Let’s talk about the Kanzen Master series. It’s well known for getting you ready for the JLPT, but is it really worth the hype? Let’s find out.
My first experience with Kanzen Master
I first heard about Kanzen Master when I was attending a lecture from a person that went from zero Japanese knowledge to passing the JLPT N2 in ONE year. For those that don’t know, that is simply amazing and took an enormous amount of effort and dedication.
The guy that gave the lecture recommended the Kanzen Master N2 Grammar book. The next time I was on Amazon, I bought it, and it came swiftly in the mail. And then I didn’t look at it for about a year to a year and a half. Why?
The answer is simple. I was intimidated and somewhat lazy. The N2 book had no English at all, and I didn’t know the majority of vocabulary words in the grammar sentence examples. I wasn’t willing to work hard and bust my way through it.
That all changed after I started cramming vocabulary with StickyStudy Japanese and Memrise. After a while, I knew a lot of vocabulary, and I had made it my goal to go after the N2 certification.
I truly regret not looking more deeply inside Kanzen Master sooner. It’s one of the best study books you will find for the JLPT and will most certainly prepare you for whatever will be thrown at you.
What kind of books are there?
The Kanzen Master series covers all categories of study that you would need. Kanji, Vocabulary, Listening, Reading Comprehension, and Grammar.
Which books do you recommend?
I don’t like all the books in the series, but I’ll say which ones were the most effective/useful for me. You definitely want to get the Kanzen Master Grammar and Kanzen Master Reading Comprehension books. Those two books will help you tremendously.
I can’t recommend the Kanzen Master Listening Comprehension because it didn’t do much for preparing me. Instead, I recommend the Nihongo Sou Matome series of listening books. They have a better layout and are some of my favorite books for JLPT audio practice.
The Kanzen kanji and vocabulary books are not needed, in my opinion. You can pick up new vocabulary words and kanji through other methods and tools.
Why I recommend Kanzen Master
I’m only recommending the Grammar and Reading Comprehension books, so I’ll explain why they’re effective.
Kanzen Master Grammar (新完全マスター文法)
This is going to be your best friend when studying grammar. For N5-N3 levels, you can probably get away with other books, but these are a MUST for N2 and above. Every grammar point has several examples using sentences and patterns that are sometimes identical to the JLPT. The series does have books for N5-N3 and I believe there are English explanations in the book, but I have not personally used those.
The N2 books and onward do not have any English explanations, so you have to make an effort to read the Japanese explanations of the grammar points. This is going to sting at first, but it will make a man (or woman) out of you by the time you finish.
Each section introduces anywhere from 6 to 10 new grammar points accompanied by example sentences. After you get through understanding these, you turn the page and are quizzed on what you just learned. This is great for reinforcing what you are learning and you can track your progress.
You definitely want to go back and read over each section more than once. In my case, I’ll soon forget the grammar if I read over it and don’t review it after a few days.
Throw out your other grammar books and go for the Kanzen Master grammar series. Even if you aren’t ready for them yet, buy and keep them until you grow into them. They can be sort of a motivation for you to get to that level.
Kanzen Master Reading Comprehension (新完全マスター読解)
If there is a first love for textbooks, this would probably be in my top 3. The reading comprehension books for Kanzen Master are the best things out there. The reading comprehension book covers all kinds of example Japanese reading you will encounter on the JLPT and also in real life.
There are going to be so many vocabulary words you don’t know, but don’t give up. This is preparing you for the JLPT or for real Japanese academic reading.
What I love about the reading comprehension books (I used N2 and N1) is they include a separate booklet of explanations for each of the reading passages. After you make your answer choices, you can go back and first check the answers.
After that, you can read the explanation for why the chosen answer is the correct one. It also explains why the other options are not correct, which is great for someone like me.
By going through the reading books, your Japanese reading speed and ability are going to improve rapidly if you attempt to study with them on a regular basis. I couldn’t believe how much I could understand/read after I studied really hard. It happened without me realizing it.
