The Difficulty Level Guide Of Everything Japanese — 139 Comments

  1. This is so awesome, thank you! So much better organisation, and i love how all the media are grouped by Stars and then Media type. Exactly what I wanted ^.^

    As for one that I can’t see on the list: Manga – Yotsubato (1 star).

  2. I’ll add a few (Feel free to delete this once you’ve got ’em)

    ニセコイ (Nisekoi: False Love) – 2 Stars

    イタズラなKiss~Love in Tokyo (Mischievious Kiss) – 1 Star
    GTO (2014 version) – 2 Stars

    ファイナルファンタシーX (Final Fantasy X) – Gameplay: 2 Stars, Story: 3 Stars
    テイルズ・オブ・ヴェスペリア (Tales of Vesperia) – Gameplay: 1 Star, Story: 4 Stars

    For games, I feel like there’s a big difference between what you need to comprehend and enjoy the gameplay, vs what you need to comprehend and enjoy the story. Thus I’ve given them separate ratings for each element. If you feel like that won’t mesh with this list, you’re welcome to average them :)

    • How good is michievous kiss! Definitely a 1 star rating. I’m only 6 Episodes in, such an easy watch and it’s nice to comprehend a story. That probably contributes to me liking it more than other stuff I’ve seen in Japanese.
      I haven’t watched the 2014 GTO but I did watch the 2012 re-release. That was probably around 2 stars from memory, though it slips back into 1 star from time to time. I’m curious to see the original release now.

      I’ve played final fantasy 10, been meaning to get the re-release in Japanese for my Vita. Sounds like it’ll be a challenge to comprehend some of the language, might put it off for a while.

      It’s hard to rank things sometimes. I’ve been playing the new tomb raider on xbox one and whilst a lot of the conversations between characters are around 2 stars, the overarching plot is around 3 stars.

      Metal gear Solid Ground zeroes felt way out of my league for the little I’ve played. Little premature to give a rating though.

      • Oh yeah Mischievious Kiss is great. Even my wife got sucked into it – I’ve been feebly attempting to live-translate for her, which is pretty fun :)

        And I dunno, I think we’re at a pretty similar level and FFX has been a blast for me so far. You should give it a try IMO – especially since you’ve played it before in English. You may have to look some words up, but others you’ll get just from repeated exposure in context. I guarantee you will have memorized the word for “Summoner” within the first couple hours :P

        @Adshap: If we’re derailing your post too much, feel free to give James my email =)

  3. Where’s all the 少年漫画/アニメ? Naruto, One Piece, Shingeki no Kyojin?? Personally I think they should be 2-3 stars alongside Rurouni Kenshin; I’m level 30-40ish and can understand them with relative ease.

  4. Both of these are visual novel games.
    装甲悪鬼村正 (Soukou Akki Muramasa) (Full Metal Daemon Muramasa?)
    ディエス・イレ (Dies Irae)

    They should both be 5 stars, they both contain some pretty complex japanese.

  5. I have big struggles doing it like this. I don’t know… sometimes these levels just don’t fit to me… probably because I am not really a fan of level based things ( Even in games ^^ ).

    A language may look huge if you look at it from distance, but I created for myself a way to make it clearer. I created a list of language areas that use more or less a specific vocabulary. Let me show you this list…

    Manga/Anime language
    News (News/Newspaper) language
    Movie language
    Book language
    Game language (May be deleted because it doesn’t seem to make a big difference to Manga/Anime language)
    Internet slang
    Little other areas that aren’t that big

    It doesn’t mean that I will go through a strict list and just go further when I’m done.
    It’s rather like little battlefields I try to master and If I notice I get bored I just change the battlefield and come back later.

    I take the areas first I like because I learn much more in that way and it becomes easier to start in areas I don’t like a lot. Even though the vocabulary may be different… it’s still the same language and you will find always certain terms in every area (particles, common words etc.) and this makes it even easier for me. That means that every area I more or less mined out makes me directly better in other areas!

    There are even a few more areas I created for myself but they are either not very interesting for me or seem to be too difficult without a good basement of Japanese. So I don’t consider them until I got enough interest or a high level for them.

    • You also have to consider the difficulty level of the material as well, even though a game like ディエス・イレ, would come under “Anime/Manga/Video games” in your classification, it uses an extreme amount of “vivid” vocabulary, such as 空前絶後, 老若男女, and 生き体, which are hardly words that you will encounter in every game you play or anime you watch.

