If you’re learning Japanese, you might want to get a book to start reading and improve your Japanese. But did you know that you cannot pick any manga/light novel if you’re still a beginner? Tempted to do this, and you might end up depressed and disheartened!
What then is a good material for reading practice? This guide will help you to pick books and manga that are perfect for your beginner Japanese practice reading material! If you’re looking for book to help you learn Japanese instead, check out our guide here: Where to Start Learning Japanese
Q: Can I just get any manga/light novel I like?
You can… but actually, doing that will get you depressed instead of increasing your motivation to learn Japanese or level up your reading skill.
Why? Because most manga contain a lot of kanji without furigana (reading of kanji), lots of slang, and complicated grammar structure. So you might (will, actually…) end up confused and depressed. But a manga is a good practice if you have finished learning N3 material though! In fact, it would be recommended!
Furigana (What is Furigana?) is important for beginner because you will need to be able to read the kanji to look for each word’s meaning in dictionary. Here’s a sample of what you might encounter if you pick just any manga you like.
Main Purpose of a Reading Practice Material
Note that these books purpose is not to practice reading Hiragana / Katakana (although you can also use the book for this purpose too if you’d like). The main purpose of these reading practice book will be to expand your vocabulary and get yourself used to Japanese everyday grammar pattern.
It will be hard to learn Japanese grammar with these…
Although it’s possible, but a textbook is a much much better option for this purpose. Check out this link if you want to learn Japanese essential grammar.
There are 3 type of categories we recommend. Picture books, Simple Manga and Japanese-English Bilingual Manga. Well then, let’s start!
Ghibli’s Picture Books!
We really recommend that every beginner Japanese learner need to have atleast 1 of this book. ｡ﾟ✶ฺ.ヽ(*´∀`*)ﾉ.✶ฺﾟ｡
One of the best Japanese reading practice material are children’s books! They are easy to read and mostly written in simple grammar pattern. But what children book do you need to buy? Despite the high price, most of the books are very slim, with very little kanji, and the worse part is that you don’t even know the content until you bought it! Therefore, this series here is something that we really recommend.
Reason to get 1: It’s thick & really worth it!
How thick? Depending on the story, around 150 – 180+. And they cost almost the same with a 10-20 page Japanese children book? And that’s not all, it is also a full color book! Filled with best scenes from each movies. Perfect for Ghibli fans or anyone who just started to learn Japanese
Common 10 – 20 page children books will cost about the same as ghibli movie books due to the illustration cost. But Ghibli use the image from their movies so they are able to press the price.
Reason to get 2: You might be a Ghibli fans
There is a big chance that if you want to learn Japanese, you also like a few Ghibli’s movies. Reading what you love will give you more motivation. And it also a good book as a collection! Have we mentioned that it is a hard cover? Look at this gorgeous character introduction and famous scene of Spirited away!
Reason to get 3: Great for beginners!
This book is made for children and thus it have simple sentence structure! But they’re not too simple for beginner. It’s also have kanji & furigana. You absolutely need furigana to search the meaning of kanji in dictionary. And that’s not all! The font is big and clear. Have we mentioned that the book is quite large? About F4 size but a bit wider.
In summary: It’s perfect!
Yes, if you’re looking for a Japanese book for beginner reading practice, Ghibli’s movie books are perfect! There is no reason for not having this book as your beginner’s Japanese reading practice.Be sure to buy the correct one though. They are also provided in English version, which are okay for collection but not okay for Japanese reading practice (lol)…
Q: But I’m not a fan and doesn’t know any of Ghibli movie
If you’re not a Ghibli lover and don’t know any of the movie. We would suggest Spirited Away. It’s one of the most famous, award winner, Ghibli fantasy story with a very interesting world and a deep meaning behind it. Click to see the movie trailer.
Like adorable characters? Get either Totoro or Ponyo. You could also pick famous story such as Princess Kaguya who was born out of a bamboo shoot. Or if you like biography, plane or touching story, The Wind Rises is a good choice.
Links to get Ghibli’s Picture Books
Easy to Read Manga!
Ghibli’s book was a big picture story book . If you’re looking for a manga/comic which is smaller and mobile, these are the recommended title.
Although very tempting, try to avoid shonen at the beginning since shonen manga commonly use a lot of pun/made upwords that will be hard to understand…
Yotsuba is one of the most recommended manga for beginner. It’s easy to read since the main character is a child (thus it has simple sentences) and it’s about everyday life. Lastly, this manga has furigana!
If this is the first manga you try to read, to avoid frustration (and depression _:(´□`」 ∠):_ ), you might want to have both Japanese & English version side by side to help you with understanding the grammar pattern/nuance of the sentence.
Another recommended manga is Shirokuma Cafe! It’s a cute (and weird in a funny way) story about a polar bear who owns a cafe. (Furigana? Yes!)
This series is very short and comes in 3 fruit flavor (literally! Strawberry, Mango, and Melon! lol) . (Look at that cover!!) Since this series is short, they can be an awesome gift for your friend who is trying to learn Japanese!
Bilingual mangas are good sources to learn Japanese. Most bilingual books are actually published for Japanese people to help them learn English, but it also work the other way around. This can be a good alternative for your Japanese reading practice.
The might be exited to know that the famous Doraemon series is published as bilingual Japanese-English manga!
Pros: Understand set-phrase and onomatopoeia words with no frustration
For example, on the photo, Giant said “気をつける!” (Ki wo Tsukeru!) “Watch it!” (Lit: Careful!) and Suneo said “ぼくのせいじゃない”. “I didn’t do it! (Lit: It’s not my fault)”.
This kind of set-phrase meaning will be hard to understand especially since the word is written in hiragana, so you can’t find which SEI or TSUKERU words that the book means. (There are a lot of SEI & TSUKERU with different meaning).
Onomatopoeia is a sound effect that mimics the thing described, making the description more expressive and interesting but is very hard to be understand by foreign people.
This type of word is used a lot in mangas. As you can see in this screenshot, the word PeroPero is being translated as “NYAH NYAAH~” , YAIYAI~ as “See this? (attracting atention)” and BA as “BLEHH!”
Cons: No Furigana
Unlike Yotsuba or Shirokuma Cafe simple manga, these book don’t have any furigana (kanji reading). You will need a denshi jisho (electric dictionary) to help you identify the kanji you encounter in the book with less frustration.
Doraemon Bilingual Manga Special Collection
These are collection of stories with specific theme! Great book if you want to get a taste of a bilingual books..
Doraemon Bilingual Manga Series
If you want more bilingual books and love doraemon funny stories, get these.
Jippi Japanese-English Bilingual classic comics
These mangas below are bilingual mangas published by Jippi. They are actually classic manga. They are not completed volume. But if you like the classic title, this can be a good choice for you 😀 Note that they are incomplete stories. It has the same layout as the previous Doraemon bilingual manga.
As you can see above, the main text is in English while for every conversation, you can review the Japanese version written nearby. Below are the links to get these books.
That’s all for now
Reading Manga to learn Japanese is a good way to learn, but picking a correct one to read and building good foundation before reading is very important or you will end up with depression instead of increasing your motivation _:(´□`」 ∠):_
We hope that this guide could help you to find your ideal Japanese beginner reading practice book! Click here to see all recommended resources to learn Japanese. Happy learning ｡ﾟ✶ฺ.ヽ(*´∀`*)ﾉ.✶ฺﾟ｡