Ways in which WK has disappointed me, personally

Let us take a moment to reflect on Tofugu's greatest failures vis a vis WaniKani.

  1. Shockingly paternalistic SRS management

New to WK but not new to kanji and want to mark items burned (or at least Guru’d) so you can get to the material that’s actually new to you? Sorry, this could easily be accommodated but that’s not the WaniKani way.

Failed a review for an item at Enlightened and know that you’ve forgotten it completely and want to set it to Apprentice, rather than wait weeks for the next time it appears in your queue (so that you can fail it again)? Sorry, this could easily be accommodated but that’s not the WaniKani way.

Do WK’s SRS intervals not work for you? Perhaps you should consider Anki instead.

  1. Failure to (effectively) crowdsource visually similar kanji

According to Tofugu, 庭 is not visually similar to 廷 in spite of the fact that the former is exactly the latter but sporting a mullet.

Of course, this isn’t an actual conscious conclusion that Tofugu arrived at after careful consideration. Instead this is the natural result of the approach they decided to take, which was to start with an empty bucket for visually similar kanji and let the users decide what goes in.

Which would be great, if the site actually provided an affordance for users to directly influence this process. Instead users have to report them to a human (who may or may not agree), and then the new information doesn’t get in until the next update… (And who knows how much work the sad Tofugu staffer has to do on their end as part of this process.)

Compare this with a system which allows the user to simply paste in the kanji they believe is similar, with the “similar kanji” instantly appearing on the kanji detail page for that user, and once a certain number of users have marked two kanji as being visually similar, that linkage is presented to all users by default. Users would be able to upvote or downvote suggested similar kanji, and a downvote would remove that association from the downvoting user’s kanji detail page. Each user would have complete control over their own list of similar kanji, with no staff involvement. There’s no issue of trolls flooding the system with garbage since access requires payment.

  1. Failure to leverage whole kanji as “radicals”

(For 漢字 pedants who want to engage in Internet fisticuffs over what a “radical” is, here I’m using the term the same way WaniKani does.)

If WK had taught 廷 before 庭, then “garden” could have been introduced as “courts + mullet”, which means one less radical in the meaning mnemonic AND reinforces the kanji for “courts”. (“When would you find mullets in a courtroom setting? Only when court is being held in the garden. Things are a little more relaxed in the garden courts.” vs “If Big Bird had a mullet, he’d be king of the garden.”)

There are many examples of similar missed opportunities, which you will encounter if you continue with the system.

  1. Failure to crowdsource mnemonics

Some of Tofugu’s mnemonics are just simply trash. Consider 景色:

“You’re admiring the scenery and you notice key marks all over everything. You realize it’s that girl who keys everything and you say to yourself kay she keyed (けしき) that, kay she keyed (けしき) this.”

Setting aside the other issues with this mnemonic, wouldn’t “kay” be けい and not け? Fail.

While Tofugu does at least provide users the ability to enter their own mnemonics, this is exactly the sort of task that would benefit immensely from COLLECTIVE creativity. It’s not hard to imagine that there’s a number of very clever WaniKani users who have come up with very memorable mnemonics, which COULD be helping EVERY user, but instead will never escape the confines of the author’s account.

Crowdsourcing mnemonics presents more of a challenge than identifying similar kanji. Since we’re talking about raw text entry, there will absolutely be mnemonics created by some users which would offend other users. But, again, since the platform requires a paid account, this is not so hard to address effectively. You simply require that any user who is sharing their mnemonics to flag any which are not G-rated or are otherwise even slightly politically incorrect / unwoke / wrongthink. Such mnemonics would be hidden by default, and would only be shown to those users who have declared themselves (via settings) to be mentally stable enough to handle the risk of being offended in exchange for the reward of mnemonics which would be easier to remember.

  1. Tepid mnemonics

And here we’ve arrived at Koichi’s greatest self-betrayal: the decision to purge every Tofugu-created mnemonic that is more spicy than distilled water. Back in the day, he himself made the case that the value of a mnemonic is measured by how strong an impression it makes in the learner’s memory. Are some people offended by “b__bs” and Hard G_y? Apparently. Do “b__bs” and Hard G_y make mnemonics more memorable? It seems the answer is immaterial to Tofugu, since not offending anyone has been deemed more important than maximizing the effectiveness of the mnemonics. I guess he was afraid of being canceled over “b__bs” and Hard G_y.

I understand that J_seph St_lin is one of history’s greatest monsters, responsible for the deaths of millions. But it’s precisely that fact that makes mnemonics mentioning him (now purged forever, Fahrenheit 451 style) easy to remember. Much more so than the cuddly fictional replacement Tofugu staff came up with, farmhand Jourm.

