Trying to Read Above Your Level? Need Advice

I use the dictionary app yomiwa (iphone/ipad, I don’t know if there is an android version). You can draw kanji and kana with your finger or apple pen. It’s pretty good at recognizing even sloppy writing/drawing. You can search by radicals, too, if you prefer.


When I tried reading print materials without furigana, my strategy was to digitally transcribe the text in a google doc so that I could use Yomichan and other resources to decipher the text. I was able to easily type 99% of all the unknown kanji (with one exception, which turned out to be an abbreviated version of another kanji :sweat_smile:) simply by using the IME pad that the Japanese keyboard comes with. I just quickly drew the kanji I didn’t know, and then I could click on the one I needed, and it would insert it into the document.

However, according to some of my friends who are much more proficient readers than I am, knowing kanji stroke order really helps with this, and none of them know how to write kanji, so they often have to look up kanji by radical instead because they can’t get the IME pad to recognize their drawings. It made me really glad that I spent time learning how to write kanji so that I could actually utilize that tool.


When I want to look up a kanji that I don’t know, I use my phone. My phone’s keyboard has the option of inputting by drawing. So I can open up my dictionary app (I use Takoboto and Kanji Tree), and draw the kanji in the search. Easier if you have a stylus, but I imagine you can get by without one.


for me above my level is frustrating

I remember ten years ago I really wanted to read the manga blade of the immortal, and there was no translation to english that time for the latest volumes, so I tried to read them, and most of the time I was only checking dictionary all the time trying to make sense of things. Back then I barely knew 100 kanji,

very frustrating

I hope later levels on wk I can read some basic stuff.

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I’ve done something similar with a seinen manga, when I had around N5 knowledge. I’d say it not efficient if what you are looking for is improving your Japanese if the book is far above your level. In contrast, if the material is only 1-2 level above, it’s ok.

However, the most important thing is motivation. So if that LN is something you really passionate about. There is nothing wrong to read it. You would learn a lot from it.

This is what I’m doing, I use the material as a milestone and motivation to study Japanese. I will check them like once a month if I’m ready to read them or not. I’ve done this with “Shin Mazinger Zero”. I don’t understand any of it last year and now I just finish reading it and move on to the sequel.

My next mile stone for me is to be able to play Disgaea5 in Japanese and understand Midnight Dinner without any subtitle.


Here’s a pre-made vocabulary list for that book! Danganronpa Zero – Prebuilt decks – jpdb

I believe you can choose to have the vocabulary shown to you either chronologically (in the order they appear in the book) or by frequency within the book. If you go chronologically, you might be able to get started reading surprisingly quickly. I’m really looking forward to using some of these pre-made decks to improve my reading experience for more challenging books in the future.

PS I’ve enjoyed jumping in above my level with European languages a lot. I wanted to do the same with Japanese, but with Japanese “above my level” was so much lower of a level than with German (for example). Japanese is just so much more different from my native language. So if you can’t manage the light novel, don’t get to frustrated, just try something a little easier. (Furigana is definitely a gamechanger.)

(This is all assuming you don’t already know an Asian language. If you do, then maybe it won’t be as difficult for you.)


If you’ve played the danganronpa games, those are what i’m using for practice right now - however it’s painful to look up kanji from them since you can’t just copy and paste it. I started at lvl 5 and spent like 2 hours to get to the point where I could save but now I am going at a decent pace, and am being held back more by non-intuitive jukugo than lack of kanji knowledge. Also the class trials are more fun in Japanese especially the stupid pop bubbles to spell words mini game where it asks if you know how to spell “knife” in the english localization… It’s fun trying to figure out what word it wants and finding the often rotated hiragana to spell it.
Spoilers for Super Danganronpa 2:In chapter 1 instead of having to painstakingly spell out “under the floor” letter by letter, you get the much simpler ゆかした(床下)which wasn’t a word I knew before and I felt like a supergenius and blessed Wanikani when i figured it out during the mini game itself


This is also a super nice forum and many of its loveliest denizens have already replied in this thread. You’re a polite friendly beginner with an interesting goal and problem, far more novel than many other threads with people asking for help when they’re overwhelmed by reviews or other common issues (not criticising these people either, they need help too).

If you give it an honest try and there’s a few grammar or vocab points you can’t puzzle out with some googling and effort, post them here and people will fall over themselves to help you understand and give you pointers. That’s the advantage of a supportive community. And then once you do understand, you can pay it forward to other beginners in turn. Good luck, keen to hear how you get on with it!


Have you looked to joining in with reading a manga with the Absolute Beginner Book Club?

Many people who join in find they make amazing progress in just one volume, and each volume they read gets easier overall. (Moving on to more difficult manga is a big difficulty increase, though!)

Once you’ve started reading (I’m speaking as if you haven’t), it becomes easier and easier over time to get into more difficult manga. I’m not familiar with Blade of the Immortal, but looking at a preview of the first chapter in Japanese, it does look like it’s a bit heavy in dialogue!

By around level 30 in WaniKani, reading should be a lot easier as you’ll typically know more than 80% of the overall kanji used in the material. Even if you don’t necessarily know the words they’re used in, it can be easier to infer their meanings if you already know the kanji.


