When I started to read manga I was always looking for the ones which contain furigana to make picking up new vocab easier. On top of that, I was under the impression that manga with furigana support generally was a little more on the easy side with their content. Don’t ask me why I thought that because when young Japanese boys and girls still may have some problems with their Kanji reading skills, they, of course, are speaking Japanese perfectly.
There is no limitation in vocab or grammar and why should there be any. These kids are already going to high school. I was obviously thinking about manga which were aimed at kids, young kids.
Nevertheless, there actually are some manga out there that are easier than others and contain furigana, which really makes picking up new vocab much more comfortable. But now that we cleared that little misbelief we can continue with some great manga recommendations for Japanese learners.
If you haven’t read my previous manga recommendations:
– Easy to read manga for Japanese beginners Vol.01, Vol.02, Vol.03
And if you’re not sure how ordering manga from Japan works check my guide about how to order books from Japan.
This time content only, no furigana restrictions
I probably made my point clear why you shouldn’t give two cents about if a manga has furigana or not to judge about its difficulty. Especially if you already started with WaniKani. Read something without furigana and be amazed that you probably don’t recognize some Kanji you always seemed to ace at your daily WaniKani practice.
That’s why I’ll just have some recommendations in here which are not too challenging and all have one thing in common: They are good fun and worth your time (and money).
I’m a sucker for everything by Naoki Urasawa. he’s just the most brilliant contemporary mangaka. Pluto is a futuristic, philosophical masterpiece and his epic stories are yet to find a true challenge. The Yawara 完全版 (complete edition) was released at the beginning of 2014 end gets two new volumes every month.
I only bought the first two for now but will probably buy some more with my next honto order. Yawara is a manga about Judo and a young girl who is forced by her strict grandfather to keep on practicing. Just because she is so good at it.
I’m still at the very beginning but the manga has all the ingredients I like about Urasawa’s works in general. It’s mainly a comedy manga but always manages to be serious enough to introduce more mature themes without being off.
When I bought the first edition there was a DVD with some episodes of the anime attached. Unfortunately, this wasn’t for free and did cost 1000¥ on top.
2.) Hikaru no go
If it wasn’t for Great Teacher Onizuka this would probably be my favorite Jump manga. Forget about Bakuman and its ridiculous love story, this is definitely the best work by Takeshi Obata and a manga classic that you should definitely give a try. The 12-year-old Hikaru discovers an old go table in their attic and when he touches it, the soul of a Go teacher from the Edo period appears. But only he is able to see him. What’s following is the story of how Hikaru wants to become the GOAT Go player. The drawings are fantastic and the story has a unique vibe that just sucks you in. When I received the manga I made a couple of pictures and wrote some more about the series. Give it a look, because the Hikaru no go 完全版 really does look stunning.
The manga contains furigana and is relatively easy to understand. If you’re comfortable with Yotsuba you should give Hikaru a try. I found it the most approachable Jump Manga so far and story-wise it’s above everything I have read from Jump. Except for GTO, of course.
I discovered this one over at chringle and just thought I would give it a try. A boy from a gangster family is supposed to date a girl from a Yakuza family so that there will remain peace between the two families. Reads as ridiculous as it sounds. I read the first volume some time ago and even started with the Anime which recently began airing but suddenly lost interest while waiting for the next episode to arrive. Should really pick this one up again. It was actually the Yakuza element that got me interested in the title in the first place, unfortunately, it’s only a minor element, at least in the first chapters.
It’s a Jump manga, so it contains furigana but (like I wrote above) this is one of the more difficult ones and the partway yakuza setting doesn’t make it any more simple. But if you have a knack for these very Japanese love stories where the two lovers overthink everything and make a huge deal out of it, this is right up your alley.
4.) ハンツー x トラッシュ
This is one for the boys, who are into water ball. The story is about a first-year high school student who has to decide on a school club to join and because of his interests, he picks the water-ball club. Guess what his interests are. ハンツー x トラッシュ is actually much more decent then one would expect from the cover. The story is well written (with the essential dose of love story) and it’s highly entertaining (if you are into water ball – and girls).
It doesn’t contain furigana but is on the easy side. This one would actually one to recommend if you want to get rid of furigana and try yourself with an all Kanji manga for the first time. I’m currently reading the third volume. It’s the perfect stuff when you don’t want anything too difficult or complex in the story. Just a very straightforward manga with the right amount of ecchi.
