What are pros and cons of Wanikani?

okay, so i’ve been scrolling down the wanikani forum and it seems there’s lots of flaws with wanikani? but i’ve been having a lot of fun (granted i’ve just started, but i may or may not have adhd, how i’m still continuing this is beyond me) so that’s why i’m asking you guys!

and for the cons, are there any other websites you’d recommend?


The pros and cons of wanikani depend rather greatly on the individual and their goals. (good) Recommendations for other methodologies will also greatly depend on the path you want to take.

So maybe you could start with telling us about why you want to learn japanese, what specifically you plan on using it for, any goals and timeframes you are looking to achieve them in, and the level of commitment you are looking for. The latter you might only be able to give a ballpark for if you just started, but thats better than nothing.


Just use the trial period until level 3 and see if it works for you. If it’s still fun after that and you feel like you gained something, then why not :slight_smile:

You will find everywhere on both sides people that enforce their believe on what is right and wrong and are very loud about it (may it be people that simply hate it, or people that defend something like they belong to a cult). However, not everyone is the same type of learner, and no tool is perfect or flaw-less. You need to decide for yourself in the end if it fits your learning process.

A good guide might be to read through the Level 60 celebration threads of other people and their success stories with WaniKani. One point ahead: One tool alone won’t get you anywhere, but WaniKani can be a great supplementary to your studies. The Level 60 threads also often give you a list of tools they have used to succeed in their studies. Another good list you can find here:

Personally, I can recommend WaniKani a lot. Because it works well for me and my study method :slight_smile:


Pro: you get free ice cream every day
Con: it’s ketchup-flavoured ice cream


Actually a lot of the cons right now are for the older, slower-going users.

For example, new kana-only content will soon be forced on everyone, and a lot of people already know the entire first batch from other resources. It also seems that WaniKani is moving from its long-held “Kanji learning supported by vocabulary” mission, to “all-around Japanese learning tool”.

If you are starting from scratch, it’s all pros for you :+1:


Personally I find the pros being it’s semplicity, hassle free set up and polished interface with fun gamification.

The main cons for me is that nonsense of the ‘burn’ mechanism. Sadly there is no such thing as as ‘burning’ in real life, so by the time a new learner will get the opportunity to use the more advanced kanjis learnt in wanikani they’ll have been forgotten already. The mitigation to this con is to go with wanikani very slowly and study grammar in parallel, prioritising it to wanikani (which might be tricky given the fun nature of the app).

I would suggest to go at a very slow speed and maybe don’t even start until you get to level N5. Once you get to that level start wanikani and don’t go past level 20 if you didn’t reach level N4 grammar/vocabulary.


Pros: WK organizes your kanji-learning for you, and has a system that forces you to learn the vocabulary and the ‘reading’ (kana) for a good chunk of the Joyo kanji, plus some extra vocabulary words designed to help you integrate your learning.

Cons: It organizes your learning in ways that can feel constrictive at times. And the context sentences are not great (which is not the point of it, but it can feel like a waste of time/space).

Alternatives: Basically, setting up anki decks, and or Heisig or Textbooks…?

I’d recommend not paying for WaniKani since they have been doing silly things like taking away summary pages. They are also forcing kana only vocabulary onto everyone and the kind of kana only vocabulary being introduced you would literally learn from grammar resources very early on.

If I were you I would do the first free 3 levels. You’d still have access to levels 4-60 just not the SRS part of it, but you’d still be able to see the mnemonics for them. Look into MaruMori.io it teaches everything including grammar. It’s honestly the best grammar resources I have ever seen. It’s been marketed and build as a one stop shop for everything. They most likely later this year will have study vocabulary lists from anime, manga, and video games. Best of all unlike WaniKani MaruMori.io actually listens to feedback so it’s been coming out really well so far. They even plan on making an app version for their website as well.

If your goal is to read then besides MaruMori.I’m (Once they have the study lists up for manga) there is also Crystal Hunters a manga that teaches Japanese. All the guides that show the vocabulary and grammar for the Japanese version is for free. First volume is for free. The rest is for low cost on amazon kindle. Japanese is the easer version and Natural Japanese version is the harder version.


