Kana de Manga: The Fun, Easy Way to Learn the ABCs of Japanese!
March 10, 2013
Author Glenn Kardy
Publisher Japanime Co. Ltd.
Publication Date 2004
Skill Level Beginner
Japanese has a complicated writing system combining two syllabaries (hiragana and katakana), as well as thousands of Chinese characters called kanji. A syllabary is different from an alphabet in the sense that each syllabary symbol represents a syllable (such as na) rather than a single sound (such as n). Kana de Manga by Glenn Kardy focuses on the two syllabaries, collectively referred to as kana.
Up front I will confess: manga is of no interest to me. Which means that a book that uses manga to teach Japanese writing skills is probably not going to appeal to me in the way that it might to someone younger who also happens to be a manga fan.
Still, Kana de Manga is a cute book, laid out in an orderly and logical fashion. On each left-hand page a hiragana character is introduced, accompanied by a whimsical picture, an amusing cultural note, and a small grid to practice the characters. On each right-hand page, the same thing is done for the katakana, one character at a time. The art is by Chihiro Hattori.
Kana de Manga is a book you could use for kicks, or give to a kid, but it is not one I would recommend for a serious attempt to learn the writing system. For one thing, the symbols are machine-generated. In other words, tidy and perfect, and also in this case drawn with very fat lines about the thickness of what you would get with a black Sharpie.
Learning to write by copying these examples is a little like learning to write letters in English by copying over the typeface in a New York Times headline.
A better option for serious learning is the Easy Kana Workbook by Rita L. Lampkin and Osamu Hoshino, in which the writing models are actual images of handwritten Japanese.