Simple manga choices?
May 15, 2007 7:37 PM   Subscribe

I want to buy some manga to learn to read Japanese, but I'm not sure which ones to buy...

About me: I live and work in Japan and have for a few years. I speak Japanese somewhat--I think of my ability as very broad but not very deep.

I don't read much Japanese, but I want to do this more as it will certainly help with my overall ability. I can read hiragana and katakana, but only a handfull of kanji.

My plan is to read manga, of which there is certainly no shortage here in Tokyo. I've tried to read some in the past, but had a hard time with manga like "One Piece", which is so laden with kids' slang that I barely understand it even with a dictionary.

SO, what are some good examples of Japanese manga for a (sort-of) beginner? Something with the furigana so that I can at least sound out the words? Subject matter is incedental, but of course an interesting manga is ideal.
posted by zardoz to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
The one that people always seem to recommend is Doraemon. I haven't actually read any myself.

If you don't mind the girliness-- I find that the speech in girls' manga is a little more formal/standard than the speech in boys' manga, and thus easier to read if you're not up on your slang. Most of the things that get published in Ribon and Nakayoshi fit the bill pretty well-- although, well, they're magazines for 8-year-old girls, so you need to have a bit of a tolerance for that.

...Actually, why not get one of the monthly phonebooks? You'll be able to sample a lot of different things and see if there's one that strikes your fancy.
posted by Jeanne at 8:08 PM on May 15, 2007

i would heartily recommend "Japanese The Manga Way: An Illustrated Guide To Grammar And Structure (ペーパーバック)" ISBN-10: 1880656906 or ISBN-13: 978-1880656907 - i'm tired of seeing amazon links so i'm not gonna link to why not ask your local friendly tokyo bookstore to order it for you? this book features a whole range of manga, so has the added benefit of allowing you to decide which, if any, you'd like to read more of.
posted by n o i s e s at 8:28 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Seconding "Japanese the Manga Way", it's a good book. And seconding the 'go for girly manga' sentiment... the non-boy, non-ninja, non-giant-robot, non-pirate, non-etc... 'girly' manga tend to deal with more day to day things with common normal vocabulary. For simple beginner manga, "Yotsubato" (よつばと) and "Crayon Shinchan" have been mentioned as easy fun to read manga with furigana. I would also add the "Aria" manga as a possible easy to read manga (even though I've never seen the untranslated version). I haven't read the manga, but I have watched the anime version, aside from a few nautical terms (the girls pilot gondola's on a flooded mars...), the language is simple and polite. I assume the manga version is the same.

I would also suggest asking the same question on TheJapanesePage.Com, there are a lot of beginners there, but you still might get some good answers if you spell out your current situation. Manga is a hard way to learn Japanese, but if you already understand (mostly) and want to improve your reading ability, they might be able to help a bit more.

I myself practice by reading hentai doujin that I find on various sites.... with the added benefit of limited vocabulary, and learning to read handwritten kanji (and slang/contractions). There are BitTorrent sites where you could download a couple of chapters to see if the manga would be something that you could comprehend without turning to a dictionary every other page...

You can also use the Firefox browser with the Rikaichan plugin to read Japanese kiddie web pages with a little bit of help for the kanji that you don't know at the moment...

Check my profile and email me if you want more details....

Disclaimer: I've been slowly learning Japanese for a couple of years now, and i do web-backend work for We have XMPP based chatrooms, a wiki and forums for people trying to learn Japanese... We have a lot of "OMG I want to learn Japanese because Naruto is so 'cool'." people, but also a lot of people learning and/or living Japanese for other reasons....
posted by zengargoyle at 9:43 PM on May 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

I second 「よつばと」. Great for a beginner.

Also, do you know about the Nintendo DS Kanji Training Software? It's not manga, but if you already have a DS this is a great way to go.
posted by Vorteks at 11:34 PM on May 15, 2007

If you can get the weekly Shonen Magazine in a Asian supermarket/bookstore near you, all the manga have furigana over the kanji. Also, I believe all (or a majority) of the Shonen brand manga have furigana. That's how I practiced. Personally, I don't like Doraemon. I really enjoy Hajime no Ippo. It's about boxing and is fun, but the great thing is the main character speaks like a normal person and not some manga tough guy. A lot of manga that is fun doesn't always teach you words you can use on a daily basis.
posted by m3thod4 at 1:10 AM on May 16, 2007

Where can I order the Yotsubato books online?, obviously, but maybe there's some place with cheaper shipping to Europe - if I'd order one book from, then the shipping would cost six times as much as the book itself.
posted by martinrebas at 1:49 AM on May 16, 2007

I find the shipping from runs a little bit cheaper. (Or, rather, there are more options for cheap, slow, shipping). But in general it's just not economical to order less than $50-60 worth of books at once.
posted by Jeanne at 5:02 AM on May 16, 2007

Martinrebas - You can get the Japanese version from in the US. It costs $7.95, and shipping's free if you spend $25 (so order the first 3).
posted by Vorteks at 7:11 AM on May 16, 2007

Martinrebas - Whoops, didn't notice you said "Europe". I'm pretty sure ships there, but I don't know what it'd cost you.
posted by Vorteks at 7:13 AM on May 16, 2007

Vorteks: Thank you! I just ordered four books.
posted by martinrebas at 8:55 AM on May 16, 2007

Thanks, all, for the help!
posted by zardoz at 5:23 PM on May 17, 2007

Might want to try POPjisyo too. For reading websites, it has a kanji practice game system, where you can practice kanji from the site you select.
posted by MonkeyAround at 5:27 PM on September 19, 2007

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