The Japanese From Zero Series
*Note: All Ratings will be Out of 5*
I am starting with this one because it was the first series I read through, and I think it holds a lot of merit.
Japanese from Zero is a series written by a translator named George Trombley Jr and has a unique feature to it that I personally found helpful for learning. That feature would be how they introduce you to Japanese characters.
Each book focuses on a different part of the Japanese writing system. Book 1 focuses on Hiragana, Book 2 on Katakana, and books 3 and 4 on Kanji, while also teaching you the basics of Japanese grammar and vocabulary. The trick to it however is that instead of simply giving you the complete alphabet on page 1 and then writing the whole book in said characters, Japanese from Zero uses a progressive system. Each chapter introduces you to a new row or two of it’s alphabet, and then replaces ONLY those characters. What starts out as a book mostly written in Romaji (Japanese writing in English characters) ends up being almost all in Japanese by the end.
Each lesson builds on the previous like this, so it is best not to skip ahead, and the workbook portions of it are great for review including practice on writing out the characters with the proper stroke order as well as translation and conversation practice.
Now this book series is not perfect in itself. There are a few times they mess up on their own progressive system, introducing characters you have not learned yet that throws you off when you’re focused, as well I found it to not be very useful for learning pronunciation or casual conversations. Because it covers such a broad amount of information it can appear to move slowly and yet be somewhat overwhelming at the same time.
That being said, while it is not the best as a one and only text book, but if you want to focus on improving your written Japanese, I can think of no series that does it better!