Grading manga vs prose/books

I’m reading quicker now (hurrah!) and finding with grading, that comparing prose (like children’s books or nonfiction books) and manga is difficult. If they are more than 4 levels of difficulty apart, then it’s pretty clear, but anything closer and I’m not really sure what I should be considering and I was thinking of just skipping that comparison. But maybe marking them as similar if I’m unsure is better than skipping, because that’s still useful information even if it’s rough?

Some strategies for comparing:

Relative difficulty of the average sentence? Or the trouble it took to get through a page? Or the how long it took to get through the whole work?

Given that most prose will have 10x number of sentences/words and no/fewer images, then depending on what strategy you take for grading, the same comparison could be considered easier or harder. A book with similarly complex sentences to a manga will take much longer to read, which requires more stamina, so is it harder? Or a manga with very complex sentences, but the artwork aids comprehension well - does that count as easier or harder than prose with simpler sentences but overall you needed more time/lookups for the prose to understand it 100%. What about a very challenging short story? Does that count as easier than a novel with similarly complex sentences due to being more achievable based on the stamina issue? Or is a prospective reader more interested in sentence level complexity, choosing longer easier works and shorter more challenging works?

On top of that, different works will feel easier/harder considering my subjective familiarity with manga vs prose, the kanji and politeness register used.

I’m probably overthinking this as the difficulty is probably not much more accurate than +/- 2 and dependent on the reader, but I’m still curious how are you all are handling that!?

I couldn’t find a discussion on this, so sorry if it’s already been hashed out… please point me in the right direction if so.


I don’t really consider length in grading. However, I count story complexity, so that can up the grading of books compared to short stories.

I’ve had a hard time comparing mangas to prose. I’d say my rule of thumb is grammar, or rather grammar points. If I can vaguely understand what’s happening thanks to the drawings + text but I come across a lot of new grammar points, that’s going to be harder. Vocab I never really know what to do with, because so much more can be understood thanks to the drawings. But I’d say generally, if grammar is similar and vocab vaguely around the same, I’ll mark novels and such as harder.


You might find this post interesting/relevant: How much Japanese you need to understand different media formats (AKA data is fun) (I’d take it with a grain of salt)

As a general rule, I’ll almost always mark prose harder, unless it’s very difficult manga vs very easy (for me) prose, or some other specific factor. I’d say manga is often easier to read, and get the gyst, but sometimes harder to fully understand.

Factors I consider
  • Number & complexity of vocab lookups (probably top factor)
    • Archaic, fantasy, magic, other specialized vocab
    • Unique vocab (plus domain specific, but also how varied is the “regular” vocab)
  • Furigana vs not (tho sometimes furigana == harder grammar)
  • Grammar complexity (manga grammar can be broken to the point of hard to understand)
  • Difficult speech styles
    • Is the speech very broken? dependent on implicit content? archaic or atypical patterns? dialects? etc
  • Hard to tell who’s speaking?
  • Hard to read out of box text
  • Cultural knowledge required… manga I’ve read often has super specific references to pop culture (old and modern)
  • Relative difficulty within genre (media type and content type)
  • Is font hard to read
  • Writing style (some LNs have unbearable internal monologue/narration, dense writing style, etc)

The reason I consider vocab highest is b/c it’s the most disruptive, and holding more than 1-2 words per sentence in your head, while trying to understand a sentence (esp the long ones) is very wearing. Work length is irrelevant - prose (besides short stories) is almost always longer than manga. (if it’s overly long b/c it really needed an editor, that’s a different story)


Fate/kaleid liner プリズマ☆イリヤ 1 | L27 or ロード・エルメロイII世の事件簿 1 | L29 harder than ひげを剃る。そして女子高生を拾う。 | L26 (vocab and grammar(?))

  • ひげひろ - can read/listen without stopping, with strong comprehension
  • Prisma Ilya & El-Melloi - looking stuff up constantly, and still scratching my head
    • lots of made up fantasy terms, odd kanji combinations, inside jokes, broken language, etc
    • sometimes very abstract (esp El-Melloi)

Prisma Ilya/El-Melloi vs ソードアート・オンライン (series) | L33 - would give me pause, but SAO is harder

  • SAO - can get through with decent comprehension (80-90%) but requires way more effort and vocab lookups than Prisma/El-Melloi
  • Prisma/El-Melloi - I’ll probly have to check the translation a lot, but I’m holding way less in my head all at once

ボクガール 1 | L22 substantially easier than ひげひろ

暁のヨナ 1 | L27 similar to ひげひろ…

  • Back in Oct 22 (when I first read AkaYona), Higehiro would have felt much harder. Now I’d find Higehiro more tiring, but AkaYona slightly more challenging (vocab, grammar, out-of-box text, figuring out who’s speaking, etc)
  • AkaYona - tons of lookups (archaic language, fantasy stuff), extremely hard to read out-of-box text, speaker often has to be inferred, grammar can be tricky, speech varies between really broken and actual full sentences
  • Higehiro - straightforward vocab and grammar, easier setting, fewer characters, etc

One thing that stands out to me is some of my evaluations are different now than when I was a beginner. Like if I tried Higehiro back when I first read AkaYona (2.25 years ago), it might have felt much harder. At this point, they’re similar difficulty (for different reasons)… which is not to say the either vantage point is more “objective” than the other.


I only grade manga vs manga and prose vs prose (other than the occasional misclicked grading or two!). Not saying this is a good/correct way of doing things, but for me the reading experience for each is just too different.


Thanks everyone, it sounds like I’m not the only one struggling with it but that it is OK to just choose a strategy that’s “good enough” and carry on!


If I don’t feel like I have an obvious answer when asked to grade anything, I skip (or mark the same if I feel like that’s the reason for my hesitation). Sometimes I have trouble grading manga against prose, but I also sometimes have trouble grading two tv series against each other. I do try and give things a grade though because I’m of the philosophy that any grade is better than no grade, because things with a grade are probably more likely to get read, which will get it more grades and settle down to its “correct” grading. But that’s just my opinion.