Last updated: 2015 October 14
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Unless otherwise stated, all the manga listed below use only extremely common kanji and have furigana on at least some kanji (small hiragana that help you know how to pronounce a kanji - for us, it just means typing the kanji to look it up becomes easier). Shoujo manga tends to have furigana on EVERY SINGLE KANJI, as in even ones that they learn in first grade in Japan.
Don't completely trust the levels I've organized them into - as time goes on it's easy to miscategorize things - but it'll give you a good clue about how difficult the manga is.
On a Japanese 3DS, There's an application called "wherever Mr. bookshop" (どこでも本屋さん) where I get tons of free manga previews, and sometimes entire free volumes, and that's how I make this list. When you want to learn to read manga you have to start learning kanji and grammar right away, and as every kanji is a word or part of a word on its own even if i shows up in hiragana form it still helps you.
This list will be continuously updated as I check out the new manga previews every so often.
Ctrl+f # to skip to the beginning of the next level. New manga is put at the end of each level.
Ctrl+f 円 to find the series that are easiest or best for learning in that section. There's not many of these marked.
#Level 1: (The easiest you can get)
円 - スライムもりもり - The best beginner's manga I've seen so far. ALL the dialogue is extremely common and guessable, which you may even have inherently memorized from anime (where am I? stop that you bastard! brother's cool!). Uses only beginning kanji for elementary-schoolers from what I remember. I knew literally almost no Japanese and even I was reading this easily when I first found it.
ウソツキ！ゴクオーくん - Seems to be easier to guess via context, lots of common phrases that you probably know from anime.
ピンギン問題 - uses common anime phrases, seems to be a bit funny. Obviously for kids. Probably quite easy to guess from context. Action/comedy?
# Level 1,5:
うしろの光子ちゃん - Shoujo-horror manga with fairly clear, cute art where the girl dies and ends up being revived and able to see shinigami and ghosts or something. Usually there's very little text per speech bubble, extremely clear context clues.
ほっぺちゃん まいにちハッピー♪ - A 4koma about coloured blobs. The blobs are relatively emotionless and have no hands/bodies so it's more difficult to tell what's going on by context.
グレウサ ナマイキうさぎのダラダラ生活 - 4koma about a talking rabbit and its owner. There's few words per page so it's less taxing to look them up, and you can get a good idea of the emotions at least even if you can't tell what is *really* going on without knowing the vocab.
ゴーレム・ア・GO! - Shounen manga about a boy and a golem... I guess. Really easy to get the gist of what's going on through visual context. Uses more kanji, but it repeats the same kanji/words all the time.
YAIBA - Typical classic shounen manga type (ex. fighting tigers and angry girls). Easy to tell what's going on from context, using common kanji but the vocab is going to be more centered around shounen stuff (fighting and unusual action words) instead of ex. shoujo's more everyday school talk.
チョコタン！ - Typically shoujo-seeming, about a girl who likes her little dog, and she meets a guy who also has a dog and her dog falls in love with his at the same time that she gets a crush on him.
よつばと - Has relatively few words, has been translated into lots of different languages (the swedish translation is much better than the english by the way), and tons of people use it for learning japanese so there are even "learning packs" like this, plus lots of forum threads where people have asked about the meanings of specific phrases and sentences in it. It's just about a little girl and her neighbours and dad. Has many words a beginner will learn, for example "fireworks" "neighbour" "hungry". The downside is that it tends to use very casual language and has "children's mistake-language" in it, which may not be in the dictionary and is only findable online. It's also full of jokes that you might not get due to them being puns or it not being clear from context.
円 - 怪盗ジョーカー (Mysterious [Phantom-Thief] Joker) - Shounen series, about a magician-thief or something. Context clues are pretty good, you'll get the entire gist of the story by the pictures alone. Appears to be a very good learning choice if you aren't bored by the content.
でんぢゃらすじーさん (Dangerous Old Man) - Classic type of nonsensical gag, shounen action series. Lots of short sentences and small phrases you've probably learnt from anime. There's an old man who fights and a little kid who's troubled by him.
円 - かみかみかえし - Shoujo. Some kind of chibi girl lives in a traditional house. Definitely not much text, from what I saw. Context clues seem fine.
王子とヒーロー - Shoujo with cute art, seemingly about a farmgirl who ends up going to a fancy school and meeting a character who's just like Suzuki from Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun... Based on the cover image, looks like it's one of those "one girl, two boys who like her" series. Very little talking.
# Level 2: (Relatively easy but needing more kanji and vocab)
なないろ革命 - Extremely shoujo manga, very typical, school setting with great context clues. Using common kanji except that it likes to mentions names a lot.
オレ様キングダム - Often has large font it seems, not many words per speech bubble, seems to be using only common kanji along with names. Shoujo. It's probably a really crappy series because they've given me about 5 previews of it by now, they're trying very hard to sell it.
白のエデン - Not so many words per speech bubble. Shoujo.
ちびデビ - Not many words per speech bubble. It's shoujo and you can probably guess by context a lot.
隣のあたし - Seems to be using only common kanji in addition to kanji for names. The kanji seem to repeat themselves a lot. Shoujo.