Omigosh! So many helpful people in this thread. You’re all wonderful!

THANK YOU FOR THIS. I’ve never used a prebuilt deck before but that seems brilliant!

I am a die hard Danganronpa fan. Minus V3. We don’t talk about V3. But what platform are you playing on? I couldn’t find it for PC in Japanese.

Thank you! I hope to start looking at it this weekend!

Thanks to everyone who replied in this thread.
I AM SO EXCITED YOU GUYS. I know it’s going to be hard, perhaps painful (especially the grammar) but I want to try!


Other people have given a lot of really great advice here but just popping in to say that from my experience, although maybe reading something way above my level wasn’t the most efficient thing to do, it proved really useful for me in showing exactly what it was that I needed to work on and giving me the motivation to do it so I could get better at reading the thing I loved! For me, I was trying a manga with furigana so it was a bit easier (would agree with others that if you can get the ebook version that will be a BIG help starting out). I started reading when I’d covered very little grammar, and struggling though each sentence showed me that grammar was the big thing that I needed to focus on for reading to get easier. I ended up having to put the manga to the side for a few months and really focus on covering N5 and N4 grammar, but it was much easier for me to stay focused doing so because I a) had come across much of it already struggling through that first volume, and b) knew that by doing that I’d help myself be able to read more.

So yeah, I’d say even if you try it and it’s too hard right now, that’s not bad at all! It will hopefully at least let you know what you need to work on and then you can come back (probably in less time than you’d expect) and it will be more manageable :slight_smile:


Steam allows you to download it in whichever language you want, i’m on Mac so i just right click the game in my library, hit Properties, then there’s a tab called Language which lets you switch between English Japanese and Chinese - but be aware you will lose your save files switching languages.


You can also see what languages are supported for you to switch to like this on any game’s store page here:


I remember trying to read (きみ)()は at Level 10. It was an utter failure, I took too much time trying looking up the words on a dictionary in my phone and then noting them down. Each page had 10 words which I couldn’t recognize or couldn’t get the meaning of because the Kanji was way above my level.

Eventually I just gave up and settled into downloading the NHK Easy News application on my phone, which automatically pulls up the meaning of a word upon pressing on it. Was much more convenient and enjoyable.

Didn’t go back into reading any novels until I was in my level 40s

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Google translate can do that. Just hover with the phone over the text and then copy paste the content into a good dictionary like Jisho


I never knew that! I’m aways off from being able to play a game in Japanese but I’ll keep that in mind for future! Thanks for the tip - I was thinking I’d have to buy the ps4 version or something in Japanese.

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Is this the same as what’s in the light novel?

Check the link marked 「掲載中第1回」 under the 「 バックナンバー」 section.

If it’s the same, then you can use this with a browser extension such as Yomichan to try out the first few chapters digitally, without having to re-purchase what you already have a physical copy of.

WaniKani stats for those four chapters
  • Unique Kanji: 813
  • Total Kanji: 15,522

Amount of kanji you should recognize based on WaniKani level:


By the end of level 9, you should be able to recognized about 21% of the individual unique kanji, but about 50% of the overall total kanji.

Most common kanji:

Kanji Count WaniKani Level
308 35
303 14
254 4
239 1
239 1
216 5
203 6
201 1
200 5
197 2
197 2
187 1
177 6
172 1
163 3
159 2
152 5
150 2
142 5
136 9
131 7
130 45
124 14
121 3
121 3
119 16
119 29
118 12
113 3
107 5
107 13
105 6
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Thank you for this! I tried the prebuilt deck that was suggested earlier in this thread but none of the kanji matched up. This gives me a way to try out digital tools and using the print copy.

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I’ve personally seen reasonable success with studying very basic vocab out of context, but I don’t know if it’s efficient or the best approach.

I went through vocab sheets for manga I wanted to read (よつばと!, しろくま, からかい上手の高木さん ch.1, and a few others) and picked out all the vocab that was reoccurring and common / not overly specialised to put into Anki (after looking it up on Jisho and pruning out more words).

The goal here was to create a core vocab of things which I expected to occur in most media I would consume, I think SRS-ing specialised vocab (e.g. for puns in しろくま) is not a good use of time, and I would have to be looking up things when reading pretty much no matter what anyway.

I’ve only just started growing this core vocab out to include more specialised words for genre’s I want to consume (e.g. words for magic/fantasy).

Recently I’ve decided I want to try play 逆転裁判 (Ace attorney in Japanese). I played the first case in English to try give me some context to rely upon, and then starting working through Japanese transcripts making an Anki deck out of the important unfamiliar Kanji vocab for when I eventually play the game in Japanese. So far I have ~65 words I’ve seemingly reliably learned this way, although it has been a bit of a slog at times and required me to create mnemonics and stories.

Once I was reading through からかい上手の高木さん with the book club, I did find it easier to learn new words if I had come across them in context in the book, as the associations from the context and the initial struggle to decipher them helped them stick.

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You could scan a page and use the “Japan reader” app on it. It automatically adds Furigana and has a dictionary that let’s you look up the words you don’t know. That’s very useful and fast, it also works with a photograph.