  6. I can add more to this.

    ペルソナ4 ザ・ゴールデンアニメーション (Persona 4 The Golden Animation) 2 stars
    ノーゲーム・ノーライフ ( No Game No Life) 3 stars

    とらドラ! (Toradora!) 2 stars
    ロザリオとバンパイア (Rosario + Vampire) 3 stars
    学園黙示録 (High School Of The Dead) 3 stars

    ゼルダの伝説 時のオカリナ 3D ( The Legend Of Zelda Ocarina Of Time 3D) two stars
    妖怪ウォッチ (Youkai Watch) two stars
    ポケットモンスター X・Y (Pokemon X/Y) two stars
    とびだせ どうぶつの森 (Animal Crossing New Leaf) 2 stars
    ルーンファクトリー4 (Rune Factory 4) 3 stars
    真・女神転生IV (Shin Megami Tensei 4) 3 stars
    レイトン教授VS逆転裁判 (Professor Layton vs Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney) 3 stars

    Note: With the exception of Pokemon and Rune factory all the other games I listed have furigana.

  7. I’m surprised Death Note is not on here, it’d probably be about 3 stars. As well as 「わたしを離さないで」the novel – about 2 stars.

    • No need to be surprised. These are just what I and others on this site have reviewed so far. This list is still very early in its infancy.

      I’m gonna raise Death Note up another star, because I know many people have trouble with that due to all the detective vocabulary.

  8. Thanks for the list. This’ll be really helpful to refer to later.

    In regards to anime, I’m watching Lilpri at the moment which is probably a level 1. Also I’ve finished Isshuukan Friends and Hanamaru Kindergarten which I’d probably also classify as level 1.

  9. This is fantastic–I might finally be able to read a novel in Japanese after timidly restricting myself to manga and the local Japanese newspaper for so long.

    One I watch/read a lot of that isn’t here is Doraemon–one star, probably, for both the manga and tv series.

  10. I noticed that the Hunter X Hunter manga was on there, but the anime wasn’t, I’ve been watching the anime and I would say it is probably 2 stars.

    As for games I’ve been playing ダンボール戦機 W, It always has an objective marker so you can never get lost, and it has furigana to making looking things up easy, I would say it’s a 1 star.

    • アカメが斬る Manga and Anime both three stars, kind surprised they weren’t on here yet. Easily my favorite current series.

  11. Sword Art Online. 3 Star. Convos during the fight scenes are pretty easy but the strategy meetings are a bit more complex. Also, I’d say that season two is quite a bit harder than season one due to all the necessary gun lingo.

  12. Love, Chunibyo, and Other Delusions is on the Level 2 Anime list twice. Number 10 seems to be correct, while Number 15 seems to have the wrong title.

  13. For both manga and anime, I would recommend バクマン(Bakuman), I’m not sure what level it is but I would think 1 or 2 stars.

  14. J-Drama 半沢直樹 (Hanzawa Naoki) should be added as well.
    It was a huge success when it was released in 2013 and there will be a second season sometime in the future.
    The level might be 5 as there are many business/banking terms and the main character speaks quite fast in some scenes.

  15. 魔法少女まどか☆マギカ is on the list twice, once under the 2 Star Anime section and once under the 3 Star.

    ガイア幻想紀 is on the Video Game 2 Star list twice. Number 9 seems to have the correct title, while Number 7 seems to have a typo.

    ポケットモンスター オメガルビー・アルファサファイア needs better English capitalization.

    勇者ヨシヒコ (Yoshihiko and the Demon King’s Castle?) is missing an English translation.

    • Thanks for pointing out those mistakes. I often times just copy and paste what is in the recommendation exchanges every month, so it ends up causing the occasional double or typo. But I’ll try to be more careful.

  16. ☆☆ 我妻さんは俺のヨメ (Wagatsuma-san Is My Wife) is a manga.

    Here’s some to add:

    ☆☆ Working!! – anime
    ☆☆ デンキ街の本屋さん (Denki-gai no Honya-san) – anime/manga
    ☆☆ アホガール (Aho Girl) – manga
    ☆☆ 貧乏神が! (Good Luck Girl!) – anime/manga
    ☆☆ 神のみぞ知るセカイ (The World God Only Knows) – anime/manga
    ☆☆ かんなぎ (Crazy Shrine Maidens) – anime/manga

    ☆☆☆ 甘城ブリリアントパーク (Amagi Brilliant Park) – anime/novel
    ☆☆☆ シャイニング・レゾナンス (Shining Resonance) – video game
    ☆☆☆ ケイオスリングススシリーズ (Chaos Rings series) – video game
    ☆☆☆ 結城友奈は勇者である (Yuki Yuna is a Hero) – anime
    ☆☆☆ 鉄腕バーディー DECODE (Birdy the Mighty: Decode) – anime
    ☆☆☆ 生徒会役員共 (Seitokai Yakuindomo) – anime/manga

    ☆☆☆☆ 空の境界 (Kara no Kyoukai/The Garden of Sinners) – anime
    ☆☆☆☆ 英雄伝説 軌跡シリーズ (The Legend of Heroes – Trails series) – video game

  17. I saw someone added ドラえもん (Doraemon), so I was surprised this was missing as it’s right on the same level, maybe even easier:

    ☆ アンパンマン (Anpanman)

  18. Hi there! How would you judge the difficulty level of Crayon Shin-chan and Blackjack (manga, and anime)? They seem fun but maybe beyond my level.

