So…A lot of people come up to me and ask “Hey, Khatzumoto-sensei [yeah, they call me that, you know…], what manga are good for beginners? What manga should I read to get me started?”
And you know what? I tell them Doraemon because that just seems like the right answer, the 正解. I mean, it’s what you’re supposed to say to people; it’s famous, a “classic” even, and therefore, you know, l33t.
But, dude, Doraemon is boring. Bawring (bee tee dub, this spelling only holds water if you have the same accent as me…HA!). OK, “boring” is a little harsh. It’s just…not interesting to read? More effective for insomnia than sleeping pills? I read a bit once and it was cool in the sense that it was Japanese and I was reading it, but not in and of itself. I dunno. Maybe I am being harsh. Like, I enjoyed how it had everyday action verbs, that was nice and educational, but it didn’t make me want to part with my precious fiat currency for the privilege of casting my eyes on it.
Anyhoo, I didn’t come here to make libelous comments about Doraemon, which sucks by the way, along with Sazae-san; Japanese people know this but they’re just pretending to like it because if you don’t, your Japaneseness gets called into question. Kind of like how I used to pretend to like all classical music and War and Peace, because that’s what “smart people” seemed to like. But I digress. I came here to tell you something that I’ve already essentially said before, but which other people seemed to think was worth saying again. Other than the obvious, early-stage super-beginner material (stuff like All About Particles); there is no other stuff you “should” read. To quote my neighbor and gaijin-in-arms, Tkyosam:
“Don’t read according to your level, read according to your interest.”
I can hear the rebuttal: “but Khatzumoto, what if I’m interested in it but it’s too hard?” Well, if it feels that hard, then it’s not that interesting. By definition, then, even a “hard” book, if it matches your interest, will not seem hard at all. For example, I’ve read lots of science and engineering-type books in English, so Japanese books of that kind are easy and fun for me. I remember one time my Japanese-Korean friend (I’ve mentioned her before in comments, but, she was (is?) the cruelest corrector ever – I don’t think I have ever been slammed down more times in public by anyone else; and I am grateful for every time she did it – every time she talked super-fast and told me that if I didn’t understand then I’d better get on that; every time she said I sucked) said: “wow, a Japanese physics textbook? You must be smart.” But I told her “No, it’s not like they’re going to be presenting a new physics or anything. And the format is the same – explanation here, diagram there, a bit of equation action to make it all kosher – i’s so simpo! There’s no intelligence at work here, just habit.”
So, don’t worry about what your “level” is. Just worry about what you’re interested in and get into that. Anime or TV show you’ve seen before and liked? Get the manga. Like tennis? Get a tennis manga. Like cooking? Get a cooking manga. Like Stargate SG-1? Get…OK, there’s no manga for that one. And this goes beyond manga. What this article, indeed this site is about is this: whatever it is that moved you to want to learn the language in the first place, DO IT! (Or something as close to it as possible). That’s how you’ll learn…And we’re done. I think.
Oh, one other thing: I wasn’t sure whether or not this post was worth putting up. I feel right now that this site has reached a level of completion in terms of what (I think) you need to know is all up here and all that’s left is to go and do. Then again…that may just be a lack of imagination on my part? Unlike Dragon “291 Endless Episodes” Ball Z, or One “46 volumes and counting” Piece, it’s not like it directly costs people money if this blog gets a little long, but at the same time, it seems like conciseness is a good thing. Either way, let me know what you’d like to read about, and also whether or not this post was useful to you. Tank ye kindly.