What level is good for starting Shonen Jump comics?

I’m eager to start reading but not sure what level I’d be comfortable reading and comprehending at. I use BunPro for grammar and am at N4 level.


It’s unlikely you’ll be comfortable at the start no matter what, but you can probably start any time. Shounen manga should have furigana next to basically all kanji, so your level on WaniKani doesn’t matter that much. You’re going to have to look up a lot of words, but if you’re okay with that I’d recommend starting whenever you want.


N4 is about the level I was when I started reading manga, so, from experience, it’s definitely possible.
It did feel hard and I had to look up a ton of things. I would also get massive headaches from the amount of focus that was required, so I had to stop frequently.
Still, it did help improve my reading skills and things got progressively better. Plus, it’s a lot nicer than reading textbooks…


Once you make significant progress on N4 grammar, and once you get comfortable looking up grammar you don’t know, you will find one of the biggest setbacks/slowdowns will be vocabulary.

If you aren’t learning vocabulary yet (or even if you are), I recommend aiming for 2,000 words known and recognizable as an initial goal. This can be done alongside actual reading. I like the subscription service iKnow for this, but you can also go with a free SRS solution such as Anki with the Core 10K deck. These teach words sorted from more common to less common, so you are starting out with words you are more likely to encounter.

After you know 2,000 vocabulary words known, you’ll be able to pick up any manga volume that has about 2,000 words in it, and be able to successfully read and recognized all of…about 150 words.

When reading, you don’t need to commit each word you encounter and look up to memory. Some words you will encounter once, then never see again (in that volume). Other times, uncommon words will show up a lot, due to the genre. (I imagine 海賊(かいぞく) comes up a lot in One Piece, for example.)

As the others said above, you will find it difficult when first starting out. I tried reading Sailor V in Japanese way back when and couldn’t get past the first page. I think I even skipped the first page and went to the second page, and found that was too difficult as well. I gave up on trying to read for some time after that. (There were fewer Japanese-learning resources available on the young World Wide Web way back then.)

If you find you can’t understand anything you try reading, don’t be afraid to pick up an easier series that is not in your genre of preference. よつばと! is commonly recommended. (I find volumes 2 through 4 fairly easier than volume 1, so I’d suggest anyone reading to push through volume 1 even if it’s too hard, then take their time and look things up as needed in volume 2.)

The more you read, the more you’ll get used to seeing grammar patterns. If you’ve learned them already (even if you have difficulty remembering them), seeing them again and again will increase your pattern recognition. One day you’ll go from seeing 食べた as “食べる, and た is…oh, right, past tense form” and to seeing it past-tense. Then you’ll encounter 薄​れ​た and have no idea what it means, but you’ll know it’s past tense. (That’s a simple example, but it will apply to all other grammar with enough exposure.)

Start reading now. If it’s too difficult, don’t give up. Even if you don’t understand it, try at least reading it. If nothing else, you’ll become more efficient (faster) at reading, which will help when you know more grammar and vocabulary. But if you aren’t understanding the material, don’t invest all your time into pushing through it when you can be learning more grammar and vocabulary.

(Sorry for being all over the place in my response!)


As long as you understand basic sentence structure (and can read hiragana and katakana to the extent that you can translate), you can read whenever. I was N3-low N2 a few years back. I could understand Jdramas and read most news articles with minor issues. But now that I have forgotten a lot of my Japanese, I did have bit of trouble breaking into manga. I was mainly frustrating because of the casual tone (which is not super enforced in most courses) and you will move slowly. I recommend reading on a computer so that you can easily have access to a virtual dictionary rather than a paper one. Also, make sure that you write down the words you do not know and revisit them later.

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Like the others said, the WK level isn’t that important for shounen manga. You’ll have furigana for almost every word and you’ll be able to look up unknown vocab on jisho.org with no issue. The problem will be grammar. If you can understand casual Japanese (with contractions and stuff) you’ll have no problem. I’m not sure what that means in terms of JLPT, but I suggest at least N4 (or maybe even N3) for the most basic of the basic grammar.


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