  19. Thank you for this list! It is very, very helpful! Maybe this show could be added?(The link to the recommendation exchange post is broken, so I’ll write it here.)

    ☆ ふるさと再生 日本の昔ばなし (Hometown Rebuilding: Folktales from Japan) Anime

  20. Missed the recommendation so here’s some recent ones.

    暗殺教室 Assasination Classroom anime manga 3 stars
    サイコパス psycho pass anime 4 stars. I know it’s on here already but with all the detective and technology vocab I think it should be bumped up.
    ソードアート・オンライン light novel series 4 star, helps if you’ve seen the anime.
    異能バトルは日常系のなかで when supernatural battles became commonplace anime 3 star
    遊戯王 5D’s Yu-Gi-Oh 5 D’s anime 2 stars
    ダンジョンに出合いを求めるのは間違っているだろうか Is it wrong to to try and pick up girls in a dungeon anime 3 stars
    トリアージx Triage X anime 3 star
    東京喰種トーキョーグール Tokyo Ghoul anime manga 3 stars

  21. I’m not sure if it’s rude to ask this here (?), but I wanted to know if anyone could rate “Daily Lives of High School Boys” and “Ouran High School Host Club”? They’re two of my favorite anime, and I’d love to learn with those. Just, not when they’re so hard they leave me in tears to try… :)

    • I’ve only re-watched the first episode of Ouran in Japanese so far, but based on that it felt like a mostly 2 and sometimes 3. Especially since you already know the story, it should be a great opportunity for you to learn, even if you’re still missing a lot of words.

  22. Video Game:
    信長の野望: 創造 (Nobunaga’s Ambition: Sphere of Influence): ****
    Grand strategy game set during the Waring States period. Figuring out what the menu buttons do is difficult in and of itself.

  23. I just played Virtue’s Last Reward. Its 2-3 stars [Excluding all the Scientific Vocabulary, which even natives can’t understand]

  24. What would the difficulty level of Super Danganronpa 2 for psp be, and would the menu’s gameplay and story all be different levels or same, I’m really wanting to play it but I don’t have a vita so I can’t play the english version, so if anybody could helpfully answer this question, I would greatly appreciate it.

    • Try searching for “Japanese Recommendation Exchange” in the site search. There is usually a monthly post with lots of recommendations with star ratings.

    • This specific post is not, because as Jesper said, the updates now come in the form of the Japanese Recommendation Exchange posts. When I organize the recommendation posts (I do this yearly), I’ll probably add them into this post.

  25. This is really hard for me to gauge for myself. Don’t get me wrong, I love the way it is setup. However, some of the really hard (4 star) videos I find to be more on the easy side, and the lesser (2 stars) to actually be kind of hard. I guess it depends on the movie/anime though. The super high pitch characters are almost next to impossible for me to understand even the english equivalent, haha. So i’m not really sure on how to measure on where i am. Do i need to be able to understand 100% of what is said to be able to say “yes im in the level 20/40 range” or just be able to understand whats going on as a whole? I feel like if i did this for English (my native language) I would be in the high 20s/30 range lol.

    • I think for 1 or 2 stars (Level 15 to 30), it means that “This show is simpler than others out there. Even if you don’t understand everything, you will be able to get some decent entertainment out of it.”

  26. This is so distressing. Decided to look at GTO because it was one star and found that I couldn’t understand any of it. If thats one star then I need to put in a lot more work into listening practice!

    Still loved it because its GTO obv

    • Dont worry ive had this exact same problem and noticed that this level thing isnt entirely accurate. I recently watched the first two episodes of kaliedo star and understood everything apart from a word here and there, yet ive watched and listened to gto several times over the last couple years and still cant follow a lot of the dialogue, maybe gto is really about two stars or maybe kaliedo star is just really easy i dunno

    • I think it is given a 1-star rating because it is easy to follow the general story, not necessarily because someone at the “1-star level” will understand everything being said.

      I remember reading Yotsubato awhile back at an earlier point in my studies and I was a little distressed that there was plenty in it that I did not know. Fortunately, it just pushed me to study harder. Looking back though, I think it would have been good for me to know that just because someone is in that “very easy/level 1-20” range doesn’t mean they are going to know everything that they come across in a “1-star” ranked material. It just means it is probably easy to enjoy and to learn something from.

    • Yeah the star rating only refers to “how difficult is it to understand this well enough to follow the action and enjoy it”. It doesn’t mean 100% comprehension (sometimes not even 33% comprehension!)

