Today I will be sharing my thoughts on the infamous Shin-Kanzen Master(新完全マスター) JLPT series! I love textbooks and have borrowed and bought a few different ones for the JLPT and the Shin-Kanzen Master is by far my favorite one!
I just want to note that I am writing this review without having taken the JLPT due to the fact that it was cancelled in 2020. Next time I take the JLPT I plan on taking N1. I am writing this review while comparing it to other sources and reflecting on what type of knowledge that I have gained from it.
Like most JLPT textbooks, its not a true textbook in the sense that it doesn’t exactly teach you the content. It lists out the content with a short explanation, examples, and practice questions. If anything it is more of a drill book.
If you are looking for something to use as a single resource, I honestly don’t think there are any good choices for you out there at the moment. It feels like the book expects you to be familiar with all the points, but is there to make sure your usage and understanding of the grammar points becomes super solid.
If you are looking for a resource that introduces each grammar point and does a fuller explanation, I recommend looking at youtube.
How did I use this book?
I went though this book while watching the free online youtube N2 grammar series by Nihongo No Mori(日本語の森). I found these two resources to be a great pair! While it does not match up perfectly, it comes pretty close! I open a youtube video up, find the matching grammar points in the book and read before watching. After watching Nihongo No Mori(日本語の森) I would make anki cards based off of combine information from both sources.
For Japanese grammar based videos, I have two favorite teachers. Nihongo no Mori’s Mizuki Takenouchi(たけぱん先生) is the teacher that I used primary while going through this book. She is really easy to watch her N2文法 grammar VS series was created in a very similar order to the Shin-Kanzen book. Without this video series, I don’t think I would have been able to use the Shin-Kanzen book as well as I did.
I also enjoy Yuki-sensei’s videos! She used to work for 日本語の森 but has since changed jobs. Luckily for us she is still teaching Japanese and creating easy to understand content on youtube! I really like her energy and find that I am able to really focus on the content with her teaching style.
Here is an example to show you what the inside of this book looks like.
It is all in Japanese. Each chapter starts out by explaining the grammar point by point followed by 1-4 example sentences and foot notes that go into more detail about how to use each point.
I found all of the example sentences to be professional and well made. The examples for each point showed them both in different contexts and in different parts of the sentence structure. Out of all of the resources I have used, I like the Shin-Kanzen sentences the best. I used these sentences to create my grammar anki cards.
After the short explanations comes the practice questions. There will be 3-5 question for each grammar point. The last section will cover random grammar points from the chapter. After every 5 chapters there will be a question bank that covers all of the grammar points from the previous 5 chapters.
The questions were great! But I think it is possible to find questions of similar quality for free online. I liked the fact that the questions were on paper, as the test is currently on paper and it feels like this would help me prepare more for the JLPT then doing questions off of a computer screen.
If you treat it as a textbook, I would rate it as 2 stars.
If you treat it as a drill book and study guide, I would rate it as 4.5 stars
What would make this textbook better?
I really think that if furigana is included in a textbook, there should be a way to hide it to help with reading practice. This textbook would be perfect for me if it had the furigana in red ink and came with a red plastic study sheet. I really wish they would add it and it is a feature that is worth paying extra for if they had to raise the price.
A lot of study books and textbooks in Japan come with this feature and I find it extremely useful.
Who should buy this book?
People who are interested in reading and thoroughly learning about Japanese grammar in Japanese. Even if you are not planning on taking the JLPT, this is a resource that can be used during Japanese immersion to learn more about grammar point and fine tune your understanding of the language.
But I mainly recommend it for people who are looking for JLPT practice questions and have money to spare. While JLPT studies do not have to cost money, having the structure of this book can help guide students in a through way.
There are lots of free online sources that will teach you about Japanese grammar in multiple different languages. Before buying any grammar book, I recommend looking at free online resources to see if any of them fit well with you. If you have internet access, it is completely possible to prepare for the JLPT for free.
I tried using free online resources but did not find any that seemed to work well for me. I did look though and spend some time with the Speed Master and Nihongo Sou Matome series but I found that I liked Shin-Kanzen Master the best. I think it is extremely hard for many learners to invest in a textbook as I am sure many people shop for one online. If you happen to have a Kinokuniya near you, I recommend going. They have all three series along with other learning materials as well. It is really worth it to physical hold the book and read for a for pages before you commit.
There are many people who like a break from staring at computer screens and would prefer a paper based book. If that is you, I think that this could be a good choice for you! But like I said, I do think it needs to be paired with other resources.
You do not need to study for the JLPT to be able to pass it. If you are able to use any level of Japanese, there is likely a JLPT level that you will be able to pass. If you are already reading novels, then it is likely that after a few practice questions you would be ready to take the test.
Am I happy with my purchase?
Yes! I am interested in learning more about Japanese grammar and I am also interested in having practice questions to help prepare me for taking the JLPT. I found that using this textbook in combination with Nihongo no Mori(日本語の森) and anki was a great way for me to internalize N2 level grammar points. Even if I did not plan on taking the JLPT, I still think I would have enjoyed the way that this book is designed and how the grammar points are explained fully in Japanese.
Before using this book, I felt that while I had the knowledge of how to use these grammar points… but that knowledge felt a little vague and fuzzy. After using this book I feel really confident in my grammar knowledge and feel like I ahve a solid foundation in understanding how Japanese grammar works. Not everyone needs this knowledge to be able to use Japanese, but for grammar nerds like me it is very interesting to know!
I do not plan on buying the N1 textbook in this series for grammar. N1 seems to have a much greater focus on reading, so I plan to use extensive reading as a tool to prepare for that exam.