WaniKani gatekeeping

So I noticed after level 14 each Wanikani level is split up so that you learn the majority of new kanji in the level set all at once, and then have to wait a week going over three or four kanji before you can advance to the next level. This is really unfortunate and honestly seems like a blatant business strategy. It effectively artificially doubles the time it should take to complete a level under the thin veil of having to learn three or four kanji which use radicals that have been learned in previous levels. As much as I enjoy the service, this is something that I find really greedy and disappointing.

I dont think this is artificial at all, the level is designed in such a way that you acquire a firm grasp of the new radicals before applying them to the kanji that use them. Therefore all the kanji that are stragglers or unlocked later are using new information that you have learnt in that level. Yes some of these kanji use radicals from previous levels, but that just makes sense. All of the later kanji however use radicals unlocked in the current level you are in.
Hopefully this helps…


Most of the levels require you to do the kanji in 2 batches. It’s how the system is set up from the beginning. Basically, I don’t see what’s particularly special about level 14.

Later on, from about the early or mid 40’s, the levels allow for completion in 1 batch, so you can effectively level up in a little less than 4 days.

People usually call these the “fast levels” but only the most dedicated speed demons try to do them at a faster pace. It causes a huge influx in daily reviews if you do that.

I think it is a business decision, but not in the way you propose. You are arguing that they are keeping people slowed down just to earn their money for longer, but I think if you let people go as fast as they wanted out of the gate, you’d see a lot more burn-out and quitting. People already get overwhelmed with the WaniKani-established pace. And most people do not try to go faster in the fast levels, even though they do have the option.

Only crazy people (I was one of them) try to go the fastest allowed pace. Only a very small percentage of people are being “gated.”


I wish those greedy dishonest people let me do all my kanji at once so I can finally achieve 500 apprentice items and 1000 reviews per day.


Whatever money they gain through implementing this small ‘trick’, they lose several times over in their Christmas sales and lifetime discounts each year. You don’t need to worry about them being out for your wallet.


Also the only time the prices have changed permanently in recent memory is the price drops for monthly and yearly from like 2 years ago.

They occasionally give away lifetime memberships too. (not exactly a huge number, but it happens)


I’m one of those crazy people speed demons myself. I’ve almost made my way through, too. As @Leebo mentioned, I’m not sure what’s so special about level 14, but I can tell you from experience that going at a 7 day pace is pretty darn quick. But even so, having that time really serves to cement the radicals and kanji. If you’re more interested in going at an unimpeded pace, then that’s fair, different strokes for different folks. And if you’re not a fan of the price, I get that too. You might find an Anki deck version of Heisig’s remembering the kanji more useful. Although I wouldn’t recommend pushing the SRS interval limits too far. Ain’t the best imho, but it’s free, and technically faster (doesn’t teach most common reading or vocab like WK does)

I would highly recommend sticking around though (if you’re able to swing it financially) because I’ve yet to find a more useful app when it comes to learning kanji. Best of luck to you!


I used to think so as well, but now that I’ve started burning, I changed my mind.
If had gone through the earlier levels as fast as I wanted and Kaniwani hadn’t stopped me, I’d be drowning in burn reviews now, even worse than I already am.
You’ll appreciate that WaniKani protected your future self from your present self when you get there, too…

Add to that the KaniWani reviews (and I haven’t even started burning these!) and… yeah. Now I understand what all the high level posters were talking about when they said one would eventually struggle to keep up. I can’t even imagine doing the fast levels quickly.


I preferred it once you had most of the kanji done in the first half, so you could get on with the vocab for that level, and only have a few items to do before the radicals once you level up.


I’m not a fan of this “Wanikani is just protecting you from yourself” argument. If I want to spend eight hours a day grinding through reviews, I’m not paying WaniKani to tell me not to. There are clearly a lot of people who already think the fastest pace available is too fast, that’s fine. What I see is clear gatekeeping in kind of an illogical manner.

1 Like

You know, I definitely have considered this, it does allow for a nice pace to familiarize yourself with the thirty kanji in the level set, I just also feel a little frustrated as someone who is using WaniKani as a means to learn the kanji as fast as possible. As I mentioned in my post, I do enjoy the service, but I am also the kind of person who takes credit limits at school to get the most out of my money knowing that I’m capable of overcoming a little challenge.

