Who says Japanese language books need to be difficult and boring?

Want to familiarize yourself with reading Japanese in an exciting way?

Then start with a Japanese manga! Mangas are Japanese comic books that are mainly composed of drawings and talk bubbles. For beginners in Japanese who are uncomfortable with reading Japanese language books, mangas may be the perfect tool to get you started.

Before introducing some tips on finding and reading a manga, here are some benefits of reading this particular type of Japanese language book:

  • Illustrations complement the reading comprehension process
  • Thought bubbles provide examples of Japanese spoken discourse
  • Beginners can finish each book at a quicker pace
  • Contents tend to be action-based and easy to understand

In this article, I will introduce the best mangas for beginners in the Japanese language, as well as tips to find more titles!

Tips For Reading Japanese Manga

Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of your Japanese manga!

1.] Select works that fit your taste

The most important thing to remember about manga is there is something for everyone. Manga is chiefly categorized by audience first, then genre. There are generally 5 demographics of manga audiences.

  1. Shonen: Manga targeted at tween and teen boys.
  2. Shojo: Manga targeted at tween and teen girls.
  3. Seinen: Manga targeted at adult men (18+).
  4. Josei: Manga targeted at adult women (18+).
  5. Kodomomuke: Manga targeted at young children

With this said, it is better to consider these genres as marketing outlines, rather than definitive divisions for readers. You may fall under one category of demographics and still like mangas in another category!

After you have narrowed down your demographic category, you can select certain sub-genres that fit your niche. Examples include “romance”, “action”, “historical”, “slice of life”, and many many more!

You can use the AniList Manga Search Engine to help you find your manga of interest. Just insert your category and sub-genres to get a complete list of recommendations.

From cute romantic comedy to stomach clenching gore, mangas come in various shapes and sizes

2.] Read the Sidelines!

There are three main types of writing that appear in a typical manga.

The first is the comment and thought bubbles. These texts are usually written in typed font and represent the voice of the characters. The style of speech can differ based on the personality and background of the character speaking. These bubbles move the plot forward and play an integral part in the storytelling.

File:Wikipe-tan manga page1.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Here is an excerpt from the manga “Ike Ike: Hykka Jiten Musume”. The speech bubbles are the main actors in moving the story forward.

The second type of writing is narration. These texts reveal the background information of the particular scene. It often plays on dramatic irony, since the readers are able to obtain information that perhaps none of the characters actually know. The narration is also written in typed writing, though it may have a certain font that indicates its third perspective quality.

File:Wikipe-tan manga page4.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Can you find the side notes in the above manga art? Pay attention to the small scribbles above the the characters’ heads. This particular art has side notes for the text bubble as well!

Lastly, there are the sound effects and side notes. These are the whipped cream to the pumpkin pie. While these texts may not be crucial in moving the plotline forward, they provide flavor and zest to each scene. Many manga artists use calligraphic texts that appear like scribbles when drawing in these side notes. While its small size and distinct font style may make it difficult to read, readers can gain so much more insight from the reading experience by taking time to decipher these notes. I recommend you to pay particularly close attention to this hidden treasure!

3.] Pay Attention to Speech Patterns and Styles

As mentioned above, speech bubbles are the main players in relaying the story. In addition to moving the plotline forward, these texts also provide great opportunities for foreign readers to learn the speech styles associated with the demographics of the characters. For instance, a motherly character may use a lot of feminine suffixes and soft language, while a villainous character may use harsh tones and brute suffixes. By getting accustomed to the certain speech patterns of each character, you can familiarize yourself with the nuance and connotative meanings hidden behind the structure of the Japanese language!

Getting Started: Top Picks for Japanese Language Learners

One Piece
One of the most popular manga in Japan is One Piece, which is an adventure story with humorous pirates and maritime battles. It has furigana over the kanji, making it easier for beginners in the Japanese language.
Access here: ONE PIECE pdf free download
[Once you get to the page, just click on the green button that reads “はじめから読む”, which means “read from the beginning“!

Another manga that you can read to learn Japanese is Naruto. Perhaps you are familiar with this title for its animation and video game versions. The manga tells revolves around Naruto Uzumaki, a young ninja who dreams of becoming the Hokage, the leader of his village. This series is also written with furigana, so Japanese language learners who are unfamiliar with kanji can enjoy the book, as well!
Access here: NARUTO pdf free download
[Once you get to the page, just click on the green button that reads “はじめから読む”, which means “read from the beginning“!]

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba
This manga follows teenage Tanjiro Kamado as he strives to become a demon slayer after his family is slaughtered and his younger sister Nezuko is turned into a demon.
Access here: DEMON SLAYER pdf free download
[Once you get to the page, just click on the green button that reads “はじめから読む”, which means “read from the beginning“!]

Glass Mask: Glass no Kamen
This is a romance manga in the shoujo genre. It is a coming-of-age story of Maya Kitajima, a young actress striving to rise to the top. Once you are finished with the manga, you can check out its animated series too! It’s a classic!

I hope this brief introduction to mangas will help you to try learning Japanese through this unique type of Japanese language book!