Reviews

Japanese in MangaLand Review (Super Fun)

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:

  1. Learning The Basics
  2. Basic To Intermediate Level
  3. 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.

Here’s Where I Got Mine

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

30 Comments

  • Stephen

    Interesting! I will definitely consider this book when I start learning Japanese.

    I’ve wondered for a while whether I should learn Chinese or Japanese but I think that my mind has not been more or less made up. I think for a language like that a good learning resource, such as this book, will be fundamental.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I also was in that same boat of choosing between Chinese and Japanese when I first decided to pick a language. I ended up going with the one that was more connected to the things I was interested in on a daily level during that time of my life.

      Of course, there’s no reason why you can’t eventually be fluent in both languages! Lot of people know 3, 4, 5 or more languages and are very skilled in all of them. That goal of learning many languages is an awesome one!

      If Japanese is what you want to get started with, then Japanese in MangaLand will be an invaluable resource. I’ve had mine for quite a while now and I still find myself cracking it open every now and again in order to get clarification on something, or find a good example of a grammar’s rule.

  • Katie

    This is such a cool way to get going had no idea that you could do it this way, many years ago I had a Japanese pen friend he taught me some of the basics never thought to do this as a language, maybe I should have, though I do love Manga and Anime, my nephew is a big fan and recently got a book to learn Japanese looks quite heavy going will be suggesting this one to him for sure and will tell him to check out your site, the next thing on his list is a visit to Japan so who knows he might be able to have enough skills to use Japanese

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey, that’s pretty cool about your Japanese pen-friend. You don’t hear about that kind of thing a lot anymore in our digital age!

      Yeah I hear ya about the book’s contents being “heavy.” A lot of the more well known Japanese books (like Genki) are primarily designed for classroom use where you have an in-person instructor there to guide you and explain any concepts that are harder to understand from a book.

      The problem with using classroom-like textbooks is that it can get boring pretty quickly, which doesn’t motivate you to keep going at all. I think a better approach is to make learning the language fun so that you are eager to study and learn more, even when you run into obstacles.

      Everybody is a little different in what they enjoy most, but for me, using manga was an awesome approach! If you also enjoy manga, this might be a good fit for you too!

  • Margaret

    This is a very good review of the book. My interest was captured right away and I like the layout is clear and easy to follow along. There’s nothing worse than complicated grammar books that are too hard to understand! 

    Thanks for explaining why the book is unique and what it offers. I also like the fact that other people’s reviews have been mentioned on Amazon. I’ll have to check those out as well.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey, no problem! I also felt that it was a very interesting way to learn the language the first time I heard about it. 

      Learning Japanese while having fun??? What a concept! Languages were taught WAAAY differently in school back when I was in college. 

      Actually, the way school teaches probably hasn’t changed all that much. But it seems like more unique ways to learn are being invented all the time thanks to thinks like phone apps, video games, and more.

  • Matt's Mom

    I think these are great! My son likes to watch Japanese anime and he watches them in Japanese even though he does not know Japanese. He says he understands what is going on, and he still watches them. I am going to have to get him these books. I think they would be really helpful to him, and he would definitely enjoy them.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey that’s awesome! Your son is already ahead of the game by watching them all in Japanese and learning the language from the context!

      The Japanese in MangaLand books are really great at explaining the “rules of Japanese” like all the grammar stuff and certain things that make Japanese unique as a language. 

      The primary drawback is that, since it’s in book format, there is no native audio to listen to. But since your son is already watching a lot of Japanese anime, he should be covered in that area!  

  • Craig

    I really love reading manga. Sometimes I think it’s even better than anime (don’t kill me!). I certainly have more manga volumes on my bookshelf than anything else at least.

    There’s also an other book that teaches you Japanese through manga called “Japanese the Manga Way” on Amazon. But I haven’t used it myself.

    Do you know if that one is any good?

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, I’ve seen that one on Amazon, but I have not yet picked up a copy to try out. I probably will at some point as I’ve heard that it’s even better than Japanese in MangaLand.

      If and when I do, I’ll definitely be writing a review of it on here and comparing it to the MangaLand series to see just which one is better.

      All that being said, I’m sure that it’s pretty good as it has received a lot of positive ratings.

  • javier

    Hi Nick, I’ve always thought that Japanese is an interesting language but so hard to learn. However, with the information, you give us in this review about the MangaLand series I feel motivated to learn Japanese using that method. It seems like a great way to start learning Japanese and especially for those of us who love manga.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Javier, yeah I think that learning any language is quite the undertaking and involves a lot of dedication and hard work. 

      Japanese in particular is tough due the the things that make it unique, like it’s writing systems, omission of words during conversation, and use of spoken particles. 

      It’s just so different from most other languages.

      That being said, if you can turn learning Japanese into a game that you find fun and exciting, then it actually becomes a lot easier to understand it!

