For Japanese learners looking to read manga in their second language, it can be difficult to find appropriate material. When searching for manga titles, Japanese learners are either told to search for shonen or shojo manga that feature furigana (smaller kana printed next to kanji) or read Yotsuba&!, an easy-to-read manga meant for kids.
However, not all shonen and shojo come with furigana. On top of that, a children’s story like Yotsuba&! may not interest certain Japanese learners. From slice of life to isekai fantasy, there are many more manga out there with furigana that are more interesting than Yotsuba&!.
20 Daidokoro no Dragon
Riri Shimada and Furumachi Miyoshi
In Eastern Europe in the 1980s, a Japanese exchange student living alone finds a dragon egg in her kitchen. This four-volume manga series by Riri Shimada was originally a web short story. Instead of shedding fur, the dragon sheds scales. Instead of potty training, the dragon needs to be trained to shoot his fire in the fireplace.
Beautifully illustrated by artist Furumachi Miyoshi, Daidokoro no Dragon is a visual treat. Other than a few pages with large blocks of text, Daidokoro no Dragon is an easy read that would make a good starter manga for Japanese learners.
19 Isekai Walking
Arukuhito and Kei Ogawa
Isekai Walking is exactly what it sounds like — an isekai where the protagonist’s superpower is walking without getting tired. Sora is among a group of “saviors” who have been reincarnated to save the kingdom from a demon. However, after the king views Sora’s magical stats, he deems his skill unworthy and boots him from the castle. Sora is able to advance his magical skills by walking, which he does all over his strange, new world.
Though it has furigana, Isekai Walking may be difficult for beginning Japanese learners. Isekai is generally a difficult genre for new learners, so only high intermediate to advanced readers should give Isekai Walking a try.
18 Buna no Mori no Aria
Translated as Aria of Beech Forest in English, Buna no Mori no Aria follows Aria, a witch living in the forest who enjoys knitting, baking, and making various concoctions out of herbs. One snowy night, she finds a white wolf who has collapsed from cold and exhaustion. As it turns out, the wolf can talk, and he asks if he can stay with her for the winter. Thus begins their sweet, slow life together in a cabin in the woods.
Buna no Mori no Aria is a lovely story and has great pacing for confident beginners in Japanese. The amount of text is on the lighter side when compared to other fantasy manga, and the addition of full furigana makes Buna no Mori no Aria a perfect starter manga.
17 Isekai Nonbiri Nouka
Kinosuke Naitou and Yasuyuki Tsurugi
Isekai Nonbiri Nouka is a successful anime, manga, and light novel series. Known as Farming Life in Another World in English, it follows a young man who passes away after battling a terminal illness. God feels so guilty about the hard life Hiraku had to endure that he gives him the chance to reincarnate. Hiraku used to watch a TV program about farming when he was bedridden, so he asks for the ability to farm in his next life. He also asks for some farming land away from people, but God accidentally places him in the middle of a deadly forest full of powerful monsters.
A cute spinoff to the original series called Isekai Nonbiri Nouka no Nikki (Farming Life in Another World Diary) also has furigana. The two series are similar to That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, which boasts multiple series, including a cute slice-of-life series called The Slime Diaries. Incidentally, many of the series related to That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime have furigana, including Trinity in Tempest. However, The Ways of the Monster Nation, a side story focusing on exploring the kingdom of Tempest, does not. Readers who want to try reading isekai manga but are nervous about their Japanese skills have the option to watch the anime for either Farming Life in Another World or That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, as understanding the context will greatly help with reading comprehension.
16 Bloom Into You
Bloom Into You is perhaps one of the most famous yuri stories, following Yuu, a high school girl who only enjoys romance in fiction. When Yuu is confessed to by a close male friend from junior high, she feels nothing. She turns to Touko, an older classmate, for support. However, Touko complicates the situation even further by professing her own love for Yuu.