      It’s also more of an average, as difficulty of material can vary from episode to episode or chapter to chapter. Most of Yotsubato is pretty simple, but one of the chapters in the second volume is all about recycling, global warming, and carbon dioxide. Bit of a jump up from visiting the beach and catching bugs. Nothing to feel bad about if you don’t really “get it” when the adults are talking (neither does Yotsuba ^_-).

      Point being, as long as you’re enjoying the things you’re reading/watching/playing, I’d say try not to be too hard on yourself if you miss some finer details. Those will come to you in good time =)

  27. Can anyone tell me what the overall star rating for Higashino’s novels are? I’m thinking a four myself, but I’m also certain I’m wrong.

      • Figures, I’ll have to continue my “intensive” skimming.

        BTW, is there any way someone can write an article about vocab used in buying used items (esp. books)? I feel like this is something quite a few people can use…

    • He’s written so many, where would one begin?!

      I’ve only ever read one of his books (assuming you mean Higashino Keigo), and it was one of his first – 白馬山荘殺害事件. I didn’t really rate it as a mystery novel, but then he was just starting out as a writer. I found it fairly easy to follow the plot and all the twists, and I fully understood the trick to the murder and the motive, so I would probably rate it as a 3 star.

      If you want a recommendation for murder mysteries, I suggest Higashigawa Tokuya’s loosely-connected 烏賊川市 Series – great plots, complex murder mysteries, and hilarious black comedy moments.


      I’d rate them all about 4 star.

  28. Hi, I’m new here. Has anyone ever played the higurashi no naku koro ni visual, or rather, sound novel? I’ve always love Japanese’s colorful subcultures, food and stuff, excluding the harsh ways of life they’re living. However it’s this one novel that I absolutely must reread it in it’s revamped and fully voiced PSVita Version.

    Can anyone rate for me “higurashi no naku koro ni”‘s difficulty? Also any help pointing me to the “absolute necessary” kanji characters and vocabs that are, well, vital in order to understand most normal conversations or text in japanese would be enormous help for me

    Thanks! :D

    • As a rule of the thumb, 95% of Visual Novels are 3 Stars (Including Higurashi). You won’t be able to understand everything, but it would at least be enjoyable.

      Unhelpful Answer- There is no such list, you have to experience it for yourself.

      Helpful Answer- “Absolute Necessary” means “at the very least” and not “everything”.OK? You fine with that?
      RTK is a good place to start for Kanji. About 3000 cards for normal conversations (excluding cultural references, news, names of people, place, vegetables). So upto JalUp Advanced.

      • It could just be my luck, but I’ve seen a lot of variation in VN games based on subject matter. “School Life” stuff seems to exist more in the 2-Star range, but when I played a game with heavy sci-fi/fantasy elements it was much closer to 4-Star. Something in-between like Robotics;Notes is about 3… Then I tried Planeterian and that was easily 5-Star+.

        That said, based on what little I know of Higurashi’s content, 3ish star difficulty is what I’d expect going in. That should at least be approachable given a year or so of study (which at a moderate pace is RTK + ~2-3k sentence cards – pretty close to Manan’s recommendation). The resources and Walkthrough on this site are great for helping you figure out how to get to that point – and of course the people here are pretty good about answering questions as well =)

        Good luck with your studies!

        (PS: You may want to consider changing the first part of your handle to “JP” or something. I’m not sure how it is in other countries, but at least in America the term “Jap” is widely seen as derogatory toward those of Japanese descent due to its historical use as a racial epithet.)

        • Thanks for the suggestions, Manan and Matt! So this RTK you are referring to is the Anki deck right? Or is it the book in amazon? Also if I’m going to use Anki, I think I would have to buy the 24.99 version since I don’t have much time at home these days.

          Also I think the best approach to learning a language is finding something you’re interested in the language and once you get the grasp of the basic readings and essential vocab you start reading the content of the subject in that language. I figure visual novel would do me justice here since even if i can’t read the kanji I still can repeat what the characters say and try to translate it from the pronunciation.

          My another question is that would very basic grammar understanding and tons of vocab and kanjis allow me to understand texts? I have this kind of mindset so correct me if I’m wrong here. :D

          Also English is my second language and said mindset has allowed me to study English with relative ease.


          • Both, actually. RTK is the name of the book, and this site offers an “RTK Mod Deck” designed to save you the trouble of creating your own flash cards while studying the book.

            And yeah I think your approach is sound. I mostly play video games, and it’s working well for me.

