japanese text when you hover over it. I also know people use text hooking programs to play Japanese visual novels and video games.

So I was wondering if anyone knows of a program that works like Rikai-kun but for PDFs? Or perhaps some other method that is at least more efficient than manually looking up words?


Otherwise, just Google OCR Manga.

I tried it for a bit, but it’s not as reliable as the rikais. Would be brilliant if anyone’s bothered to try all of the available OCRs or discover the ideal tweaks necessary to make this a smooth and reliable experience. Looking forward to hearing any reports.


I don’t know of anything like that. You could use one of the scanner-apps out there that can scan kanji and look them up for you, otherwise looking up the “hard” way (look up in dictionary) is what I do. Learning to look stuff up with stroke count makes it a lot easier.


I usually use this web page where you can draw the kanji and when you press enter it takes you to the Jisho entry (you may need to chose Jisho in the settings options). It’s usually much quicker than a paper dictionary, and it’s good practice for writing the kanji too.


The Google Translate app is a LITERAL godsend for times like these.
Google translate gets a bad rap (for good reason honestly), but for reading kanji it’s increeeedibly helpful.

If you download the app and take a picture of the Kanji you can’t read, it highlights it and tells you the meaning and reading. The accuracy is like 97%, so it’s pretty awesome. Sometimes it translates the meaning very oddly, but in those cases you now know the 読み方 so you can either just copy the kanji or type the reading into a regular Japanese dictionary app.


Does nobody here use WWWJDIC’s multi-radical kanji feature? Just tickybox the radicals your mystery kanji has, maybe give a stroke count (it can be a range instead of exact if you’re not sure), and out pops a list of possible matches. I’ve been using it for like ten years now, it’s saved my behind countless times. Maybe I’m too old-school for current-day language learners…


Thanks! This is basically exactly what I was looking for. I’m on vacation right now but when I get back home to my desktop I’ll give these a try and update this post. Until then, if anyone else has any recommendations, I’m all ears.


I’ve used the Google Translate app quite a bit because of its ability to translate text from pictures. Very convenient for real-world applications, but all-in-all perhaps a bit too clunky for the purpose I’m describing here. Is it possible perhaps to use Google Translate on a desktop/laptop to “scan” portions of the PDF for translation, without using my cellphone to take pictures or using the print-screen function?

Also, when I was using Google Translate a lot (1-2 years ago), it seemed to have a problem with vertical text, which you encounter a lot in manga. Does anyone know if that’s still the case?


PDF are an evil, evil, evil format for text analytics. Best bet would be to run it through a PDF to text OCR program and hope for the best…which has issues with cleanly formatted typed text (damn you columns, tables, and figures) in English. I imagine handwritten manga style Japanese is probably going to fail pretty hard.



Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get KanjiTomo to work on my computer. It crashes every time I open it, and there isn’t much in the way of support that I could find. It’s looking like I’ll have to settle for using Rikai-kun on the web, and looking things up manually for manga.


So I use Denshi Jisho’s search - it lets you search by English meaning, drawing the Kanji, selecting radicals, or copy pasting.

Kanji Alive might be helpful - I haven’t really messed with it though.

Hope this helps!


It crashes? o.O What OS are you on? Mine wast just meh but it did work.


I’m using Windows 10


I had no problem when I used Windows 10 :open_mouth:


I tried redownloading it and it worked! Took it for a test run and it seems to work OK. Not as reliable as Rikai-kun, but I’m willing to mess around with it a bit more in the future. Thanks for the help!


I plan to take on all the credits with that technical advice I gave you.

Let me quote myself again:

“I had no problem when I used Windows 10”

Never been prouder of myself.