Furigana are very comfortable when you have to look up unknown words but if you already have a decent Kanji and vocabulary knowledge, it can be a quite rewarding experience to try some simple manga that don’t have Kanji readings for every word. It’s a great feeling when you’re just starting out and quickly notice that you can read some “real” Japanese. Real, because you won’t encounter too many Furigana when you’re in Japan. Difficult, unusual Kanji will still have Furigana above because even Japanese people don’t know the correct reading for every Kanji.
If you’re just starting with reading manga in Japanese to practice your language skills and to pick up some vocabulary, you should start with the first two parts of my series.
If you don’t know where to pick up Japanese manga and books check my guide.
1.) あずまんが大王 (Azumanga Daioh)
The mangaka あずまきよひこ became once popular with this manga. Simple stories, each quickly told in just 4-panels. Now he is better known for his other hit manga よつばと but あずまんが大王 is still a very charming, funny manga.
There are no Furigana used here which was quite a bummer when I bought it a couple of months back. Today I’m really happy that it just relies on the Kanji itself and a good choice to start reading Japanese without any Furigana-help. But I still prefer ダリンは外国人when it comes to the difficulty of the manga.
2.) ドクター スランプ – 完全版 (Dr. Slump – The complete edition)
We all know Dr. Slump. It’s from the creator of Dragonball, equally funny and was released in an equally beautiful 完全版 in Japan. The Cover is sparkling which should be reason alone to pick this one up immediately. If you’re not into glitter and are more interested in the actual story, my recommendation is still the same.
But be warned: I think Dragonball is doable to read in Japanese even as a beginner. But like reader ai already mention in the first post with easy manga, the slang can be a bit much and the vocabulary used is a bit different from the one we usually use. Lots of ancient words and strange grammar. Dr. Slump is nearly the same but strangely without Furigana. I’m a bit confused about why that is the case. Both books should appeal to a younger audience if not the same.
Regardless: Dr. Slump is an all-time classic, hilarious, and one of my favorite manga series ever. And these beautiful 完全版 that JUMP Comics is putting out (Dragon Ball, Slam Dunk, Hikaru no Go) are always worth their money.
3.) ダーリンは外国人 (My darling is a foreigner)
This one is a big hit in Japan and spawned several sequels. The story is about a couple living in Tokyo where the woman is Japanese and her darling American. He is half-Hungarian half-Italien descent which is the base for several jokes in the book. There is also a Japanese film-adaption of the manga, yeah it’s so popular, but it’s rather bad.
At least that’s what I heard several times from informants who usually have good taste. This one should be the first for you to pick up if you want something without Furigana but won’t be too demanding Kanji-wise.
Each story is told in a couple of panels and centered around everyday situations where a 外人 like us would behave inappropriately in Japan. Apart from being incredibly funny, as a small bonus, it’s a nice manga to look at. And not because of the pictures, I’m talking about the presentation of the manga. Nice one!
4.) くるねこ (Kuruneko)
Yamato Kuruneko loves Sake and loves cats. She once drew these little cartoons, which are based on her own life, for her Blog. It became really popular in Japan and so Enterbrain picked her stories up and released them in the big 単行本 format. It’s funny because kuroneko means black cat in Japanese and the authors’ name sounds nearly the same. Even if the stories are only a couple of panels long, like あずまんが大王, they are still quite difficult. The handwriting is a bit of a problem for me and makes it sometimes pretty hard to read. But that shouldn’t discourage you from picking it up. It’s quite a big one and worth a look if my few “preview pictures” picked your interest.
5.) タマさん (Tama-san)
When I visited K-Books (Akiba) back in February, I picked this one up just because of its looks. There were only sealed copies available so I couldn’t get a quick sneak inside. It seemed to be a quite easy manga and because of the rather big format (like Shirokuma Café, not that it’s a real indicator), and just put it in my shopping bag. I bought way too much stuff there anyway (including lots and lots of protective covers for my manga), so these two didn’t make a difference.
Currently, I’m fully occupied with reading more よつばと and Dragonball so I didn’t start this one yet. But judging after quickly flipping through the books they are not too difficult on the Kanji side. If you can read よつばと without relying too much on the Furigana, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.
Note 27.02.2015: I read both volumes by now. It’s a funny one but there is quite a lot to read. The difficulty is ruffly on par with あずまんが大王.