5.) 聖☆おにいさん (Saint Oniisan)
Jesus and Buddha are roommates in modern Tokyo while taking some time off on earth. Each chapter shows the two living their daily lives as tourists with frequent puns on each other’s religion. Awesome idea and for this worth buying alone. I just got the first two volumes and it’s something of a long-time goal for me. One day I can read this comfortably in Japanese. At least I hope so.
I understand bits and pieces but when the two boys are talking about philosophical stuff, my Kanji reading ability is not on my side. Still, worth a look, even if it’s something you’ll tackle later on.
I just had to include this title here, because it’s the most awesome idea for a manga I’ve come across in a long time. There is also an Anime out there but I haven’t watched it yet. If it’s any good, please let me know.
6.) 東京旅さんぽ (Tokyo Tabi Sanpo)
Two girls are taking a trip to Tokyo because they can’t afford to go abroad. Each chapter takes place in a different area in Tokyo, with lots of realistic drawings and everyday story charm. If you’d like to discover Tokyo through manga, this is the one for you. There are only two books and I highly recommend buying both at once.
After finishing the first one you’d be angry if you couldn’t continue reading immediately. Not because these two girls were especially funny or interesting. It’s all about the city – and Tokyo is awesome. Nuff’ said.
There are no furigana but with basic skills, it’s really doable. Everyday stuff, nothing too fancy and actually quite good practice for your Japanese.
I’m probably done now with my easy to read manga recommendations. From now on I’ll have articles about Japanese manga again but probably not in the same manner.
More like, some recommendations with good stuff for you to read. The last one here was compiled with this in mind so there is some (hopefully) good stuff for everybody in it. At least I hope so.
We all knew it but I just had to do another entry in the series. Continue reading Vol.05.
Awesome – going to pick up Yawara! and Tokyo Tabi Sanpo right away =) Thanks for a great series of articles Jakob!
Thanks a lot Adam. You picked two great titles there. Did they already arrive?
I want to pick up Nisekoi, but would you say it’s too difficult for a Japanese beginner (have partly done RTK, Tae Kim Japanese grammar, and some Anki cards) or alright/fine since it has furigana? Thanks for all your manga articles btw. Great series and already picked up a few =)
Thanks a lot for reading Erik. I find Nisekoi to be a little tough. Especially the parts when the two family heads interact (and all the Yakuza slang of course). But maybe it’s right up your Japanese alley. The books are so cheap that I’d suggest to just buy the first volume and look how far you can get. If it’s too frustrating just put it back on your bookshelf and try it again a year or so later. That’s what I constantly do and when you finally pick something up you once had real trouble with understanding and nearly get the whole thing, it’s awesome.
Hmm, alright then I’ll probably pick it up =) should I pick up like 4 volumes to save on shipping costs, or just order some other manga? Which are your personal favorites for beginner manga? Sorry for asking all this , but thanks in advance ^_^
No problem at all, always happy to help :) I’d only pick up the first volume and see how you like it first.
For some suggestions: Did you try Hikaru no Go (which is displayed above)? Fantastic story and art. And don’t forget the latest Akira Toriyama oneshot “Jaco the galactic patrolman”. It’s really awesome https://japanesetease.net/life-dr-slump-new-manga-purchases/
I don’t know if you’ll still see this since it’s already been 3 months since you posted this, but thanks for making these posts! They’re awesome and I plan on getting one or two of these mangas throughout your 4 lists sometime soon.
I also watched the Saint Young Men anime and I think it’s great, very funny! You definitely should watch it since you’re already interested in the manga. It’s in English Subtitles, by the way.
Of course I’ll see the comment, I see everything what happens on the site :) Thanks for the kind words, really happy that you like the lists.
There is an Anime of Saint Young Men? Really have to look for this one, tried reading the series but it’s unfortunately still above my Japanese level.
Have fun reading manga and let me know which titles you picked.