ARISA - Not many words per speech bubble. Shoujo.
初恋指南 - Shoujo. Seemingly has genderswitch.
極上!!めちゃモテ委員長 - The kanji it uses repeats a lot. Shoujo.
Monster Hunter - Seems to be using only common kanji along with names. Fantasy.
1年5組いきものがかり - Some random typical-looking shoujo manga. They're only using really common kanji and not so many of them, except for ex. job titles.
猫田のことが気になって仕方ない - A shoujo-esque manga where a girl goes to school and one of her classmates has a cat's head for a head. Except she's apparently the only one who notices/cares. Uses only common kanji but has lots of people names (school/life setting).
酒井まゆ短編集 メリーバッドエンド - Is pretty clear what's going on from picture context alone. An artist girl is bullied (or something) and she's friends with two twin guys. The art is cute and the main character doesn't seem annoying from the pictures alone (for once!).
ある日犬の国から手紙が来て - A shoujo manga about a girl who sees dog-angels in maid outfits and probably comes from a broken home. I have a feeling the vocabulary repeats itself a lot, but I don't know for sure.
わたしに××しなさい！- Shoujo, school setting, and seemingly about some moody glasses girl. Not much kanji is used overall and there's not much text overall either (compared to most series). Context clues are not so great.
1年5組いきものがかり - typical shoujo manga, a girl discovers that the "nerdy, ugly glasses-wearing guy" looks hot if he takes off his glasses. Has many pages where there's very little talking, but the context clues aren't great. It's stereotypical so can probably guess what they're saying if you've just read enough manga before.
絶叫学級 - Shoujo horror manga. A girl makes choices in a videogame and they turn out real. Fairly cute art, good context clues, but has a lot of talking.
野ばらの森の乙女たち - Seems like a good beginner's shoujo ai/yuri manga. Usually has very little talking but sometimes there's a lot of speech. Doesn't seem very remarkable if you ignore the fact that it has girls' love.
# Level 2,5: (getting a lot closer to normal manga)
本当にヤバイホラーストーリー - Has a bit more speech compared to the typical ones in level 2 but still doesn't bombard you. Horror manga with shoujo art about girls in sailor uniforms who end up murdered at school, from what I saw.
こっちむいてみい子 - Manga set in a nursery school and about the children, apparently. Uses common kanji but there are a lot of names in it from what I saw. Is harder to tell by context.
オオカミ少年 こひつじ少女 - Shoujo manga about a dog who turns into a human (with dog ears) and then starts going to its master's school... from what I gathered anyway. Seems a bit interesting. There's some words it repeats a lot that have slightly more obscure kanji, and there's a bit more speech bubbles with handwritten text compared to most manga.
百鬼恋乱 - Typical "normal girl walks along and suddenly meets demons and gods" from what I saw, has modern shoujo art and the demons are actually a bit more gruesome than normal. Has some more obscure kanji in people's names and probably ends up using at least a few rare or traditional words. Seems interesting and has better art than most.
まじっく快斗 ("Kaito Kid" in English?) - Looks extremely classic and apparently has an anime, I'm guessing this is about a boy who has a magician for a father and has a female childhood friend. Fairly easy to tell what's going on from context but due to the theme and age there'll probably be some weird stuff. (In general my understanding it's often that the older the manga the more vocabulary you need)
クレマチカ靴店- Sometimes it uses a font and background combo that seems hard to read. There's not tons of text either. It looks kinda cute, it's about maids and is set back in Western history. The art isn't terrible, and you can get the gist of the storyline through the pictures alone.
たいようのいえ - Has furigana, only seems to be using common kanji. Some cute-ish shoujo thing, the characters don't immediately seem annoying.
ナルトー (Naruto) - Has furigana, an anime, and a HUGE fandom. The setting is "ninjas exist and can do magic, in a half-modern and half-ancient world" (ex. there's movies, but no cars). This is a really, REALLY long series so it's one where you can learn a ton just through context, meaning mindlessly reading all the volumes without ever even looking anything up when you don't understand because all the words will repeat themselves fifty times anyway. I seem to remember there's a lot of context clues and predictable lines, and even if you don't get something, the series is like 50 volumes long so who cares.
PとJK - A girl meets a guy (at a goukon I think) and it turns out that he's a policeman. Shoujo manga. Doesn't look like its vocabulary is so varied, and it seems fairly predictable.
るろうに剣心 (Rurouni Kenshin) - About a legendary swordsman who has seen war and wants nothing to do with it, except now he keeps getting dragged into battles. I really loved this when I was a kid. Anyway, sometimes the vocabulary is weird since it's set back in time and is also a bit of a fantasy, but you honestly don't need to understand it since the plot always just boils down to fighting. Used to have a big fandom.
いじめ-ひとりぼっちの戦い - Super typical shoujo manga, from what I saw. I mean, REALLY typical, if you've read enough manga then you can guess all the lines and plot events and you're probably correct. There's a lot of names to do with the school or people.
戦慄！おおぐち女 - Horror manga drawn in shoujo style. School setting.