            However, the jump from English grammar to Japanese grammar is dramatic. It’ll take substantial study effort to get to the point where you understand the grammar well enough for it to feel intuitive. Fortunately, going through the sentence card process (and in particular, the J-J transition process) really helps in that regard. And of course, picking up vocab is a long-term ongoing effort, as I’m sure you already know from picking up English =)

            I’ll also stress that with Japanese, connecting vocabulary to Kanji is extremely valuable. It allows you to pick up on many patterns you may have otherwise missed, and will ultimately enable you to guess the meaning and reading of many new words the first time you see them. It also helps with distinguishing homophones (try looking up こうてい in the dictionary sometime – I think it has 22 entries?), and serves as an anchor for vocabulary retention. It’s a lot of up-front effort, but don’t neglect your Kanji ^_^

          • -Anki is FREE on android (if you have one).
            -Visual novels are the main reason I started learning Japanese, because lets face it, it’s very rare to see a quality visual novel getting translated.
            –I hope this won’t discourage you, but you need you need to know this.
            –Everything you said IS spot on, if you change “grasp of the basic readings and essential vocab” to “grasp of 80% readings and advanced vocab” i.e. ~5000 cards.
            -In my experience, the “learn from immersion/being in wild” methods are good in theory, but fall apart in practice. Although immersion does wonders at an intermediate level, it could only serve as output, a display of your progress at beginner phase. You need to understand 90% to pick up 10%.

            -At level ~22, I tried to read Steins;Gate with a Text Hooker and auto import Anki. Hilarious fail. There were mixtures of informal speech, formal speech, made up vocab, real vocab etc. I mean, if I had continued , I might eventually would have understood it, but that understanding would cost a great deal of effort and be limited to the medium. I was not able to separate the useful from the useless and recognize patterns (a skill I had taken for granted in English). After 3.5 months of using JalUp decks, I am able to do just that and Steins;Gate is faaaar easier than it was. It is at this stage, I believe, you should immerse in the wild.

            -Watching TV shows was how I developed my English skills too. But, since I already knew 90% of the words being used, I was able to pick up the rest of the 10%.

            -Don’t get me wrong. I am not attacking Immersion. It is the most valuable tool at your disposal, but you MUST level it. Otherwise it would lead to disappointments and failures.

          • Thanks for your suggestions! I’ve been really busy so I was late to replying your comments.

            Matt, how much grammar do I need to know to understand most normal conversations? I’ve study a bit of grammar from my university’s elementary Japanese class but I’m graduating soon so I won’t be taking more of those.

            And Manan, The Jalup dacks you’re talking about are the ones that can be bought on this website? I don’t have an android unfortunately so I might have to buy Anki on my Iphone.

            • So for your goal (tackling a ~3 star VN), you’ll need Grammar *knowledge* roughly equivalent to 2 years of university classes. However, university classes are really slow, so it’s actually realistic to get through that level of material in ~2-4 months on your own. The JALUP Beginner deck (or equivalent) should get you there.

              Beyond Grammar “knowledge” though, is the matter of building your ability to understand it intuitively without constantly stopping to think it through. That takes time to train up and, IMO, the most effective way to do that is to spend some time with monolingual flash cards (ex: JALUP Intermediate – which I strongly recommend because it’s fantastic).

              So overall, if you self-study with the JALUP materials, you’re probably looking at ~4-8 months, depending on your current knowledge and rate of progress through J-J. Once you get to the point where you’re comfortable understanding explanations of what things mean *in Japanese*, you’ll have a pretty good shot at A) Enjoying RPGs and moderately difficult VNs and B) Learning words in context, or being able to isolate and look them up without too much difficulty.

              That said, I encourage you to wade in and start trying to play things as soon as you finish the “Beginner” level grammar. Even if you hit a brick wall and retreat for a couple months, it’ll give you a sense of how much progress you’ve made and how much further you need to go. Also, even once you’re able to start enjoying native media, try not to be too lax on your actual studies – you still have a lot to gain by continuing with the Advanced deck and beyond, or by starting to build your own deck using vocab from the stuff you’re reading/watching/playing.

              Good luck! =)

            • @JpNovelLover
              Exactly what Matt said.
              Aim for 10000 sentences!Best of Luck!

        • Oh, it’s nice to see Robotics;Notes being specifically mentioned… Alright, so out of curiosity, would you say that after going through JALUP Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced, one would be close to being able to work their way through reading Robotics;Notes? Thanks!

          • Yeah, if you start it after finishing Advanced, you should be able to follow the general flow of the plot, and a large portion of the character interactions (あきちゃん最高!^_^). A lot of nuance will still get lost, but you’ll be able to enjoy the overall story and a good chunk of the humor.