Since the key demographic for yuri manga is typically adult men, there aren’t a lot of yuri manga with furigana. For example, popular series like Citrus, Sakura Trick, and Yuru Yuri do not include furigana. For yuri fans who want to read manga in Japanese, Bloom Into You is one of the best options.
15 Knitter’s High
Knitter’s High follows a group of high school boys in the handicraft club. After Kento suffers a serious injury, he resigns from the track and field club and finds himself adrift. When viewing flyers for different clubs, he makes the mistake of calling the handicraft club “weird” for guys in front of a dedicated cosplayer and a knitting enthusiast. His classmate, whom everyone calls “The Knitting Prince,” angrily storms off. When Kento approaches him to apologize, he somehow finds himself unable to refuse the challenge of learning how to knit.
Not only does Knitter’s High have full furigana, but it’s also packed with useful vocabulary in Japanese pertaining to knitting, crochet, and amigurumi. One could easily take the vocabulary words learned in Knitter’s High and apply them to a wide variety of specialty craft books only available in Japanese.
14 Kesaran Nanigashi to Soupya-san
Kesaran Nanigashi to Soupya-san is a three-volume manga series that follows a brother and sister living in the woods of Finland. Tina runs a soup shop, and Nicholas works at the local library. One day, they find a tiny, fluffy, mysterious being, which legend says will bring happiness. They take the furball in, but instead of feeding him “oshiroi” (the white powder used in geisha makeup), they give him catnip. Eventually, the furball grows into a cat-shaped animal, which walks, talks, and gets into all sorts of mischief.
Kesaran Nanigashi to Soupya-san might just be the perfect series for those reading manga in Japanese for the first time. It’s filled with useful, everyday Japanese without being overwhelming. From confident beginners all the way up to advanced readers, just about anyone will enjoy this charming story.
13 Animal Crossing Nonbiri Shima Da Yori
Published as Assemble! Animal Crossing: News from the Carefree Island in English, the story follows 10-year-old Hana, who is vacationing on an island with her family. Hana spots two raccoons (Timmy and Tommy) and crawls through some bushes to follow them. Hana is then transported to Tom Nook’s deserted island, where the raccoon tycoon offers her a tent to start her new life.
Nonbiri Shima Da Yori is a cute manga that’s perfect for any Animal Crossing fan. Not only does the furigana make this an easy story for beginners, but fans of Animal Crossing will be able to apply their knowledge of the game’s context to new vocabulary. For example, when Tom Nook tells Hana to use the “sagyoudai” to craft a fishing pole, game veterans will recognize the term for “workbench.”
12 The Bibliophile Princess
Yui and Yui Kikuta
Known as Mushikaburi-hime in Japanese, The Bibliophile Princess is a manga, anime, and light novel. Elianna Bernstein prefers books to people, so she accepts Prince Christopher’s offer of a political marriage when he promises to protect her reading time and grant her access to the imperial library. However, four years have passed, and Eilianna is of age, yet the prince continues to delay their engagement. Over time, Elianna starts to wonder if her engagement to the prince is strictly business or if there’s more to the story.
The Bibliophile Princess is a shojo series that’s perfect for romance fans and book lovers alike. Since it’s a story revolving around the nobility, there will be some difficult jargon in Japanese. For fans of this genre, though, The Bibliophile Princess is an easier place to start than similar titles like My Next Life as a Villainess.
11 50 Tea Recipes of The Duchess
Jiha Lee and Hyunyoung Cho
Originally a manhwa, 50 Tea Recipes of The Duchess or Koshaku Fujin no 50 no Ocha Recipe has been released in Japan as a full-color manga. It follows a Korean woman who has been reincarnated into the body of a meek duchess. With a cold, distant husband and servants who mock her, Chloe finds solace and strength through her hobby of brewing different teas.
