Reviews

MangaLand Review – Enjoy Learning to Read

Back in the day, there were very few books on learning Japanese. But now there are TONS of them! And why are there so many? Because they all have their own approach to learning Japanese. One of my favorites is called Japanese in MangaLand, and this post is my MangaLand review!

Let’s get right into it 😉

Do you want to be able to read and speak Japanese better? Do you want to do so in a fun and easy way? If I could give you a way to attain this, would you be interested? If you said yes to any of those questions, then read on. This review is for you!

Japanese in MangaLand Review


Japanese in MangaLand is a book (it’s actually a series of books) that help you attain mastery in Japanese from beginner to intermediate levels. The primary method of the books is to teach you how to read and speak Japanese through Manga (Japanese Comics).

I’m only going to talk about the first volume of the series in this particular review, but the method, style, and format of book #1  also applies to the other books in the series as well. How many books are there?

  • 3 main books on Japanese
  • 2 workbooks that compliment the first two in the series
  • 2 books on learning Kanji using mnemonics

That being said, let’s jump right into this review of Japanese in MangaLand book one!

What Makes This Book Unique?


If you’ve ever studied Japanese and then tried to read manga or watch anime in Japanese, you might have noticed that most of the characters don’t talk the way you learned. That’s because as non-Japanese people ourselves, we are generally taught the polite form of Japanese first so that we make a good impression on the people we meet.

However, most Japanese people talk to their friends or family with the informal form due to their level of familiarity with each other. Japanese in MangaLand teaches you both forms, but focuses primarily on the informal form since this is what is most commonly found in manga.

The format is pretty simple:

  1. The overall topic for the chapter
  2. Some in depth explanations on grammar and vocabulary
  3. And actual manga panels that illustrate the chapter’s lessons

At it’s core, Japanese in MangaLand is a grammar book on the Japanese language, in that it spends a lot of time going over those rules and explaining how it works.

But of course there are hundreds of vocabulary words (and some entire chapters devoted to just that topic) so that you can learn the meat of the language, along with the bones (meat = vocab. and bones = grammar. You like that analogy?)

I think that a lot of Japanese books are very similar to this format, but the primary difference is that Japanese in MangaLand focuses on how the Japanese language is used in manga, and it has real manga that show you how the language works.

So it’s like this: if your goal is to be able to read Japanese manga, then this book is made for you. But if your goal is something else like reading Japanese novels, or speaking to people in Japan, then you’d probably find more value in something else.

It’s Not WHAT You Do, It’s HOW You Do It.

You’ve tried learning new Japanese vocabulary the scholastic way, right? You have a list of words that you have to memorize, and good luck too? This is where MangaLand is different.

Since Japanese in MangaLand uses actual manga to help you win the game of Japanese, you get to see the language in action.

Japanese in MangaLand Example

 

You used picture books to learn how to read English when you were a kid right? I sure did! And I enjoyed the heck out of it too.

You see, when we can connect words to pictures, it becomes real for us on not only a mental level, but also on an emotional level as well.

It’s also a great way to learn how to use words and phrases. Have you ever been in a situation where you couldn’t explain the definition of a word, but you knew how to use it correctly? That’s an example where you learned from the situation (context). And that’s what learning Japanese with Manga will do too.

In other words: using manga to solidify what you’ve just learned helps you understand it at a deeper level because you are now able to connect the new words to the pictures that you see. This process really gives life to the words and phrases you learn. It’s also a ton of fun for anyone who like to read manga or comics!

For me personally, being able to read Japanese manga in the native language was one of the primary reasons for me to learn the language. I can only speak for myself, but getting this book was a no-brainer since it taught me exactly what I wanted to learn.

What You Will Learn


Japanese in MangaLand has a lot of information. If you read each chapter and do all the exercises, here is what it will teach you:

  • Correct Pronunciation (even without hearing natives, believe it or not)
  • Basic expressions that get used everyday
  • How to read the Japanese scripts – Hiragana & Katanana
  • How to read 160 Kanji (a good start for beginners)
  • Japanese grammar and word order (perhaps the hardest thing for newbies)
  • A huge vocabulary of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and more
  • And some cool things about the Japanese culture

It’s also the best reference book I’ve found to date. Just the other day I wrote a post on when you should use “sama” instead of “san” after a person’s name. What did I do before writing the post? You guessed it. I read the chapter on name suffixes. It only took me five minutes.

There will be many times when you are studying Japanese and you will run into a situation that makes you go, “wait… I thought that this meant that other thing… ??????”

Those are the best times to pull out a book like Japanese in MangaLand and find out what the heck is going on.

What Do Other People Think?

I can only speak from my own personal experience when it comes to using Japanese in MangaLand (that’s what this whole review has been about!). That doesn’t necessarily make what I have to say wrong or right, it just means that that’s my understanding of it.

But there are a lot of other people who have used it and left their own (short) reviews on it over at Amazon.com

If you want to check out the testimonials of other people who have tried it, then you can click on that link to see them. As of this writing, there is an average of 4.1 out of 5 stars for the book with dozens of reviews!

Not too shabby, eh?

Let me briefly talk about the downsides

This is not a perfect product. For sure there are at least two problems with it that I have found. They are:

  1. No accompanying audio
  2. Only a moderate amount of manga examples

Since it’s a book, you won’t be able to hear how any of the words sound. That could have been solved with a CD that comes along with the book, but unfortunately there is none.

I think the best way to overcome this is for you to focus really hard on the section that explains pronunciation. And also to use something that will let you hear Japanese words; like YouTube videos for example.

Okay, so I said that there is only a “moderate” amount of manga examples in the book. I would have really liked to have seen more! Perhaps 50% more would have been just the right amount I think. And if there could have been several related panels in a row instead of them all being isolated examples.

But I understand that it was probably hard to get that many mangaka to share anything in the first place, so I don’t want to knock on this too hard.

You want to know something cool, though?

They actually did create an actual manga that uses the material you learn in the first book! But it’s in a separate book… 🙁

It is actually the accompanying workbook for Japanese in MangaLand Part 1, and if that is also something that you are interested in, then you can check it out here.

A Final Note


As you may or may not know, I am not a native Japanese speaker. However, I have been studying Japanese for over five years and  I have read many books about it. Some of them were great, some of them not so great.

Let me just state for the record that I personally feel that Japanese in MangaLand is great.

I am a such big believer in this book because of how much it helped me in my own personal studies. Speaking Japanese can be a little tricky for English speakers, but reading Japanese is on a whole other level! What Japanese In MangaLand will do is take you from start to finish, and hold your hand the whole time.

The best part is that you will still use the book year after year.

Personally, I still open it up every day or so when I need a quick refresher about some specific topic. In addition to that, it is also a very beautiful, heavy book and feels great when you hold it in your hands (not that THAT really matters, but ya know!).

Unfortunately this book is no longer in print and will eventually become unavailable (can you believe there’s no Kindle version?!).

So my question to you is this: Do you believe that this book can help you? If you said yes, I highly recommend you purchase your copy now while you still can.

It’s helped a lot of people so far and it can be your turn too if you’d like.

But at the end of the day, whether or not you decide to get it for yourself, if you found value in reading this review please do me a favor and leave a comment below!

Have you used this book before? What about a book that was similar to it? Leave me a comment on what you think and let me know!

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.

      If you are interested in how a Japanese course can help you, check out the review I did on Rocket Japanese by clicking the link below.

      How to Learn Japanese – A Rocket Review

      The most important thing is to be consistent and work on it a little bit each day. And you can always come back here to learn more! Thanks!

  • 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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