Where to find free Japanese Manga

I have recently been looking for websites where I can read manga in Japanese for free (legally), and I have managed to find quite a few! Manga is great for reading practice because the pictures can really help give you additional context about what is happening in the story. If you live in Japan, its pretty easy to find cheap manga all over the place, but for people living elsewhere, it has traditionally been both difficult to get and expensive. So knowing that there are so many online sources now is fantastic!

Some of the manga websites below will let you read titles in their entirity for free, and some will only let you read a few chapters for free, and encourage you to either purchase the rest or subscribe to their service. I have not subscribed to any of these services, so I’m not sure what difficulties you might face if trying to do so outside of Japan. However, there are so many different titles available, there is enough free content to last you for ages!

ComicWalker

Featuring titles from Kadokawa publishing, you can find some famous classics here, such as Evangelion and Lucky Star, as well as the often-recommended manga for Japanese beginners, Yotsubato! There are typically several free chapters available for each manga, including the first few chapters and the latest few chapters.

Shonen Jump+

I think almost everyone knows of Shonen Jump, due to their mega hits like Dragon Ball and One Piece. It looks like they make certain titles available for free in their entirity on certain days of the week.

pixiv comic

Pixiv features a lot of works from amateur artists, but it looks like they also carry titles that were published in popular magazines as well. Many of the titles here only feature a few chapters for free, but I have seen some titles that have every chapter available!

S-MANGA

S-Manga is run by Shueisha publishing, which is the parent company of Shonen Jump, so you can find many Jump titles here in addition to others. For each volume or book of a series, you can typically read the first chapter online for free.

MangaZ

Formerly known as J-comi, according to Wikipedia, this site was created to make out-of-print manga available online. You can read titles in their entirity for free. It includes some classics like Love Hina, but it looks like a lot of the most popular items on here are erotic titles.

eBookJapan

They want you to buy the full books, but select titles will let you read several entire volumes for free! If you just want to buy books in electronic form, it seems that you can find almost any popular title on here.

Sai-Zen-Sen

I think the most interesting parts of this site are the Twitter 4-koma and the 4Pages sections.  These are particularly nice for beginners because they are so short, so its much easier to read a bit whenever you get some free time. The Twitter 4-koma section has several manga where each chapter consists of just 4 panels. There are links to allow you to go back and read each one from the very beginning. The 4pages section is similar, but each chapter is 4 pages long, and they all seem to be in full color, which is nice.

Are there any other good sites that I missed? Let me know!

Free Japanese Readers

I recently came across an archive of free readers that I’ve never seen before, created by the Japan Foundation. They are quite basic and each one is very short, so they are good for beginners of Japanese. These aren’t as good as some of the ones that you can buy, but you can’t beat free. There are about 25 of them and they are licensed under creative commons.

KCよむよむ

NES/SNES Classic Manuals

If you are a fan of classic Nintendo games like I am, then you might be interested in reading the original game manuals in Japanese!

The SNES Classic was released today, and along with it Nintendo has posted up the original manuals for all of the games included on it, in multiple languages! And of course, the manuals from the NES Classic are all available as well. It can be a lot of fun to compare the Japanese manuals with the English versions as well!

NES/Famicom manuals

SNES/Super Famicom manuals

Language selection is in the Top-Right corner of the page.

Hirogaru – Yet another source of beginner’s reading material!

I can’t believe how much reading material I have been finding recently. I remember my early days in Japanese, struggling to find anything at all that was on my level, but now I keep seeing more and more material becoming available. This latest resource is the newest website from The Japan Foundation. Called ひろがる、it launched in 2016 and seems to have at least 50-60 easy articles on it so far.

The level of the material seems to be aimed at those who have perhaps completed about one year of studying (able to pass JLPT N5, or completed the first Genki textbook), but may still be somewhat challenging for more advanced students as well, due to the diverse range of topics that the articles cover. Topics include:

  • Astronomy
  • Outdoors
  • Martial Arts
  • Tea
  • Sweets
  • Shopping
  • Calligraphy
  • Anime/Manga
  • Books
  • Temples
  • Music
  • Aquarium

Each topic generally contains about 4-5 articles that you can read. I believe that they may be adding new articles from time to time, but it does not seem to be at a very fast pace. Besides just the articles, there is usually a short video about each topic, as well as some short commentary from Japanese people saying what that topic means to them. For some reason, most topics also have a section containing pictures of food. There is also a comment section in each topic, which allows you to write a Japanese response to three different questions.

The articles are really the main attraction of this site, so let’s talk about those for a bit. Each article is fairly short, so that a beginner student could probably read it in 5 or 10 minutes. The articles are broken up into several paragraphs, and each paragraph has audio so you can hear it read aloud. At the end of each article you will find a quiz with a couple of multiple choice questions, to test your comprehension. At the top of the site, there are some controls which can assist you in reading the articles. One is a “Ruby” toggle, which turns furigana on or off for all of the kanji in the article. The other setting is an “English/Japanese” toggle. This seems to be poorly named, because it does not function how you might expect. If you set it to “English”, the articles remain fully in Japanese. The only thing that really changes is the navigation buttons, and also when it is set to English there will be a button under each paragraph that you can press to see a list of the difficult vocabulary. As such, I would recommend keeping it set to “English” at all times so you have access to the vocabulary words.

Overall its a nice site, and certainly worth spending some time on. My only real gripe is that the articles are kinda lame and boring (to me at least), but that’s sort of hard to avoid with these kinds of generic topics. But all in all, it’s a fantastic source of reading material at a level where such material has often been overlooked. Check it out!

Pibo – Even more children’s books on your smart device

So I recently wrote about EhonNavi, which lets you read thousands of Japanese Children’s books for free, but did you know that there is also another service called Pibo which has hundreds more completely different children’s books which can also be read for free?

Pibo is completely a separate service from EhonNavi, and offers some different pros and cons. First of all, while EhonNavi is primarily a site for desktop computers, Pibo is designed primarily for phones and tablets. Upon visiting their website, you will see prominent links to get the app from either the iTunes App store or the Google Play store. There is also no signup procedure–just download the app and you are ready to start using it!

While EhonNavi shows you scans of physical books, the books on Pibo are all digital. As such, the artwork is much more crisp and clear. The books on Pibo are also completely voiced. That’s right, you can follow along as the book is read aloud to you! There is also no limit to how many times a certain book can be read, unlike on EhonNavi, where you only get to read each book once. Also, like EhonNavi, books can be browsed according to their age level (although I feel that many books fall into too large of an age range).

There are also a few downsides to the service as well. For one thing, there is no apparent way to see which books you have read already. So if your goal is to read every book that is offered, you might need to keep a list yourself. The books are also always displayed in a completely random order, which exacerbates the problem further. I have created a list of every book title, which you can grab here (updated Feb 5, 2017). The number of books available is also significantly less than what you could find on EhonNavi. However, with nearly 400 available already (and growing!), that isn’t a huge problem.

So now, it’s worth mentioning how the service operates. When you first install the app, you get a 1 week free trial to read as much as you want. After that free trial is up, you can still read up to 3 books for free every day, which seems quite generous. You can also purchase a subscription for less than $5 per month, which allows you to read all you want. Seems like a pretty fair price to me.

All in all, I think this is a good complement to EhonNavi. You don’t have to choose either-or. They both work great together! When I am at my desktop, I use EhonNavi, and when I am on my phone, I read 3 books on Pibo. I urge everyone to check out both of these free services to try them out and get some reading practice!