Like many manhwa that have been translated into Japanese, 50 Tea Recipes of The Duchess includes full furigana. Another characteristic of manhwa is the inclusion of full-color pages, which affects the price per volume. While Japanese readers are used to black-and-white manga, many Western readers are willing to pay a little extra for full color.
10 Duchess in the Attic
Mori and Maki Hayashi
Duchess in the Attic, or Yaneurabeya no Koushaku Fujin in Japanese, follows Opal, the daughter of a Count who has been shunned by society due to a baseless rumor. She is eventually forced into a political marriage because of her wealth, and her husband is cold and cruel. On top of that, she must compete with a woman called Stella, who appears to be her husband’s mistress and is adored by the servants. Opal confines herself to the attic to escape from it all, but she finds some private documents related to the household that may turn things around for her.
While Duchess in the Attic features full furigana, there are some difficult vocabulary that new readers may struggle with. The context is confusing at times, too, so only confident Japanese readers or those who want a challenge should give this series a try.
9 Kyoraku no Mori no Alice
Mai Mochizuki and Haruki Niwa
Part Alice in Wonderland, part Memoirs of a Geisha, Kyoraku no Mori no Alice is an interesting spin on the classic story that is a must-read. After losing both of her parents, Alice wishes to be a maiko (apprentice geisha) to escape the scorn of her cruel uncle. When she returns to Kyoto for geisha training, she encounters a fantasy world nothing like the Kyoto of her past. On top of that, the prince of this new world looks exactly like Ren, a mysterious boy from her childhood who disappeared after promising to marry her one day. This two-volume series is known as Alice in the Kyoto Forest in English.
Though it may be based on a children’s story, Kyoraku no Mori no Alice includes plenty of difficult vocabulary. Like many fantasy manga, the words relating to magic may confuse new Japanese learners. Beginners who want an easy read may struggle with this series unless they’re major Alice fans.
8 Dahliya Wilts No More
Hisaya Amagishi and Megumi Sumikawa
Reincarnated in a fantasy world after dying from overwork, Dahliya finds herself at the end of a spurned engagement. An artisan of magic tools based on appliances from modern-day Japan, Dahliya devotes herself to her craft in order to escape the pain of both her previous life and her current one. Known as Magic Artisan Dahlia Wilts No More in English, the manga is based on a light novel called Dahlia In Bloom.
Dahliya Wilts No More isn’t exactly an easy read in Japanese. The jargon related to Dahliya’s isekai world and magical crafting tools will likely confuse new readers. Dahliya Wilts No More is best for intermediate to advanced Japanese learners.
7 Isekai Shokudo
Junpei Inuzuka and Takaaki Kugatsu
One of the most popular isekai and cooking-related stories, Isekai Shokudo, or Restaurant to Another World, is a food-lover’s dream. Restaurant Nekoya is connected to a special door — a door that admits customers from other worlds. From lizard men to elves and even dragons, everyone has their own favorite dish from Nekoya. Each episode has its own theme, from mouth-watering fried shrimp to decadent fruit crêpes. Isekai Shokudo flawlessly blends magical fantasy elements with the warm, cozy vibes of a home-cooked meal and is the ultimate comfort series.
Though Isekai Shokudo is slow and comfy, it’s a difficult series to read in Japanese, even with furigana. Only advanced learners or those who have already seen the anime should give this series a shot.
6 Super Cub
Tone Kouken and Kanitan
A slow, soothing story about a girl and her motorcycle, Super Cub is a great manga for Japanese learners. Koguma doesn’t have hobbies, friends, or even a family, and lives alone in an apartment. One day, fate encourages her to buy an old Honda Super Cub. Koguma’s once gray world is now technicolor, thanks to her scooter, which grants her a newfound freedom and zest for life.
Super Cub has very little dialogue compared to other series, which will allow Japanese learners to speed through each volume relatively quickly. It’s a great series for new learners who enjoy the slice-of-life genre.