            Things that will help you get more out of it:
            -Having completed RTK (even if the readings of unknown words are a mystery, you can often guess their meaning based on RTK keywords and context)
            -Being familiar with the story from another source (like having watched the anime or played the game previously in English)
            -Looking up unknown words that are used frequently (you’ll probably pick up some obscure technology vocab in the process, but it’ll be easy to remember because you see it often while playing, and it’ll help your reading flow more smoothly)
            -Allowing yourself to skip particularly difficult sections when you’re feeling totally lost/frustrated (like when an old government person gives a needlessly complicated explanation of something that’s not that important anyway)

            Good luck! =)

            • Thanks! I feel like I finally have a (somewhat) short term goal to work towards! I’ve owned R;N since its release, it was supposed to be something to aspire to be able to read but it always felt so far off. I did watch the anime, but I still want to read the VN. If it’s anything like how Steins;Gate was, the VN is chock full of “extra” content that didn’t make it into the anime, so that’s exciting! How useful are the TIPS in R;N?

  29. Hi there, fantastic site, I take the opportunity here to thank everyone for sharing their experience.

    Another great video game I haven’t seen on the list :
    Borderlands 2 ☆☆☆

  30. Tokyo Ghoul anime is listed under Manga. Jonathon probably meant that both the anime and the manga are three stars.

  31. I dont have a recommendation however I was wondering what level would Gaki no Tsukai, more specifically, Downtown no Gaki no tsukai ya arahende (ダウンタウンのガキの使いやあらへんで) Variety Show would be? I know it is way above my level but this is what I enjoy watching (without subtitles, of course) in my free time, so I was just curious!

    • It depends on what they are doing. Downtown and other members of the show speak in heavy Osaka-Ben. However, the skits are fairly visual, making it easier. For conversation by itself probably 4 stars. For visual skits, maybe 2.

  32. Planetarian is NOT 5 Stars in rating. Like, it’s one of the easier Visual Novels I’ve ever read. Sure it’s 5 stars in “rating” (and in emptying your tear ducts, and it deals complex stuff which requires *some* specialized vocabulary (which is necessary as it is a Sci-Fi), but difficulty level is at most a 3. There are a few words that are too advanced, but they have loan word furigana. Here’s a video of it in action:

    • Maybe for someone who’s really into novels & VNs? I dunno, I find it reasonably difficult (but manageable) even at a mid-50’s level, and I utterly failed trying to make sense of it in the mid 30’s. For me it’s at least a solid 4 (based on the rating scale above), but I think getting other opinions and averaging them in is valid as well.

      • It think 4 should be a great average, but I’ll still stand by my 3 star rating. Atleast Planetarian is readable and uses Hiragana! Many Visual Novels do not even use hiragana for artistic purposes and it reads like chinese. The fact that Planetarian , Dies Irae and Muramasa are in the same linguatic category seems wrong. The latter two are popular for being toughest VNs (native people have trouble reading them, lots of obscure vocab, sometimes reads like chinese), while the former is a…key title. At level 4 we have Muv-Luv Alternative, and Umineko, which are still way tougher than Planetarium due to the fact that they are linguistically and logically complex.So, Planetarium could either be easier of level 4 VN, or tougher of level 3 VNs.

  33. Today, I was enlightened. I was watching doraemon even though my Japanese is nowhere near enough to grasp everything, then I was watching an episode about multiplying cream puffs. I didn’t understand everything that was said but I was really absorbed in it and actually laughed quite a lot without even realizing that I didn’t understand everything. It was like watching regular tv, I just enjoyed it and forgot that it was even Japanese. That was a really fun experience and I hope I keep on having them.

    • I’d recommend watching the movie “Stand by me Doraemon” with Japanese subtitles. It’s basically a whole summary of the series, and the language used in this movie is easier as compared to series.

  34. I’ll add to the Novel list
     ログ ホライゾン

     love so life
     ケンニチ 最強の弟子

    • Thanks very much. Will add on next update.

      I also didn’t realize that ログホライゾン was a novel (I enjoyed the anime… for the most part). Will have to check it out.

  35. There’s a few anime I’d like to watch, but I’m trying to sort them by how difficult they are. Can someone rate Revolutionary Girl Utena, Full Metal panic! or Planetes?

    I’m watching the Fruits Basket anime and I think it’s 2, maybe 3 stars. I miss most of the plot-heavy conversations, but it’s still enjoyable.

    I’m only a couple episodes into the Cardcaptor Sakura anime but it’s very fun and easier than Fruits Basket, so probably 2 stars.

    I’m around level 20.

    • I think I saw Full Metal Panic many years ago, and I remember there being a lot of military terminology raising up the difficulty a bit, so I’d say 4 stars. Not sure on the others.

    • Semi-wild guess since it’s been many moons since I watched it, but I’d say Utena is around 3 stars? There are some weird words/phrases, but due to the structure of the show there’s a ton of repetition, which is actually pretty awesome for listening practice.

      I’ll bet you could enjoy it to some extent at level 20, but there’s only one way to find out!

      It’s a crazy (and awesome) show though — definitely check it out at some point if not now.

