It’s great to use your interests when studying a new language, which is why we’ve compiled a list of the best manga for learning Japanese.
There are many effective methods to learn the Japanese language. While most people choose a combination of language apps, flashcards, tutors and courses, one often overlooked method is reading manga.
For a full list of Japanese language resources, check out our blog post 100 top resources to learn Japanese.
Of course, reading manga to learn Japanese will not make you fluent, but it’s a fun and effective way to improve your reading and vocabulary. Manga also gives the reader a view into Japanese culture and everyday conversations. And hey, who wouldn’t want to learn Japanese by reading a comic book!
To choose the best manga for language learning, there are a couple of factors to keep in mind.
To appeal to a wider audience, especially younger readers, many manga include furigana. This was meant to help young Japanese readers, but it’s a great tool for Japanese language learners. It becomes a very passive but effective way to learn Kanji. For those interested, we also have a great post entitled the ultimate guide to learn kanji like a boss.
The theme of the stories
You can find Manga based on every theme imaginable, but many of these are not recommended from a language learning perspective. It’s best to find stories that are set in modern times with characters going about their daily lives. These stories will teach you more useful vocabulary and share valuable cultural insights.
With these factors in mind, lets take a look at some of the best manga to learn Japanese.
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This is one of the most popular manga series out there, and a great starting point to practice your reading. It’s geared toward children which means the vocabulary and sentences are written in simple Japanese. The language is easier to understand than many other manga.
The story is about a robot cat named Doraemon who is sent back in time from the 22nd century by Sewashi Nobi. His mission is to help Nobita Nobi (Sewashi’s grandfather), gain the love of Shizuka and change the future.
The stories are quite funny and involve Nobita and his elementary school friends receiving help from Doraemon on their adventures. Doraemon, using his gadgets from the future, usually ends up making things worse, with Nobita learning a lesson at the end.
Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa)
This story has a great setting for Japanese learners. It is split between modern day Tokyo and the Japanese countryside. It has very useful vocabulary and shows current Japanese culture.
The story is about Mitsuha, a high school girl living in Itomori, a small town in the countryside and Taki, a high school boy in Tokyo. Mitsuha is bored living in rural Japan and wants to be a boy in her next life. They somehow begin to switch bodies in their sleep and communicate by writing messages to each other.
The story is very well known in Japan. It’s an adaptation from the 2016 film that became the highest grossing anime film of all time. (Watching the film would be a great way to practice your listening skills after reading the series.)
This manga is about a single father and his green haired daughter Yotsuba. The stories are based on her daily life and her naive interactions with the people in her neighborhood. Especially the three daughters next door.
This series is insanely funny, and follows Yotsuba on her daily journey of discovery and misunderstandings. The motto of the book is “Today is always the most enjoyable day!”
The story is a great one for your first introduction to reading manga. It is based on everyday activities, with simple useful vocabulary. It has very few kanji, with furigana included. And each chapter is a separate story so you don’t need to fully understand one chapter before going to the next.
All of the titles in our list are great, but if you are looking for the very best manga for learning japanese, this is a good place to start.
Chi’s Sweet Home
This series is about a grey and white kitten named Chi, and her exciting adventures in her new home. Chi can communicate with the reader but not with her family.
In the beginning, Chi is just a lost kitten without a name, but becomes Youhei’s beloved pet with many exciting stories along the way. (Like how she got the name Chi.)
Similar to Yotsubato, the stories are funny and based on everyday life, with each chapter being a separate story. The vocabulary is simple and furigana is included.
This is another series about everyday life. It’s situated in a local café where people come to relax and interact after a long workday. The only difference is it’s near a zoo, caters to humans and animals and is owned by a polar bear named Shirokuma.
There are many interesting characters in the story, such as a sarcastic Penguin and a clumsy Panda. It’s another funny, entertaining manga dealing with normal issues like camping trips and karaoke sessions.
The stories are easy to understand with simple, useful vocabulary.
So there you have it. This list is definitely not the only manga you can use to learn Japanese, but these are great ones to start with. One more tip to keep in mind when reading your manga. (Don’t do this on the bus or subway,) but reading out loud will greatly improve your pronunciation, and is something you should do as much as possible.
For some tips on how to improve your pronunciation, check out our post, Japanese pronunciation guide.