5 Campfire Cooking in Another World
Ren Eguchi and Akagishi K
A delightful isekai and gourmet story, Tondemo Skill de Isekai Hourou Meshi follows Tsuyoshi Mukoda after he’s been reincarnated into a fantasy world as a powerful savior. His only superpower is the perplexing “Online Supermarket.” Mukoda deftly negotiates his way out of her savior duties and finds himself free to wander his new world while discovering his new, unique skill. With the help of his two familiars, the sassy yet majestic Fel and the adorable Sui, Mukoda battles monsters of all shapes and sizes in search of his next great meal.
Though the Campfire Cooking in Another World manga isn’t too difficult in terms of plot, there are some difficult vocabulary words. Readers who struggle with katakana, in particular, may have a hard time with this series. For an easier read, the side story following Sui, Mukoda’s slime familiar, is a great choice. Sui no Dai Bouken, or Sui’s Great Adventure in English, is a cute read with far less intimidating dialogue.
4 Sanrio Boys
Fans of Hello Kitty, Pompompurin, and Cinnamoroll will adore Sanrio Boys by Mai Andou. Known as Sanrio Danshi in Japanese, this manga follows a group of handsome high school boys who defy societal norms by openly expressing their love for Sanrio’s cute characters. Each boy has his own favorite, from flirty Yuu and his beloved My Melody to tough soccer star Shunsuke and his precious Hello Kitty. This cute and fluffy story is jam-packed with Sanrio elements, including plenty of character goodies and even a visit to the world-famous theme park, Sanrio Puroland.
Sanrio Boys isn’t really a kid’s story, even though the focus on Sanrio characters makes it seem that way. Since the characters are in high school, the series is more difficult to read than those actually made for children. That said, it’s still a slice-of-life series, and the dialogue is suitable for confident beginners or intermediate readers.
3 Yotsuko Gurashi
Hino Himari and Sakura Oriko
Originally a light novel series by Hino Himari, Yotsuko Gurashi is an easy-to-read manga meant for younger audiences. Illustrated by the talented Sakura Oriko, it follows Miyabi Mifu, a sixth grader who has always believed she never had any relatives. As it turns out, Mifu is actually a quadruplet, and it’s been decided that she will start living with her three new sisters.
Both the manga and light novel for Yotsuko Gurashi have full furigana, but the abundance of dialogue means this series is best suited for strong beginners. For fans of Sakura Oriko’s kawaii drawing style, she has an original manga series titled Swing!!, which follows four high school friends in the golf club and has some yuri elements. Though Swing!! doesn’t have furigana, the grammar and kanji used are easy enough for intermediate Japanese learners to understand.
2 Atelier Rorona
Based on the PS3 game of the same name, Rorona must save her master’s atelier from being closed by the kingdom. Readers follow clumsy yet spirited Rorona as she performs alchemy in her workshop, runs errands around the city of Arland, and goes on adventures around the kingdom with her friends. There are several manga based on the Atelier series, including Atelier Ryza, an anime being simulcast by Crunchyroll for Summer 2023. The Atelier Ryza manga, however, doesn’t have furigana, but the Atelier Escha & Logy series does.
Atelier Rorona is easier to read than other manga of its kind. There is plenty of dialogue, but the manga doesn’t delve too deeply into the more confusing elements of alchemy. Even confident beginners should be able to read Atelier Rorona, as it feels more like a slice-of-life manga than a fantasy.
1 Genshin Comic Anthology
Kouji Azuma and More
The smash-hit video game Genshin Impact is now available as a manga. Players can see what their favorite Genshin characters are up to in the Genshin Comic Anthology by DNA Media, which features stories from multiple mangaka following The Traveler, Paimon, Hu Tao, Klee, and more.
Another similar Genshin anthology comic published by Dengeki Comics (featuring Amber and Paimon on the cover) also includes furigana. Both volumes were published in 2021 and are suitable for confident beginners who have plenty of knowledge about the game.
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