  36. By any chance how many stars would lord of the rings be? I know Adam mentioned he read it somewhere. Would that be 6 stars? I find the book pretty slow reading in English and im a native lol

  37. I’d like to ask, pretend I know every vocabulary word in Japanese. What grammar level jalup deck wise to enjoy final fantasy? Because according to what I know, these ratings are based on grammar and vocabulary knowledge.

    • I think it’ll vary depending on a number of factors, but for what it’s worth…

      I actually got a lot of value out of re-playing Final Fantasy X while I was ~halfway through the Intermediate deck. However, I’d also played it in English previously, so that helped me to avoid getting stuck/frustrated if I didn’t understand something.

      If you want to play a Final Fantasy (or equivalently complex) story-heavy game that you *haven’t* played previously, I’d suggest being most or all of the way through Advanced to make it more manageable.

      Also, fantasy RPGs use a lot of “archaic” grammar to give flavor to certain characters’ speech styles (often knights, nobles, deities, etc). The JALUP decks cover some of this, but most of it you have to pick up as you go. While it’s kind of intimidating at first, you’ll get used to it as you see it over and over, and just kind of learn the patterns by osmosis.

  38. 月刊少女野崎くん (Monthly Girls’ Nozaki-kun) is listed three times in the 2-star Anime section.

  39. Can I have this added? I don’t know how to grade it but here:
    -I’ve almost finished jalup beginner
    -The only things I don’t understand is vocab, the game’s grammar is completely understandable
    -It uses kanji that I don’t know the reading for yet but I can tell what they mean
    -I would say I understand 40-60% of it but I do enjoy it, I just need to look up vocab

    The game is Mario & Luigi RPG 3 (マリオ&ルイージRPG3!), I assume if someone were to finish Jalup Intermediate and the JRPG themed deck, they could easily tackle this game with no trouble. So I assume one star and a half? Can someone much more experienced grade this based on what I provided or if they played it before too.

    Localized in the US as:Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story

  40. Where do you guys find your unsubbed anime? I am having a hard time finding them in (you know where).

    • Crunchyroll for me. Most videos, at least from the last few years, have the option to disable subtitles by right-clicking the video.

  41. I found Cardcaptor Sakura easy to understand. Even though I didn’t understand most of the dialogue, I could understand enough to follow the plot and enjoy watching it. Maybe 1 star?

    Also, what is the difference between numbers 13 and 17 under 1 star anime? :3

  42. Recently I’ve been watching Flying Witch and I think that one might be good for beginners. I’m still pretty beginner-ish myself and was watching with subtitles, but I did pick up a lot of words in the latest episode. I’d say it’s 1 or maybe 2 stars, since I remember one scene in an earlier episode where one character speaks in a different dialect.

  43. After rewatching it, I suspect that 坂の上の雲 (Clouds Above the Hill) should be bumped up to 4 stars.

  44. I’m struggling really hard to read Re:Zero Web Novel/Light Novel . Could someone gives an estimate on what level this series fall onto?

    P.s. I notice that this guide lacks a lot of Web novels/ Light Novel categories e.g. Overlord, The rise of shield hero, Hataraku maousama, Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru…, KonoSuba, etc.

  45. Hello,

    I was wondering how the following light novels compare in terms of difficulty:

    1) GJ bu
    2) Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Comedy wa Machigatteiru
    3) Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
    4) Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu

  46. I’ve been watching and really enjoying the drama Legal High. It’s maybe a two star? It’s not as if it’s all easy to understand but even though it’s a legal drama it’s lighthearted and funny and the story is told in a very visual way so even if you don’t pick up many words you can still follow and enjoy it.

    (And there’s a lot of repetition of some simple words like “shachou” and “ningen”)

  47. I have a few anime that I didn’t see on your list:
    -Shakugan no Shana
    -Madoka Magica (including the movies)
    -Tokyo Mew Mew anime

    Also, the L*DK drama. I have never watched it but I have heard it is good for beginners.

    • -Shakugan no Shana ***
      -Watamote **
      -Madoka Magica (including the movies)**
      -Tokyo Mew Mew anime *

      Not sure about shakugan but i assume its got some tricky words so i put it at three the rest shouldn’t be too difficult though

  48. Sorry for double commenting but I remembered a few more:
    -Lucky Star
    -Love Live
    -Yuri on Ice
    -Cardcaptor Sakura
    -Shugo Chara
    -Sailor Moon
    -Sailor Moon Crystal
    -Fairy Tail
    -My name your name (movie)
    -Ergo Proxy

