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5 Easy Manga for Japanese Learners

Looking to put your Japanese reading skills to the test? We've got you covered. Here are 5 easy manga for Japanese learners.

By 6 min read

Manga (Japanese comics) is a form of storytelling that is also a great study method for those learning to read and understand Japanese. It’s important to develop an interest in the language beyond textbooks by applying it to your daily life. Luckily, there are manga titles for everyone no matter the age, gender or interest. If you choose the right books for you, reading manga can be a surprisingly effective and enjoyable way to learn Japanese. Reading a few pages a day can greatly improve reading speed, comprehension and your vocabulary. To that end, here are five easy manga for Japanese learners.

Note: These recommendations are for people who consider themselves intermediate or high-beginner Japanese language learners (around JLPT N5 and above).

1. Doraemon


One obvious pick for beginner manga is Doraemon. While learning Japanese, it’s important to have a basic understanding of their cultural references. One popular anime literally everyone in Japan knows and often references is Doraemon. This long-running series is targeted at children and therefore will have fairly simple vocabulary and simple sentence structures. The story of the manga follows a group of elementary school children and their adventures with a magical creature named Doraemona robot cat from the future whose mission is to help the main character, Nobita, get through the trials of elementary school and win the love of his crush, Shizuka.

When purchasing Doraemon manga you have two options. The first is to go for the full Japanese version. The advantage of this is that any kanji (Chinese characters) written in the manga’s story will have the furigana translation next to them (hirigana and/or katakana characters for those who can’t read the kanji). The second option is to purchase the full English translation written for Japanese learners of the English language. Obviously, the benefit here is the entire story is written in English with the Japanese translations in the margins. However, the downside to the English learners version is that, well… it’s meant for Japanese people and thus the kanji will not have any hiragana equivalents next to them for you to sound them out.

2. Pokémon


Another children’s manga with simple and easy vocabulary and grammar is none other than Pokémon, the worldwide hit video game sensation. Since being adapted into an anime series, it has also been refashioned into a manga — one that is quite easy to read for Japanese learners.

…when choosing the right books, reading manga can be a surprisingly effective study method.

For those that don’t know, Pokémon takes place in a fantasy world where humans live alongside creatures also known as Pokémon (pocket monsters). Pokémon have magical powers and abilities corresponding to their element or species. Humans use pokémon for a variety of everyday tasks from chopping wood to nursing patients in hospitals. Additionally, some humans — known as pokémon trainers — use the creatures in battles to strengthen their pokémon and grow alongside them.

Like Doraemon, Pokémon is a series targeted at children and will thus have simpler vocabulary and sentences. While there are numerous Pokémon manga out there, I recommend Pokémon Adventures, which is based on the first original story.

  • Availability: Pokémon Adventures is available for purchase on Amazon Japan.

3. Your Name

Kimi no Wa (Your Name)

I know I sound like a broken record always mentioning the romance anime Kimi No Na Wa (“Your Name”), but due to its worldwide popularity — like Doraemon — this is one of the few manga that has an English-Japanese version with translations in the margins.

Set in modern day Tokyo and the rural countryside of Japan, Your Name will be filled with useful vocabulary and modern Japanese language. In general, when choosing a manga to study from it’s best to choose one set in the current day to avoid archaic forms of the language.

Thus, Your Name follows a tale of a boy and a girl, Taki and Mitsuha, who live completely different lives in the present day. Yet, as fate would have it, the two find themselves switching bodies in their sleep. In a race to warn Mitsuha and the villagers of the town of Itomori about an impending comet collision, Taki must travel through space and time to save the girl he loves.

4. A Town Where You Live

A Town Where You Live

The romance manga Kimi no Iru Machi, or “A Town Where You Live,” has received high praise for its realism. The story follows Haruto, a high school boy whose life is turned upside down when a girl his own age named Yuzuki moves in with his family and starts attending his high school.

While this manga does include common tropes of the romance genre, it’s rare for a romance manga to follow a couple’s timeline from initial attraction to marriage. The manga creates a captivating story from the drama of everyday situations and the struggles of real-world couples. Set in modern-day Japan, A Town Where You Live introduces phrases used in the home, on dates and in school.

  • Availability: A Town Where You Live is available for purchase on Amazon Japan.

5. Sports Manga: Whistle and Slam Dunk

Slam Dunk and Whistle

While this isn’t a single title, normally you can’t go wrong when choosing manga from the athletics genre for your studies. Sports manga are almost always set in the present day and usually at high schools or junior high schools. Because of that, the language will be current Japanese and the content will be full of useful everyday phrases and vocabulary.

While virtually any sports manga will comprise good material for your studies, here are two that I strongly recommend:

  • Whistle
    Whistle is a soccer manga that follows Sho, a junior high school boy who transfers to Sakura Josui Junior High School from Musashinomori School. While his previous school was well-known for having a powerhouse soccer team, Sho unfortunately was too short to be given a chance to play. The story follows Sho`s soccer journey and his struggle to overcome the disadvantages of his short stature.
    Availability: Whistle is available on Amazon Japan.
  • Slam Dunk
    One of the classic sports manga from around the same era as great hits like Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon is Slam Dunk. As the name suggests, Slam Dunk is basketball-themed and features a delinquent named Hanamichi who joins his school team just to impress his love interest, Haruko. However, upon joining the team, Hanamichi proves to be a natural athlete and grows to love the sport of basketball — one he once hated.
    Availability: Slam Dunk is available on Amazon Japan.

When using manga as a form of study, choose something you like and choose something appropriate to your skill level.

Did we miss your favorite manga on this list? Let us know in the comments below.

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