It all depends on how you want to learn – but as others have said, if you’re happy during the trial period expect more of the same. The pro is it keeps you moving and motivated, I’m definitely feeling the knowledge start to sink in. If you want to learn 2,000 kanji and 6,000 vocab, it’s a good option.

I would take some of the criticism with a grain of salt, for several reasons:

Some of it stems from longtime users who are set in their ways and dislike any change, or are very close to completion and don’t want their time extended by new features. You’re new, so that’s not an issue for you.

Some of if it comes from people who are deeply reliant on user scripts or third-party mobile apps to completely change the default experience, and get irritated when they break due to code changes. If you’re happy with WK the way it is, and open-minded when it comes to new features they introduce, this will not be an issue for you.

And just generally, it’s human nature on the Internet to complain rather than compliment, so I think you get a skewed view of what the actual user base as a whole likely thinks. If you hate something about WK, the forums give you an easy outlet to berate the WK team, let off steam and score Internet points. But if you’re generally happy with the service, you’re not necessarily motivated to go out of your way to create a forum account to say that – you’re too busy learning and applying what you learn.


thats bad

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In the level 20 congrats email, I think they explain the concept behind burning (when the item is considered to be learned and is removed from SRS rotation) pretty well:

Many people don’t realize this, but there’s a step after “burned” when it comes to your kanji / vocabulary, and that step is reading. At Level 20, you should be able to do that. It may not be pretty (yet), and it may still be difficult (depending on your grammar levels), but reading is what will get you to that next step. Even though it won’t be easy, it’ll take your Japanese to the next level.


About the app, it’s good for getting started with Kanji and related vocabularies. How good it can be depends on how you adapt it. Naturally, the more you learn, the more you see, the more incompleteness you realize.

Cons: It doesn’t really teach 2000 Kanji properly. Perhaps only around 1000 might be relatively solid because the Kanji-accompanied vocabularies.

Then, it doesn’t really matter, as you might not need to learn Kanji before vocabularies after some time; or you might figure out how to study self-selected Kanji by yourself.

Phonetic components might be enough to help guess the reading. Semantic would help with meaning. Vocabularies might then be easier to remember, unless you really need to know the Kanji meaning.

Another pro is the community. It is pretty reading-focused, so the practical thing: #japanese-language:book-clubs

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@MidoriNoSuika is one of the cons

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Yeah I don’t mind the burning myself, forces people to move on from WK and you can always selectively unburn entries if you realize that you’ve forgotten it.

And if you end up forgetting an entry after you’ve burned it, it probably means that you don’t encounter it a lot outside of WK, so why waste time drilling something that you don’t need?

I think the pros and cons of WK will be vastly different depending on where you are and where you want to go.

If you’re just getting started and you really want to ramp up your reading ability quickly, then going kanji-heavy from the start is probably worth it. Getting through the first ~20 levels of WK will give you a very solid kanji foundation and will make it much simpler to read basic Japanese, including the Japanese that you find in textbooks. Learning Kanji can feel like a daunting task at first, WK will hold your hand and get you started.

The main cons for me are:

  • Lack of flexibility. The stock WK experience is extremely opinionated and it’s their way or the highway. Scripts and third party tools can be used to tweak some things but not everything. This becomes more and more annoying as your kanji knowledge improves and you don’t need WK to micromanage your studies as much.

  • Vocabulary selection is strange sometimes. Common words are missing, but you get to learn some obscure stuff.

  • Examples are often bad and kanji usage is all over the place. It’s ironic that a Kanji learning app can’t seem to sort out Kanji usage in its examples.

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I wish WK would spend more time pointing out the existence of these components and less time making up ridiculous English-based mnemonics.

Like kanji containing 青 are very often pronounced セイ or ショウ, kanji containing 工 are often pronounced コウ, kanji containing 复 are generally pronounced フク, kanji containing 曽 will generally be pronounced ソウ or ゾウ, kanji containing 可 will generally be pronounced カ, kanji containing 干 will generally be pronounced カン etc…

WK almost never points that out, even though I find it massively helpful both to remember the readings of kanji and to guess the readings of unknown kanji. Making those links also means that the reading of kanjis reinforce each-other. That seems like such a wasted opportunity, I don’t understand it.