1 Like

After level 14 the kanji in the level starts getting split up so that the first set is 90+% of the kanji for the level, and then you have to wait three days to get one out of the remaining three kanji to guru before you can proceed to the next level.

I never said anything about quitting WaniKani, as I mentioned in my original post, I do find it to be a useful service, I just have noticed blatant gatekeeping from the beginning, and it seems the only real reason for it is that it was a business decision.

1 Like

You do realize that WaniKani is one of the most expensive Japanese SRS systems out there right? The only one I know of that’s more expensive is Skritter, it is naive at best to say that they aren’t concerned about making money. This website is far from a charity.

I mean it is a business decision, much like the decision not to have an undo button or the ability to reorder lessons. They’re trying to make the best learning experience for the average person in order to maximize their audience. There are scripts for a lot of stuff for those who want them, but unfortunately no way to customize SRS timings yet. :disappointed:


Ahh, gotcha. It’s been a hot minute since I was lvl 14, didn’t realize that’s what happened. Well, gatekeeping or not, I’m doubtful the structure will change anytime soon. But it seems like you’re pretty deep into the kanji-learning void, so best of luck with your continued studies. I’m actually really interested to see what your thoughts are in the future. If you do continue to stick around with WK (and I hope you do!) when you hit like lvl 30 or something, you should post about what your thoughts are. It’d be interesting to see if your thoughts have changed or remained the same.


If they were out for your money, the content won’t be free. Do you realize that the API lets you get all the content into an Anki deck for free? Also the whole set of contents are accessible without a subscription. I don’t want to turn into some sort of Wanikani defence force, but I find your statement unfair and factually wrong. Also, if we are talking about learning Japanese in general, you are not getting any sort of best bang for your buck just by cramming 2000 kanji into your head in a short period of time. It’s not the way this thing works. I had to learn that the hard way. :wink:


I suppose the optimistic viewpoint could be that Wanikani is just trying to create the best learning experience for users, regardless of the money. There has to be some point at which the effectiveness of learning starts to deteriorate as you add more items to learn all at once. Obviously that will differ from person to person, and whether that number is equal to the numbers they’ve determined is surely questionable.

It is all kind of arbitrary at the end of the day though. Would you feel better if the levels had the same numbers of radicals, kanji and vocabulary in them, but the kanji was split exactly 50/50 instead of close to the 90/10 point? On the other end, why have these levels at all. They could halve the number of levels and double the number of items in each level and allow you to go double the speed you can now. But there would still be a limit to what you could do. The only way to not have that limit would be to just release all the items at once and leave the pacing to the user. but then what would the point of the system be?

To be clear, I’m not trying to criticize or argue against your take - I’m just thinking out loud. I also think that it doesn’t really matter how much harder the workload might get when you are level 30 or whatever; that doesn’t really impact how you feel right now. I fully support your thoughts even if I choose to believe that Wanikani is just doing their best to make the best learning experience. I certainly have no inside information to suggest that either one of us is right or wrong. Honestly I find this rather interesting. Would it be better to have more fast levels? To add more items to each level? Or is it less about the actual numbers and more about how the 90/10 split makes you feel when you see how close you are to having enough items to guru and hit the next level? I’m sure everyone has different thoughts and feelings about it.

Thanks for the interesting topic; it was fun to think about even if our feelings on it seem to be so very opposite.


I think you mean 90-%? You only need 90% of the kanji gurud to level up.

Anyway, what you are saying is incorrect. All the levels even before 14 have the same property of not being able to level up with the first batch of kanji. Only with levels 43-44, 46-47 and 49-60 (aka the fast levels) you can level up with just guruing the first batch of kanji.


Are you here to learn or reach level 60?


As far as I know, the first batch is based on radicals that you have already guru’ed and the second batch is based on the radicals for that level.

It’s always been like that for level 14 onwards given that the radicals you already know are going to be a large portion of the new Kanji with a few using the new radicals.

I’d say it was less of a financial decision and more in line with how their system works.

Honestly, a year at the fastest pace is blazing fast for the amount of kanji you learn and the effectiveness of the retention.

And even with the split, ~7 days per level for the amount of material is a pretty heavy workload.