What’s most confusing about the whole debacle is why anyone so easily offended and wrapped up in their own identity politics would take an interest in a different culture with norms at odds with their own worldview. Reminds me of a certain line from the movie Blade about some people always trying to ice skate uphill. But that’s a whole other topic.



Well, you, apparently. :stuck_out_tongue:

Honestly, the biggest issue with Hard Gay is that he’s extremely dated, and meant nothing to most people here, making him essentially useless for a mnemonic.

Oh boy, tell me about it. How do you even pronounce “Jourm”?


Why, じょうrm of course!


To be fair I wouldn’t consider them visually similar, in the sense of “easy to confuse at a glance”

緑 and 縁 on the other hand…


the way i had to zoom in :skull:


WaniKani personally disappointed me by grading me 66% on my latest review.

Either that or I’m just disappointed in myself.

I agree with you with the radicals though. Sometimes they break things down WAY too much. And that’s what I really blame for my piss poor performance tonight.


other things i’d have liked:

  • the option to remove “burned” across the board, and for specific items, and just cycle them in every 6 months.
  • a “default mode” that works like it does right now, and a “thorough mode” with optional additional reviews, or better yet, the option to adapt the timers yourself.
  • the ability to review things early.
  • a drill mode for the initial learning process.
  • an “emergency room” for items the program identifies as leech, which then go through special treatment.

lots of great improvements are possible, some of which i’d find way more important than a dashboard overhaul.


Yes! Give me ghost reviews and let me crank them up to maximum.


I’m disappointed that I can only burn 金玉 once


Has 金玉 always been your tribe?


You can have this. The procedure is explained here.

There is a script for this:


the site could have those built in though, for people who don’t like scripts. some can’t use scripts either, because they can’t install them at work.


Holy crap, that sounds way better than Jourm. Pity I missed it. Creating a character in one’s head from scratch is much harder than using something that already exists.


I believe you’re failing to see how certain mnemonics can have a real impact on the mental wellness of users. I can only make assumptions about your identity, but I ask you to consider that you may not understand the oppression gay and female users experience in their lives outside WaniKani. As such, you don’t know the effect on those users of repeatedly seeing and being asked to remember mnemonics that are words/characters used by some people to violently attack women and gay people. WaniKani does not exist inside an apolitical vacuum, and I think it was a responsible step for the developers to take. Likewise, I think it’s a good thing that they are no longer using an oppressive dictator as a clever and quirky memory device. Hard Gay, boobs, and Joseph Stalin aren’t bad words. WaniKani isn’t asking us to banish them from the dictionary/encyclopedia. You don’t need to partially censor them. But when they are presented as the default mnemonic, it tells certain groups of users “your feelings of safety are less important than some other users’ convenience”.

I agree with you on all your other points.


Agreed; while Hard Gay is kind of dated, it’s also just old. I find the saber far easier to remember, particularly because most of the words it’s for in the first ten levels are easier to associate with big heroic swords.


WK isn’t perfect and I certainly have a few problems with it but it’s certainly an effective kanji course.

I went from being illiterate to reading light novels in just under two years.

I still think it’s amazing. I just had to relax and do my reviews on time. No headache about building my own program and managing anki. Conviently available as a web app. Good customer support and a warm community.

Starting and sticking with WK was easily my best choice in my Japanese journey so far.


Community standards are set by communities, not by the whiniest members of communities. Presuming that words like “hard gay”, “boobs”, and “Joseph Stalin” are damaging to people’s mental wellness and threaten people’s safety is, or ought to be, a good way to be ignored, if not laughed out.

If we’re going to balk over microthreats on the internet, then let’s add creeping moral panic and censorship superficially disguised as concern to the list. After that, if you still want whatever someone doesn’t like muted, you can lead by example.


I think at level 11 I’m already over 300 Kanji. And with the vocab you actually get to know them pretty well. This took a few months.

When I was in Japanese class, we “learned” Kanji the Genki way. It took forever, made not much sense (just memorization) and I didn’t know much Kanji vocab either. The way Genki “teaches” the Kanji is really an afterthought.


Would you say you felt like a…BAD apple?


Would have probably have stayed with the old mnemonics if convenient. Though the option still holds on the ‘meaning’ lessons, the ‘radicals’ tab never shows the old radical meanings so it seemed users were forced to change. And then when I took a break and had to revisit older kanji I blanked out on, it got a bit confusing on what to use from that point on. As many probably do, I still see both since I can’t unlearn it…but a few radicals got better too like net, dollar and dry. But I miss elephant and Ikea…and going to Ikea, haven’t been there in ages.

Got used to the change eventually, alot of new mnemonics were solid going forward for me using the new radicals…just the occasional mix up some pre-purge era kanji that I have to relearn.