We all know them: cringy weeaboos who say nothing but “kawaii”, “sugoi” or “daisuki”, because they picked up those few words while watching anime and think they just learned Japanese. Don’t be that cringy weeaboo, study USEFUL Japanese instead and become so fluent that no Japanese will ever tell you “Nihongo jouzu desune!” anymore.
Now, there are quite a few online courses for you to choose from, but like with all foreign languages, you need to practice them in order to actually be able to use them. And the one thing you need to practice the most is kanji. Kanji, kanji, kanji, there are just too many of them and let’s be real, you will never learn them all, not even Japanese know all of them, they regularly use dictionaries instead.
But we’re only motivated to study when it’s fun, amirite? so why not study by reading manga in Japanese, amirite? But there are SO many manga, how could we possibly find the one that’s right for us?
My first tip for anyone who has just started studying Japanese and wants to practice basic grammar and vocabulary is that they should imagine themselves on the same level as a Japanese elementary schooler. Of course, actual Japanese kids are more fluent than you, but these kids use easy words and easy grammar. A logical conclusion is that manga with many young characters will have lots of dialogues with easy grammar. So choose manga with many young characters.
My second tip is that there are many manga with furigana, which means that next to the kanji will be text that will tell you how to read that kanji. These manga are ideal for beginners. Furigana are common in manga targeted at a young audience, like shoujo manga or shounen manga. But shounen manga, which regularly have an adventurous or magical setting, will use lots of weird words you won’t need or will actually learn in the beginning of your journey. And romance shoujo manga have a lot of characters using slang, which isn’t really useful for you in the beginning either.
My third tip is to use a translation app like Google Translate or Yomiwa (only iOS but my favorite app tbh) to translate words you don’t yet know.
With Yomiwa you can make the app translate words directly from your camera or an image on your phone, and it has a database of words with usage examples.
And here is how you use Google Translate to translate text from your phone’s camera.
In order to help you find your way into the world of manga in Japanese, I’ve made a list with a selected few titles consisting of 1) manga with kids, 2) boys love manga with kids and 3) boys love manga that just have furigana for the heck of it.
(At the Amazon links you can usually find sample pages you can check out in case you want to get any of them from CDJapan!)
Manga with kids
Sodatechi Maou! by Iijima Kosuke
What happens when three demon kings raise a little human kid in the underworld? They become pampering, hilarious daddies of course 👀 A series completed in 8 volumes about three guys trying to raise a toddler together. My personal highlight is the tiny romance later in the series.
Gakuen Babysitters by Tokeino Hari
Some of you might know the anime, and if you don’t, I definitely recommend it! It’s pure sugar with a side of many many adorable babies! Gakuen Babysitters is about a pair of brothers, older brother Ryuuichi in middle school and younger brother Koutarou just learning how to talk, who lost their parents and are now taken in by an old lady who lost her son and his wife in the same plane accident. The lady is the principal of a school with a babysitter club where the members take care of the teachers’ kids, and Ryuuichi becomes the first and only club member. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry, but most of all it makes you squeal because all the babies are so cute! The series currently has 19 volumes and is still ongoing.
Maou-sama to Shun-kun by monaca
Some of you might know author monaca by her other pen name Nanoka with works like Shiawase Gohan – Maki to Hanazawa! Shun-kun is a toddler who lives with his grandparents, and Mao, a demon lord who’s head over heals for the cute kid (not in THAT way, you little scoundrels) and abandons the demon world to play with Shun-kun every single day. This series currently has 3 volumes and sadly updates very slowly ;-;
Boys Love manga with kids
W (Double) Kosodate Riiman no Nichijou by Nanjo Tsugumi
Single daddies? Single daddies! I love BL stories about single daddies! And there’s even two of them in this manga! Okay, one of them is actually the kid’s uncle who took the boy in after he lost his parents and at the same time the ability to speak, but that just makes the story a little more interesting, right?
Hinadori wa Shiokaze ni Madoromu by Minazuki Yuu
This manga is about two brothers who lose their family in an accident and move to an unknown seaside town. Tired by the move, they stroll through the neighborhood looking for something to eat and find a little restaurant with a charming owner. This one has a bunch of drama and a really good story, very unlike most of the other manga in this list!
Sekai wa Shippo de Dekiteiru by Honjo Rie
Riku is one of the last two Japanese wolves (wolf people who can shape shift) after his parents die in an accident (wow that’s a popular trope in this post lol). In order for him to learn what he needs to know as a wolf, a young man from the bureau of animal people affairs (I guess that’s how you could translate it?) brings the young boy to the second wolf man, a good-looking author who lives in the forest, to receive help from him. And he falls in love with the author’s fluffy tail, I guess.
Boys Love manga that have furigana just for the heck of it
Tanutanu by Nekono Mariko
Dude with a dramatic past runs over a tanuki with his bike and takes it home to care for it and OBVIOUSLY the tanuki can shape shift into a cute young man, duh. After said young tanuki man pressures the guy into letting him live in his apartment because he is oh so hurt after the accident, what could possibly go wrong?
Ganbare Moroboshi-kun by Natsuki Zippo
Hmmmm… I guess the best way to describe these two would be Kashima-kun and Hori-chan-sempai from Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun, but gay? Moroboshi-kun is the school prince, adored by all the girls who chase after him 24/7, so in order to be able to go home in peace, he hides in the gym’s storage room after school. Until one day, another guy climbs in through the window and Moroboshi-kun promises him to help him confess to his crush.
Renchin! by Kakine
This chin is the chin you are expecting, you little pervert, it’s the sound a microwave makes when it’s finished heating up your food! (“to microwave something” literally translates to “chin suru” lol)
A construction worker who lives alone and makes his lunch box by himself every day suddenly gets a visit from a TV announcer who says he wants to try his food. The dude gets hooked on it despite having a hard time actually telling apart what tastes “good” and “bad” and visits the man on the construction site he works at to sneak a bite from his lunch box.
Fudanshi-kun no Honey Days by Yodogawa Yuo
A dirty, dirty book about a dirty, dirty high school fudanshi getting his hair cut by a dirty, dirty hair stylist. This one was pretty popular when it first came out, but do you know that it got a second volume called Fudanshi-kun no Citrus Days not too long ago?? (They both also have two really good drama CDs I listened to a lot when they came out!)
I also recommend reading manga together while reading the drama CD, which is basically the manga as an audio book performed by Japanese voice actors! But that is for another post ;D
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