American pop culture is turning Japanese. Every day, millions of kids spend hours watching anime on Cartoon Network and reading telephone book-sized comics called manga. From "Spirited Away" to Shonen Jump, if the label says "Made in Japan" it's considered cool.
But what if you want to enjoy anime and manga in its original language? Written Japanese consists of three scripts: the phonetic hiragana and katakana syllabaries, each comprised of 46 characters (collectively known as kana); and kanji, a complex set of characters based on Chinese ideographs.
Hiragana and katakana are the true "ABCs of Japanese," as they can be used to write complete sentences. Children in Japan learn to read and write hiragana and katakana long before they are introduced to kanji. Most manga targeted toward the youngest readers in Japan are also written completely in kana.
Kana de Manga, the first book in Manga University's award-winning Kanji de Manga series, makes learning kana easy and fun for students who already enjoy Japanese comics. Each page has a humorous manga illustration representing a word that begins with the hiragana or katakana character featured prominently at the top. A brief explanation accompanies each drawing; the English equivalent of the word is given; and there is a work area where students can practice writing the characters.
The anime-and-manga boom has inspired young people worldwide to learn more about Japanese language and culture — a trend that educators and students alike should embrace.