Where can I buy them?
I recommend buying your Japanese study books from White Rabbit Press. They’re a really great store that has all sorts of stuff from Japan. I’ve bought several books from them as well as some high-quality flashcards.
Shin Kanzen Master Reading Comprehension
Shin Kanzen Master Grammar
I would recommend the reading books the most because they will really help you with the challenging reading that you’ll face on the JLPT.
Have you found textbooks that you feel are better? Have a question about which book is right for you? Drop me a comment down below!
18 thoughts on “Kanzen Master Series Review (新完全マスター) Level up your Japanese”
Hello! I study for the JLPT N3 and have the Try! N3 book. I use it mainly for learning grammar (Nihongo Sou Matome for reading, vocabulary and listening). Do I need to buy Shin Kanzen Master Reading and Grammar in addition to that? Will that be useful considering the books that I already have?
If you feel that Sou Matome has prepared you enough for reading, then I think you’re all set with Try and the others. 🙂
Hey, I am preparing for N2 this coming December 2016.
I find that the N2 comprehension has tons of Kanji/Vocab/Grammar that are totally brand new and keep popping out, and because of this I find it difficult to understand the passage. At least these tells me there’s lots more to memorize for the N2 paper. Do you have any study tips for N2 Comprehension?
My study strategy is:
 September – attempt Kanzen Masters: Vocab, Grammar, Comprehension, Listening
 October – attempt Soumatome: Vocab, Grammar, Comprehension, Listening
 November – revision and commit to memory
What I found extremely helpful when studying N2 reading was learning new kanji/vocabulary through news stories from NHK’s website. I liked their news because the articles were not too long compared to other places.
I usually preferred entertainment, crime, IT, and international news. (Sports puts me to sleep!)
After learning a lot of vocabulary through news, I ended up putting it all into a Memrise deck and hammering it out daily so I didn’t forget.
It took me a really long time to get through an article at first. There were so many words/kanji I didn’t know. However, I read a new article or two every day. I slowly started to build up my knowledge of vocabulary and kanji. I couldn’t believe how much it helped me on N2.
I feel like Soumatome is a lot easier for Reading/Listening, so you may want to try that series before hitting Kanzen Master.
Try to read Japanese every day, no matter what. The more you read and improve your vocabulary and reading speed, the more it will help you on the test.
Hi there! I have a question. I just finished the Tobira textbook (that should put me up to N3)
I’m going to start studying for the JLPT N2 this february and plan to take the test in december, so i have 10-11 months to study for the N2, using the kanzen master books.
I am working so when i am working i can only study 1-2 hours a day, but longer in weekends.
Is this possible/do -able? And will i be fine if i only get the grammar, vocab and reading comprehension books?
If you’re consistent and study frequently, I think you can do it. I would start on Kanzen as soon as you can but also try reading news articles from Japanese websites. I used to print one out every day and circle/highlight words I didn’t know. In the beginning it took a lot of time, but I became faster and had to look up less words each time I did it. After doing this for months, I picked up a lot of N2 vocabulary naturally which really helped.
Hello. I just found you blog through some curiosity and I found it really helpful. I just have a question. I’m planning to take JPLT N2 or N1 (I have no idea which one I am capable of) in 2020. So I have about 2 and a half years to study for it. I can only understand a little bit of Japanese by hearing, and some hiragana. I also have this app called Human Japanese which is really helpful for a beginner like me. So, my question is do I buy all the Kanzen Master books N5-3 plus the grammar and reading just to review? Then buy the N1-2 books to further learn? I have no idea what I should do because I don’t know the N2 JPLT is like (though I do know the level of difficulty it is). Please help me.