おやすみメモリーズ (Goodnight Memories) - Shoujo, not too much talking. Seems extremely normal, the chapter I saw was about a girl who is jealous that her male friend has a girlfriend now. Better context clues and art than most.
螺川マキの検索結果 - Shoujo horror manga with a school setting, so sometimes there's a lot of kanji but they are really common school-related ones (and some names) that will re-appear a lot.
# Level 3: (Normally too difficult for any beginner)
This section is only for series where the vocabulary repeats itself abnormally much, or there is some other huge amount of help, ex. fan-created vocabulary lists, very precise anime adaptions, or extremely good context clues.
さばげぶっ！ - A mix of everyday manga speech and "spy/weaponry" talk (ex. names of weapons, or titles), so a good step to move onto after normal shoujo manga. Not too much talking. This is a shoujo manga (in art-style at least) where initially a girl saves another girl from a molester by pointing a gun to his head, later they meet again and the girl finds out the other one is a spy (in the "doing military training" type of way)... The premise is more interesting than most of the shoujo manga I get previews for, while there's "more" kanji it's not full of kanji, and it apparently has an anime.
極上!! めちゃモテ委員長 - VERY typical shoujo manga, in fact I don't even know how I could describe it because it feels so typical. Large eyes. It has a LOT of dialogue, but again, it's extremely cliché.
黒子のバスケ (Kuroko's basketball) - Has a lot of kanji, but they all have furigana. I assume it's about basketball. Seemingly had a large English fandom so there might be vocabulary lists, and has an anime.
となりの怪物くん (tonari no kaibutsu-kun) - Has an anime. Takes place in a school and I seem to remember it's basically "stuff my weird classmate does, like play with cats" so I doubt the vocabulary used in it is that uncommon. Slice-of-life with a dash of so-called comedy as far as I remember. It was fairly popular in English fandom for a while.
デビルマン (Devilman) - (BL, but it definitely takes a backseat compared to everything else in the plot): Two boys in different stages of discovering that they like each other find out that demons will relatively soon start to wipe out all of humanity, so they start fighting them even if that means they have to lose their own sanity and/or humanity in the process. Not much talking in general, repeats vocabulary all the time, but it may use older words (since it was written in the 70's) among other things. Has furigana on ALL kanji and doesn't use that many kanji in general. Has OVAs and has been officially translated into a few languages, and there's a few fan-made vocabulary lists floating around. Context clues aren't that great but it constantly repeats itself in vocabulary.
About the 3DS app: You can buy manga on it and there's monthly and weekly previews of some manga that you can view for free.
How to use the application:
First in the main menu you make sure you've downloaded the catalogue updates (the red-white button). Whenever a little circle appears on the game icon in the main menu with all your games, it means something updated (usually meaning a new set of previews is out). Every few months or so it'll prompt you to open the eShop where you'll download an update/replacement for the entire app.
Anyway, click on "いつの間にマンガ". You'll get some missing cover images of sample catalogues, clicking on one asks you if you want to download that month's catalogue. Click yes and once it downloads, click on it. Skip through it (they're usually like 4 pages each) and at the end it'll have a box popping up asking you if you want to download sample chapters. Clicking yes takes you to a list of titles which you can click on and download. Once you go back to cover-image screen, there is a blue tab-button on the top-right. Clicking that takes you to your library of sample chapters that you've downloaded.
You can only keep 10 sample chapters at a time, but as far as I know they never disappear and you can read them without internet. You can't zoom in very far, but on full free volumes or on bought manga you can.
Update 24 August 2014: Now there's an entire section for free manga! Click on the kanji 無料 ("without cost"). Clicking on a random manga, it'll ask 無料でダウンロードしますか？("want to download using costfree?") and give you a date which is how long you are able to read it. If there is no date, that means you can read it indefinitely. You get one FULL manga volume (or more, depending on the series!) for free, which generally equals about 170 pages. A lot of it is stuff that was all the rage in my childhood, ex. Naruto, Inuyasha, Rurouni Kenshin and Dragon Ball.
General rules for guessing a manga's difficulty level:
— Generally speaking, the older the manga or the older its author, the more words or kanji it will have.
— Shoujo and porn are usually the easiest to read, using few words. Shoujo especially usually has extremely few kanji and repeats itself constantly.
— Shounen seems to have more kanji/words than shoujo and also uses weirder words, and makes up words more often (based on what little I've glanced at).
— Someone said that seinen is good because they normally use very little slang and use a lot of polite language. I don't know about either that or josei.
— Lots of violence doesn't necessarily mean it's without furigana, instead manga seems to be considered "adult" according to its psychological themes (if it's more plotless, it's for kids, if it touches on the deep feelings of humanity and politics, it's for adults) or based on how explicit the sex in it is. It can be full of heavy violence but still be deemed for kids.
— GL, BL and Shoujo may be very vague, if not in dialogue than in picture context (ex. scene fades out, lots of sparkles and bubbles to block your view, complete lack of background drawings, abrupt transitions and you don't know where in the school they are anymore). Shoujo tends to have lots of talking, but BL tends to have little talking.
— The hardest genre is probably 4koma gag comics because the vocabulary is so varied, there's very little context help, and they may use really casual or slangy language that might not be findable in the dictionary.