I guess anybody learning kanji long enough will naturally start to make these connections on their own and WK just wants to offer a backup strat?



  1. It’s a structured system that has been set up specifically to learn kanji/vocab. Trying to figure out what to do on your own to learn 2,000+ kanji can be daunting. Having access to a kanji learning course that has already organized and structured the content for you is helpful.

  2. The course is kind of game like with reviews, levels, etc. Makes it feel like less of a chore to do everyday.

  3. Can go at your own pace. I recommend doing 10 lessons per day. I feel like my retention rate is very good at this pace and keeps my daily reviews to a manageable amount.


  1. No official App. They should have made their own App at the launch of their service, instead people have to rely on 3rd party providers for that.

  2. The Wanikani team refuses to implement features that should be standard. For example, there should be an undo-button (to use for typos, etc.), but even though there has been a call for many years to add these additional features, they refuse to do so. All other learning services I have used: Iknow, Kitsun.io, Bunpro.jp, etc. all have undo buttons and it would be beneficial to have features like this added. They are too reliant on 3rd party scripts.

  3. The review systems is “recall” only. You will learn to recognize/read the kanji and that is it. There is no “production” review. It doesn’t give you a word and then ask you to produce the correct kanji. Therefore, while you may be able to see the words and know there meaning/reading, you may not be able to produce the actual kanji/word when you are trying to write something yourself.

  4. They need better example sentences. They should also voice the example sentences.

Overall, I personally feel Wanikani is the best kanji learning resource available. I would definitely recommend it to anyone wanting to learn kanji.

However, the Wanikani team definitely need to start adding features like the “undo-button”. The lack of these things are what takes their service from a 10/10 to like 8/10. Still a good product, but why intentionally sabotage yourself. Most of the features requested, would be standard on almost all other products, so their decision to ignore these features is so puzzling.

In regard to Marumori.io - I found Marumori to just be ok at best. For example, Not once have I ever read a grammar point on Marumori and thought it was as good and/or better than what I would get from my textbook. I find the textbook descriptions to be way better than the equivalent on Marumori. So much so, that I have stopped using Marumori. Marumori tries to be too joke(y) and informal for my taste.

That being said, they probably have a free trial you could use if your interested.


It’s a polished SRS experience. It works for some, but there are other ways too.

It’s a flashcard app, but they made the flashcards for you. Maybe making your own flashcards is useful though.

It’s also a video game where you level up. This motivates some people.

The con is, it’s a game not everyone likes, but it doesn’t mean wanikani is bad, just not their style and that’s ok.

Try it out for a bit. Try other methods like anki, writing out flashcards you carry in your pocket, etc and see what you like the best.


The criticism is pretty reasonable. How does taking away the summary pages benefit anyone? After doing a review the summary page gives a percentage of how many one gets right and which ones they got wrong. Seeing that percentage gives a user vital information, so if they only got 60% right it may signal to the learner that they need to study more before moving on with more lessons.

I’m personally okay with the kana only vocabulary, but not the way WaniKani is going about it. If they offered a separate track, opt out, something that gives users options that would be fantastic. I also find the way they are teaching the kana only words kind of strange such as for example これ, それ, あれ they don’t even teach those together. Learning from grammar resources whether it’s from MaruMori.io, Bunpo, LingoDeer those words you learn at the same time through grammar websites/apps. Why WaniKani has it all spaced out like those words I have no idea.

People may be either deeply reliant on scripts or third party apps because they have basic functions that just make sense such as a simple undo button, I know this already button, etc that WaniKani doesn’t have and that people have asked for years.

So perhaps the frustration isn’t so much about scoring ‘internet points’ and more on a lot of community members feeling annoyed when asking for basic features that the WK team has refused to implement and not giving any options in regards of the kana only vocabulary.


i listen to a lot of japanese songs and i thought it’d be neat if i could understand them. i’d also like something that’ll keep me occupied for a year or two!

yeah, thinking of it like a video game helps a lot