      I think that’s one of the main differences between Japanese in MangaLand and other books that get people started. This one is really cool to go through and use if you also like to read lots of manga. Which I do!

  • Excelle

    I’d like to learn a second language and though I have considered the Japanese language as an option, after reading this post I think I might just enjoy this choice!

    I like that you talked about starting from the basics and for someone that has no clue on the language can really benefit.

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Excelle, yeah I think most people who are monolingual have a desire to speak and understand a second language. Considering the thousands of languages out there, there is quite a lot to choose from! 

      As long as the language you choose to learn has some personal benefit to you, it becomes a lot of fun during the process. And you always have your personal end goal to look forward towards too. 

      The Japanese in MangaLand book was one of the first I got since I love Japanese, and I love manga! It’s a really great resource if you also love those two things! 

      But I think that if you want to learn Japanese, but you’re not all that into manga (or anime) then you might be better off with an alternative grammar book. It really all depends on your personal preferences. 

  • Jacqueline

    I love learning languages and currently, I am learning Biblical and Modern Hebrew. I learn better visually rather than taking in lots of textual information. It sounds like the mangaland series is a great source for learners of Japanese. Is this specific to the Japanese language or are there versions for Hebrew and other languages?

    Thanks
    Jackie

    • Nick Hoyt

      Hey Jacqueline, I know what you mean. I also find it easier to learn from a visual perspective most of the time when taking in new information. I think a lot of people do, and that’s why picture books are so popular with young kids.

      If you’re looking for a similar type thing, but for learning Hebrew, then check out this one:

      Time to Read Hebrew Volume One

      It doesn’t use manga, but it’s the same basic concept and should work pretty well. 

  • Daniel

    I’ve got one of the MangaLand books for Japanese. It’s pretty good, but I wish there were more manga examples. I guess that’s what the workbooks are for?

    • Nick Hoyt

      Yeah, the workbooks each have a specially made manga that uses the material that was taught in the main books. They are pretty cool! And it feels great to be able to read a Japanese manga and understand it all!

  • Cathy

    Manga is such a great resource for learning Japanese language. When I was a student exchange, I think the popular ones were Slam Dunk and Yu Yu Hakusho. They got me addicted and I was picking up slangs like one of those youngsters. They help me mingled with the local students better, but not so in my Japanese Proficiency Test where words are more proper. But I managed somehow.

    If you find language books boring, I would definitely recommend reading manga instead!

    • Nick Hoyt

      So true! It’s good to have both and Manga will help more with normal dialog and slang. I have not read Slam Dunk, but Yu Yu Hakusho is awesome!

  • Nikola

    Konnichiwa Nikku-san. I like this method, learning kanji through manga. I think it would be of great help to me. It has been two years since I started learning Japanese and have not touched kanji yet, it seems so hard. Maybe I will try with this book. I like anime, so…

    Mata Ashita Nikku-san. Maybe I will return to your site tommorow 🙂

    • Nick

      Konnichiwa Nikola-san!

      I’m glad you like it! It’s a really unique and fun way to approach the language. And it’s also a great resource for anyone who wants to learn Japanese to have.

      Mate ne!

  • jschicanha

    I have a Japanese friend and I use to to communicate with him in his own language, but I didn’t want him to teach me. I just wanted to surprise him by talking to him in his native language without him knowing where I learned it from.

    Thanks for the information and please keep me updated with any other information that you might come across!

    Yours in learning

    Jose

    • Nick

      That sounds great! I also like to surprise people like that. And I will definitely keep this place updated with more useful inforamtion.

  • Vlad

    I think that all (or maybe just most) anime fans wanted to learn how to speak Japanese at least once. It does seem like a great product, definitely something that’s worth looking into!

    Cheers!

    • Nick

      Hey Vlad, I think you’re right about most anime fans wanting to learn to language at some point. No more needs for subs!

      I just wish the book would have come with a CD that you can listen to. That would have been perfect!

      Thanks!

  • Anh Nguyen

    Hey there,

    I love Japanese and I love manga so this book immediately caught my attention. I learned Japanese before but never gotten really far with it. And this can be my chance to pick it up again.

    Do you think learning on your own would too difficult? Should I also attend a class?

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers,
    Anh

    • Nick

      Hey, I think you can definitely learn a lot on your own. Almost all of my learning was done through reading and a few Japanese courses that let you hear native speakers and respond back to them as if they were with you in person.

  • Marley Dawkins

    This site is my official hub for advancing my Japanese language skills, I’ve learnt many terms and phrases from Manga content already in my life, and after reading this review of the Japanese MangaLand series, I’m really thinking about getting this.

    Seems like a 10 out of 10 product to me!

    Anyway always a pleasure to read your content, keep it up 🙂

    • Nick

      Hey man, I’m glad you liked it! It’s by far the best book I’ve come across when it comes to learning how to read Japanese. Plus I love Manga!

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