Basic Japanese Through Comics 2
If you step into any Japanese class nowadays, you will see at least fifty percent of those attending are anime fans that have taken their passion to the next level. A love of anime often leads to a love of other things, such as J-Rock and sushi, and the language is no exception.
Mangajin magazine has taken advantage of that fact to produce two educational books that teach people the intricacies of Japanese through manga. When I began learning Japanese, I decided to pick up the second, since the first wasn't available and both are standalone. The book is arranged in lessons where a particular phrase or aspect of the language is concentrated on, with a set of 10 to 15 examples following to provide a detailed explanation.
For example, let's take the word 'iya', which we'll translate as 'no' for the sake of simplicity. After a paragraph or two to explain how iya is used, Mangajin provides a set of manga frames that use it in different situations, along with an explanation of context, direct translation and the English equivalent. In one, a man is refusing something. In another, it is used to explain a disagreeable object. The object of the book is not to teach its readers words or grammar, but to show them the different ways that the Japanese use their own language to get the point across.
Basic Japanese Through Comics is a good way to supplement your Japanese learning, especially for those taking the self-instruction route, but it can't replace a real textbook. The book assumes that the reader is familiar already with basic grammar and vocabulary, because it doesn't attempt to explain the basics at all. When I first bought the book, it was of very little use to me because I had only a month of Japanese lessons under my belt. Now that I know a little bit more, I don't have to look up the translation of every word on the side, and the notes make more sense.
That's not to say that you can't read this book if you have no experience with the language. Mangajin fully translates every frame, as well as provides Japanese pronunciation, but for those masochistic enough to learn Japanese that way, there are fansubs galore that will probably do the job better.
Although there are hundreds of manga examples in the book, very few will be familiar to western readers. Two manga I picked out were Yuu Yuu Hakusho and Crayon Shin Chan. The others seemed either too Japanese for import or were actually four block strips that ran in newspapers or magazines. Therefore, there is nowhere where you can see and read what Kenshin really said before he was imported and westernized over here. Having a set of panels from a familiar manga would have been more fun to read, and perhaps more educational, but it's understandable that the cost of such an endeavor would be unreasonable.
I was impressed with how thorough Mangajin was in their translations. Every example is not only translated up to the sound effects, it is also riddled with notes on figures of speech, certain double meanings, slang, and the like. Students of Japanese would find this book very helpful in preventing textbook speech, and translator hopefuls should take a look too, as it might shed light on a strange phrase they've been struggling with.
For the casual manga fan, this book is useless. It exists primarily for instruction, not entertainment. For a student who's sick of conjugating verbs, Basic Japanese Through Comics might be able to ease the monotony and teach a thing or two in the process.