Ah, sorry – I meant Saint Young Men movie which I watched here: ( http://kissanime.com/Anime/Saint-Young-Men-Movie ). They made also 2 OVAs! Here’s where I watched them: ( http://kissanime.com/Anime/Saint-Young-Men-OVA )
I’m getting Yotsuba&! first since you keep mentioning it and since I really just need to make my reading a lot smoother (instead of going like “yo…yo…tsubaaa…tsuba…to, yotsu… yotsubato!”)
Yeah, Yotsuba is definitely a good choice. Don’t be put off after reading the first volume. I found this one to be a little more difficult than the rest of the bunch.
2 OVAs, nice. I’m currently very much into watching Anime on Blu maybe there is even a nice disc available. Seem like something I could really enjoy.
Wow I really love this site! Just discovered it C:
The pictures are so beautifully taken and the content is so well written, please keep up with the good work!
So glad to hear that you enjoy the page. Keep me going :) Thanks a lot, let’s stay in touch.
Is Yawara a good beginners manga? I love Naoki Urasawa’s work, like 20th century boys and monster(perfect edition). I would love to read this manga in japanese, but since i need to learn japanese, would it be a good beginners manga?
Looks like we’re on the same page here, I love everything by Urasawa as well. Great taste :) unfortunately it’s still a Seinen manga, doesn’t contain any Furigana (the small Hiragana reading above the Kanji) and is overall too complicated grammatically-wise. From your last comment I know that you haven’t started learning Japanese yet and even if some manga are perfect for beginners (likes the ones from 1+2 of the Easy to read manga series) they are still aimed at native readers.
Try to get the first chapters of Genki done and then get yourself the first volume of japanese graded readers https://japanesetease.net/japanese-graded-readers/ I’m sure you won’t regret it.
Thank you for these tips, I already picked up some Yotsuba& and have plans to buy more~
Just a general question – do 4komas usually come with furigana or does it vary a lot? I have Hidamari Sketch and Sketchbook in my eye (both my heart interests, already own some HidaSketch in English as well as complete DVDs – those are a bit pricey in Japanese, though) and would like to know more before getting them (though I probably will anyway).
4komas usually don’t come with furigana. Or at least every one I’ve seen so far didn’t sport any (including あゆまんが大王 from the creator of Yostubato)
Dads are really expensive in Japan and I don’t really get why that’s the case. Really jacked up prices in this department.
From what I’ve been told by a knowledgeable friend, it’s the history of the approach and market model – in USA, the DVDs are taken as a visual media, in Japan they are considered a collector’s thing. This enables Japanese companies to be able to sell less of them to make anime a sustainable thing (about 5 000 is the usual number of DVDs needed to sell to get into black numbers these days, 10 000 is already a fairly nice success).
Thanks for the info regarding 4koma manga~
Thanks a lot for sharing that information Sanya. Also read a lot about Anime “making their money” solely through the Dvd/BR business. If I’m correct they even have to pay to get some air-time on TV which is regarded as advertisement for the shows. Not quite sure how accurate that is though. Nice holidays btw :)
I’ve been contemplating getting YAWARA! for a while now but was wondering if it comes with furigana but I guess not. I might try and pick up the first volume and see how I do with it. I love Hikaru no Go and I already read the English edition but I’d love to read the Japanese edition as well. I might pick it up eventually. As for Nisekoi, I’m not a big fan but I do read the English chapters every now and then. I’m not interested in picking up the manga, though. Have you been buying any manga lately?
Thanks for your comment Noura. I picked up some manga which I partially included in the fifth part of the easy to read manga series https://japanesetease.net/easy-to-read-manga-for-japanese-beginners-vol-05/
But apart from that I haven’t been reading very much since. Still a huge fan of それでも町は廻っている. You should check it out if you have the chance. Yawara doesn’t feature any furigana but it’s a very manageable read. And the volume looks pretty awesome. So it never hurts to have it on your bookshelve even if you need to come back to it on a later date.
Can you recommend some great reading materials that can be bought online (digital version)? I like to read on my ipad better than the books. I seen those Japanese Graded Reader series but so far they’re not really interesting for me.
Thank you so much for your blog and your posts. If I started again to study Japanese is also because of you! I’m going to make my very first order from Japan (Amazon) and I would like to buy some manga. I’ll buy Yotsubato! for sure. Do you have any suggestion for VERY VERY easy manga about cats (I’ve already read Chie Home Sweet Home in Italian :) ). Thank you and keep writing, please!