    If any of these are already there and I didn’t see them I apologize >.<

  49. Perfect blue, Detective Conan, Another, Black Butler, Your name, School live, Shiki, Shōjo Tsubaki, Spirited Away, Your lie in April, Hotarubi no Mori e, The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl, host in the shell, Code Geass, Death Parade, Death Note, Grave Of The Fireflies, Re:zero, Princess Mononoke, Whisper of the Heart, Elfen Lied, My Neighbour Totoro, Howl’s Moving Castle, 5 Centimetres Per Second, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Porco Rosso, Laputa: Castle in the Sky, Mary and the witch’s flower,Corpse Party, Ponyo, The Cat Returns, Journey to Agartha, Arrietty, Millennium Actress, Violet Evergreen, Shelter, No Game No Life, Ousama Game, Bungo Stary Dogs, Fairtail, Dead Tube- Had forgotten the other animes…(sorry) ( Anime,Mangas,Movies )

  50. Haven’t got nearly to the level of understanding to actually watch it, but I imagine Ghost in the Shell would be a 5 star anime. It’s so full of political and philosophical dialogue that It’s actually hard to watch with English subtitles because the text is flying by so fast. Although you would have to sacrifice the English cast, which are some of the best (english-speaking) anime voice actors I’ve ever heard.

    • Oh my god thank you so much for saying this. I thought I’d reached a level of Japanese where I could understand roughly what a sentence was about in any context, until I tried to watch Ghost in the Shell. I think it’s the amount of not very common jukugo words which zip past at lightning speed and all sound the same as each other.

    • I would suggest you forget about the JLPT levels and just do the remembering the Kanji books or use Anki decks. You can learn all Kanji in a few months. Also most star 1 to 3 content will have furigana anyway.

  51. I would put Persona 5 at a 4 star if you’ve put Trails series at the same. I’ve played both and would say they both have a roughly equal amount of non-standard dialects and picked up lots of sentences from both. Just Trails has more text overall.

    I would put the Log Horizon novel series at a 4 too since I’m reading it at the moment and it’s about as hard as those games…

  52. ぷよぷよ通 on the Visual Novel easy list is Puyo Puyo Tsuu(2) for the Mega Drive. idk why it’s not translated but there ya go. Also, it’s a puzzle game not o VN, but I could see how it has some VN elements to it, such as the conversations the characters have before battle.

  53. While I haven’t actually consumed any of the Fate franchise, I’ve heard that some of the stuff in those visual novels are difficult for even Japanese people to understand. Candidate for the very hard category? (anime and visual novel)

  54. Novel related question for someone who’s a Silent Hill fan : I want to start reading light novels and my Silent Hill 1 and 2 novels ( Author: 山下定 ) just arrived from Japan, still unopened. Can anyone here advise if its really a light novel or a novel, to begin with ? I want to open them when I’m ready to read them.

    (My Level: I’ve finished Advanced and planning to start Expert very soon. Doing regular immersion except any books/novels)

    Am I at a comfortable enough level to read these books, or should I wait to open them ’til I’ve finished Expert and the other higher level decks ?

    • I would say that how well you will do is not dependent on how many anki/Jalup cards you have done, but rather how much reading experience you have (unless of course you no no vocab at all, which is not the case). Whether they are light novels or novels doesn’t really matter. What matters is, how many manga, light novels, or novels have you read? Your first novel type reading will be very hard and frustrating, but if you keep pushing and finish one, the next will be far easier, and same with the next. So, why not give it a try? If you dont easily burn out or get frustrated you can look up most words you don’t know. If the opposite, look up 1 frequently appearing word a page max and work towards being fine with ambiguity.
      Either way, my personal recommendation for a first light novel is キノの旅 (kino no tabi). Its a big series which allows you to get used to the vocab and style of the author and that makes it a natural SRS.
      But to answer your question with having no knowledge of those books, I had finished about double the card count of up to expert when I finally read a book and my first book was still pretty brutal :D But afterwards, easier and easier. So yes, I’d say you can read what you want if you have patience and persistence. The reason it’s so hard isnt so much the vocab I feel, since you can look that up, but rather understanding all of the context and what is happening, which only improves with practice and reading real Japanese literature. I hope it goes well for you!

  55. I would suggest moving 真・女神転生 IV to either 4 or 5 stars. I am halfway through the game and I have to say, plenty of classic Japanese (some medieval and some way older), heavy yakuza slang, copious amounts of 地名 (the game takes place in tokyo and being familiar with all its districts and landmarks is of major importance to progress through the game), jargon related to mythology and religion and the list goes on. Definitely not on the same level as 逆転裁判 which is how it stands now at the moment.

  56. I just started reading children’s books, and I would like to suggest these for the first level:
    ☆ こぐまのクーク物語 春と夏
    ☆ 一年間だけ
    ☆ 笑い猫の5分間怪談
    While there are some grammar points to search here and there, first two are great for a beginner’s first read I think ^^
    Third one, I would say 1.5 stars, but still doable!

    Read all three after finishing both Genki books.
    Still working slowly through JALUP Intermediate deck.

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