I wanted to share my Japanese in MangaLand review with you because it was one of the first books I got that really helped me learn and understand Japanese.
The full title of the book is Japanese in MangaLand: Learning The Basics by Marc Bernabe.
If you want a good beginner book that will teach you Japanese, and one that does so in a fun and interesting way, then this book might just be what you’re looking for.
Part Of A Series
I’ll primarily be reviewing the first book in the series, but I wanted to let you know that there are actually quite a few MangaLand books in all.
In the main series there are three books:
- Learning The Basics
- Basic To Intermediate Level
- Intermediate Level
In addition to that, there are two workbooks that correspond to the first two books in the series. These are not required by any means, but are actually short manga series that provide much more examples of the concepts taught in the primary books.
Finally, there are actually two Kanji in MangaLand books that focus on teaching basic to intermediate kanji.
So, let’s get back to the first book and talk about it.
What’s In The First Book?
As you might expect, the first book starts at the very beginning and assumes that the reader knows nothing of the Japanese language.
There’s an introduction that explains how to use the book and then it starts going into the lessons. Each lesson is devoted to a single chapter and there are a total of 30.
The first couple teach hiragana, katakana, and introduce the learner to kanji. It of course talks about pronunciation during these parts so that people can learn how to speak Japanese using the correct sounds.
Then it moves on to some basic expressions such as “good morning” and “what’s you name” and the like.
I thought this was good because it gets people reading and speaking common greetings and such, kind of like a phrasebook would, before it starts to dive into learning the grammar.
In fact, there are a couple vocabulary lessons right after this, and then it starts going over the basic grammar of Japanese.
Lessons are topical, so you would spend some time going over things like “na-adjectives” in one lesson and then you might learn about “days of the week” in another.
I think this is a pretty good way to organize it because people (especially myself) need to go back and review material from time to time.
When the lessons are setup this way, it makes it easy to find the stuff you want to review.
So, after each chapter is finished explaining a concept and the rules you need to know for proper conjugation and such, it then switches over to some real life manga examples that help illustrate what you learned.
This is a super cool part of the book, and I talk about it specifically in the next part of this review.
After that there are ten exercise questions that quiz you on the material from that chapter. I have to admit though, I personally don’t like doing quizzes, and so I would always skip these.
That being said, I do concede that testing on material that you just learned is usually helpful in making you think about and remember the material.
What’s also interesting about the book is that there is an appendix at the end of the book that covers the most basic 160 kanji. It has their readings, their stroke order, and some common example words that they appear in.
This is totally different from the Kanji in MangaLand books that I mentioned earlier.
I think the reason it was included in this beginner book was so that people could look them up and get started with learning them if they really wanted to.
What’s even more interesting is the fact that there’s an introduction to the kanji that’s written by James Heisig!
That’s the guy who wrote the well-known books “Remembering The Kanji” which I have used myself and really love.
In his little introduction part he talks about sound and meaning in kanji, the history of kanji, and effective study methods for learning them. I actually found it to be quite useful.
So, that’s pretty much the overview of Japanese in MangaLand, but now I’d like to talk a little more about the unique aspects of the book (like the manga example).
What Makes This Book Different?
At it’s core, this book is just like many others because it teaches you Japanese through a lessons and grammar based approach.
The main difference, and something that is kind of hard to find, is that it makes learning Japanese fun since it uses real manga examples to help learn the language!
For people who are not interested in Japanese manga, this probably isn’t a good book.
But if you do love reading “Japanese comics” then this is perfect.
What’s also pretty cool about the book is that there is an additional focus on the types of Japanese that are commonly seen in manga, but aren’t really used in real life.
Things like common distortions of words, or types of command-grammar.
In other words, there’s a lot of Japanese that is considered rude or just vulgar in real life, so a typical Japanese person wouldn’t use it, but since manga is a medium that is “larger than life” and explores a lot of different situations, it’s pretty common to see these parts of the language used.
You also hear them in anime a lot, so if you’re like me and enjoy both manga and anime, then this book is a nice fit for that as well.
Also, I should mention at this time that the Japanese in MangaLand: Workbook 1 is the companion book to this first main book that I’ve been talking about.
I got it, and was really glad because one of the main problems with the primary book is that there aren’t as many manga examples as I would have wanted.
However, the workbook is actually a full manga (well, like six chapters and 24 pages) of just Japanese that was taught in the primary book.
There are also a lot of exercises in the workbook, but the main thing about it is that it has a lot of Japanese manga panels for the reader to go through.
I loved this because it allowed me to actually read Japanese manga back when I was first getting started. It was incredibly motivating for me, and I remember having a lot of fun doing it.
My Experience With It
I’m sure you could already tell from the review so far, but I had a really good experience with this entire series, and with this book in particular.
It helped me to get a solid foundation in Japanese grammar and learn a lot of common vocabulary that I see all the time now when reading Japanese.
The use of real manga panels made learning super fun and I still reference back to the book every now and again to look up something specific when I have a question.
I can easily recommend it to other people, and I’ve actually given it as a birthday present before!
Where To Find It
I’ve tried quite a few books for learning Japanese, but this one was definitely the most enjoyable that I used.
Especially if you want to read native Japanese manga at some point, then this is the best beginner book I’ve ever come across.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments.