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:
- The overall topic for the chapter
- Some in depth explanations on grammar and vocabulary
- 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.
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:
- No accompanying audio
- 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.
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!