Review: 'Japanese in Anime & Manga' language learning site created by the Japan Foundation
Japanese in Anime & Manga (アニメ・マンガの日本語) is a newly launched site created by the Japan Foundation Japanese-Language Institute, Kansai, that aims to provide Japanese language instruction through use of manga. It's still under construction, but what's already there looks quite promising indeed, and it's doubly interesting because this seems to be an 'official' effort at promoting Japanese learning through manga.
The site describes its contents as follows:
Users can study expressions (single phrases, grammar, naming terms and pronunciation) distinctive of 8 characters typically found in anime and manga (boy, girl, scrapper, samurai, old man, (elite) lady, butler and Osakan). Content is organised into 3 sections - Character line-up, Character dictionary and Quiz: Whose line? Audio is also included.
Users can study expressions characteristic of 4 genres (romance, school, ninja, samurai) of anime/manga.
Expressions by scene (Coming soon)
Using a manga that depicts a storyline typical of the genre, learners can study single phrases, onomatopoeia and cultural information common in various manga scenes. There is also an onomatopoeia quiz.
Learners can study using quizzes where words used in each genre are categorised by level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Manga examples using each word are included.
Kanji game (Coming soon)
Users can learn using a game focussing on the meaning or reading of kanji often found in a particular genre. There are 2 levels: beginner and upper-intermediate.
The 'Character expressions' section is very extensive and does a good job of showing off various language registers associated with different types of characters. The only other section that is up and working at the moment is the word quiz, which looks quite nice, except that there's no way to track progress (more on that below).
The site is heavily flash-based and loading takes a while sometimes, but on the whole, this looks to be a very promising effort and I'm eager to see what the site will look like when there is more content. One big problem with many "learn Japanese through manga" books is that they don't really take advantage of manga as a medium: they're basically standard textbooks that use pictures with the example sentences (we blogged about this and other manga textbook-related problems a few years ago).
The manga examples used on this site all seem to come from the same story and appear to be custom-made for the site, but they don't feel as 'fake' as many manga 'examples' in other textbooks: the art looks normal and the Japanese is not dumbed down. IMHO, the biggest advantage to using manga for Japanese study (besides the fact it has pretty pictures) is that the language used is natural, colloquial and sometimes complicated even for advanced readers. Many manga textbooks take away this challenging aspect by having the characters speak Japanese on the supposed level of the learner. This makes for intensely boring learning material. Fortunately, the creators of this site seem aware of that.
Once the 'Japanese in Anime & Manga' has more content, there should definitely be a way for users to log in and track their progress. That would make the site exponentially more useful and establish it as a serious learning environment. Without some added educational features, it may come across as more of a 'game' to some, which would be a great shame.
EDIT: Helen McCarthy has posted a review as well.