Thanks for reading and all your support dear Japanese Tease visitors. I’ll be back with more easy reading material for Japanese beginners. Still not quite sure what I’ll present to you next time but I’ll find something for sure. Maybe you even want some more manga without Furigana?
On to the last one of the series without any Furigana restrictions.
If you want to tackle some 青年 manga, I wrote a small post about doing so and am talking about one of my favorite manga of all time, Billy Bat:
If you have any suggestions or wishes, please just leave me a comment. As always, it’s highly appreciated.
Excellent work! Thank you for these posts!
Ich hätte deinen Blog auch mal vor ein paar Jahren gebraucht. Ich hab mich erst dieses Jahr, nach über 5 Jahren Japanisch Lernen getraut, Mangas auf Japanisch zu lesen. Läuft mittlerweile zwar recht gut aber sonst hätte ich schon viel früher mit dem Sammeln anfangen können.
Thanks for you recommendations. Just wanted to say that the links in this post are broken, or rather: they don’t redirect.
Thanks a lot for pointing that out to me. Just fixed the links!
Thank you so much for these manga suggestions! Can’t wait for part 4 (hopefully)!! ^^
Really glad you like them. I’m working on part 4 but still waiting for my last honto order :)
Great series of articles Jacob!
I feel confused on where to start though… If you had to choose just 2-3 mangas for someone on a moderate Japanese level, with a little more adult topics, what would you recommend? (I’m thinking 青年 rather than 少年, or maybe something like the works of Junji Ito, Masamune Shirow etc).
Thanks a lot for the compliments Adam.
The thing is part 3 is the first part of this little series I did with manga that don’t contain any furigana. The selection is focused on more easy to grasp short, goofy stories in this one. I always wanted to make a 4th one with more adult stuff (the stuff I actually prefer myself). Maybe you’ve already seen this post I wrote about reading 青年 manga:
I personally love everything by Naoki Urasawa and just started to read Yawara (there is a nice recently released complete edition) and can always recommend Billy Bat which is really a fantastic series. Only problem there are some parts which take place in ancient Japan (Edo era) but otherwise even I found it quite manageable and at times much more easy than your average 少年 manga.
Have you read Hikaru no Go? Got this recommendation from one of the readers and I love it. It’s about a young boy discovering the game go Go through an old go board where an old soul of a go-instructurer is being captured. It’s a 少年 manga but much more adult than most of the other stuff. I really liked it.
Will think about some more titles and make a new post within the next days :)
You’re welcome. I just recently found your blog, but I really like it – keep up the good work! =)
I read your post about 青年 manga, and that’s why I was hoping you’d have some recommendations for that as well. I’ll check out both Yawara and Billy Bat – they both seem interesting. Haven’t read Hikaru no Go, but I’ll check it out if Yawara and Billy Bat turn out to be too hard to understand =)
Have you ever read anything by Junji Ito? He is by far my favorite manga artist… He mostly does bizarre, surreal horror manga. Check out Uzumaki and Gyo if you haven’t read them yet. I only read them in english though, so I don’t know how hard/easy they are to read in japanese…
Looking forward to your next post! =)
Thanks a bunch for your recommendation. Just had a look and it seems really well drawn. I’m unfortunately not very much into the whole horror genre so I’m not quite sure if I’ll enjoy the story. But I’ll give it a try that’s for sure.
Today I was trying to select some stuff for a new entry for the Easy to read manga series. It will probably go in another direction which more serious stuff (which I actually enjoy much more). Hope there will be some good recommendations in it for you.
Thanks for the recommendations.
Dude, you need an editor. Badly. It’s hard to convince readers of your foreign language proficiency when you butcher your own native tongue.
Hey Wulf, glad you figured it out for yourself that Dr. Slump only features Furigana for rather unusual readings.
Not quite sure where you got that impression from but this blog is just a document of my own Japanese journey where I share all the Japanese stuff I enjoy. My native tongue is German so there is still a lot to learn English wise as well.
Hope you enjoy the page nevertheless and good luck with your Japanese studies,
Ah! Forgive me, I was incorrect. Your English is better than my German: in which case your blog deserves to be even better-known. Naturally a disclaimer at the beginning of every article won’t do. To show you that I am sincere, I will edit for free, if you’re amenable.
Oh, Wulf. That’s so kind of you. Sorry I just discovered your comment again. I guess you edited it at some point and I didn’t receive a notification.
Just discovered your mail as well. Thank you! I’ll get back to you over there.
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