If you’re just getting started in Japanese, I don’t recommend starting with N3, N2, or N1. You might want to start with N5/N4z
Nevermind. I have decided to get all of the books from N5-1 plus grammar and reading and also the whole entire Sou Matoume series. I know that I won’t pass with just a N2 book (or maybe I will but I probably won’t). But it’s better to be safe then sorry. I would rather waste all my money to pass the JPLT exam and learn Japanese more efficiently then to rush then fail. Or I could spend all my money and fail but that’s another thing. Anyways your review was very helpful. Thank you very much 🙂
Hey! Just wanted to say you might want to take things slow and not buy all at once.
Hola Bryan! I’ve been reading through your posts and I’ve found them really encouraging! I’m preparing for the N3. I passed N4 in December, but the listening comprehension is my weak point. I understand the words I listen to in a certain way, but I can’t understand the development of the conversation. Do you have some recommendation you could give me to improve my choukai? My language knowledge is pretty decent, so I want to focus in that I am weak in. Thanks you so much in advance!
Great to hear you’re gearing up for N3. For listening, do you have any practice books? The Soumatome series is pretty decent.
Also, it might be good to pick out an anime where the characters are talking about daily things. I find “Marmalade Boy” to be pretty easy to understand or good for practice, however there are countless other shows that would work.
Best of luck to you!
Thank you so much for your answer Bryan. I have another doubt. I’m using Try! and Kanzen Master series to prepare for N3. I would like a kanji book. There’s a book in White Rabbit Japan in which I’m very interested, “Understanding Kanji through Pictures”, from N5 to N2 kanji. I find it useful because I’m studying not only for N3, but also to get in scholarship to Japan, and I need to master kanji. But there’s also the Kanzen Master Kanji for N3, which you said is not really necessary because we can pick up kanji from another methods, but I’m quite indecisive about what book I should buy, or both. I passed N4 studying kanji for myself, and I don’t know if I should buy a book to practice kanji. Besides, I’m attending N3 preparation classes where I practice kanji, but only memorizing them and their way to read but not the strokes themselves. I’m much more keen on learning grammar and listening, but kanji is vital. What do you recommend me? Thanks in advance.
I looked at the “Understanding Kanji through Pictures” book and it seems really interesting and a fun way to really learn kanji. However, it is probably not geared towards the JLPT, so it might be best to see it as a resource that will help you with kanji but not necessarily for the test.
Another thing you could try are some of the kanji studying websites like WaniKani.
When I first started learning kanji, I learned the stroke orders for probably 100 or so before I started just remembering them based on appearance since I knew I didn’t want to place importance on writing kanji in the future. Everyone’s priorities are different, and if you just want to pass JLPT and be able to read kanji, it’s not necessary to try to study stroke orders for all of it. (That’s my opinion but there are definitely people that would disagree)
Hi! I’m going to Japan soon and would like to buy New kanzen when I’m there, do you know where to buy them in Japan?
Hey Dan, will you be living in Japan for a while or just visiting short term?
Some major book stores do carry Kanzen Master if you go to their Learning Japanese section. If you are planning to live in Japan for a while you could even order them off Amazon Japan.
Hello thanks for your post. I’m at N2 level now and am going to buy the grammar, reading and listening books to practice for my N2 exam in December. However I’m undecided about whether it’s worth buying the kanji and vocab books too?
I’ve heard the vocab/ kanji just appears in a list which seems very unhelpful for me to remember but I get along really well with apps such as memrise and anki- if I’m using these already is there any point in getting these books?
Basically do you think the vocab/ kanji books are worth it for the practice they provide?
If I’m learning them myself already anyway maybe it isn’t, but I struggle to remember vocab with no context (I’m at the point where the only vocab I don’t know I don’t know because I’ve never heard even a Japanese person use it!) But I don’t want to waste the money if I find these books don’t apply enough context to make the material stick either.
I also find sections on kanji that resemble each other unbearable (I understood it better before you pointed out what not to get mixed up, cheers) so looking for a textbook that DOESN’T do that!
I personally only recommend the Kanzen Master reading comprehension. Vocabulary/Kanji can be done with stuff like memrise/apps/anki as you said you were doing. 🙂
For listening, I found the Soumatome series helpful.