Tuttle Kanji vs. Kodansha KLC vs. Others: Which is the Best of the Heisig Offspring?

I'm an upper beginner living in Japan, aiming at N3 proficiency within the next year and a half and am trying to figure out the best way to tackle Kanji for my needs. I will be leaving after that so my only concern is getting to N3. We all know RTK and the pros and cons of it have been discussed in length elsewhere. I have been interested in the merits of one of the more recent resources that take inspiration from Heisig and "improve" upon it. So far the major players seem to be:


Grant's Tuttle Learning Japanese Kanji

Conning's Kodansha Kanji Learner's Course




I found myself gravitating towards the books. After lots of research I was all ready to buy Kodansha KLC and the workbook when I stumbled upon the Tuttle book and am now unsure again. Seems to me that Grant's Tuttle Kanji course benefits from frequency order, vocab, and example sentences. The mnemonics, illustrations and explanations seem solid based on first glance. I also like the space to write characters and sentences in the book. Sure, it is only 520 Kanji but since I'm living in Japan and am aiming for N3 only, the frequency order makes it seem like the book would provide me with the most immediate benefits out of all of them. However, I don't see many community-supported resources on the web such as Memrise or Anki decks which is a big drawback. Also, after learning the 520 Kanji, it could perhaps pose a problem when I progress to N3 Kanji if I move to another book such as Kodansha KLC; if later Kanji in Kodansha are built on a different radical and mnemonic system that refers to what was learned previously, I would have to re-learn those mnemonics. I don't know if that is true and how hard that would be so others can fill in here.

Kodansha KLC benefits from having the Joyo Kanji and a more intuitive order than RTK, though the order doesn't seem as influenced by frequency which would have less immediate benefits for me. It seems like a more comprehensive, updated version of RTK. There are more resources available for KLC than Tuttle Kanji, though not nearly as much as there is for RTK of course. I won't go into it further since KLC has been compared to RTK in great detail in some other threads.

I gave WaniKani a pass because it seems like people move more slowly through it and after going through the Textfugu course I wasn't too impressed by the creator's mnemonics (or his business sense, but that's a different issue). The gamification aspect is quite tempting though. Some people also seem to swear by KanjiDamage. I haven't looked into it too in depth honestly but it didn't seem to stand out much from the rest of the pack aside from having less censored mnemonics. I'm not sure if that would work better for me or not.

RTK is what it is, and influential for good reason. I think Kanji Koohii and the wealth of supplemental resources out there are what keep it at the forefront, but without those it would seem more antiquated than the latest competitors. So I haven't written it off yet. Just not sure if it's the best course for my N3 only goal.

What has worked out for you? Does anyone have experience with Grant's Tuttle LJK course? Is there anything I'm missing? 

I'd like to keep this discussion open for the benefit of others, but for my own selfish purposes: If anyone can suggest which of these is best for someone looking to get to N3 only, or if there is something better out there, I'm all ears.
Heisig isn't at all the only oldschool kanji course, you know. KD and KKLC basically revel in the fact that they're not Heisig clones/offsprings/euphemism. There are many other oldschool kanji study systems that are much closer to KD and KKLC than Heisig is.
Edited: 2017-03-17, 3:52 am
I remember what it was like feeling like there were way too many options, and there are more now than there were when I was at your stage in 2005 or so. (I didn't know about KanjiDamage... looks kind of fun...)

Two pieces of advice that might seem contradictory:

(1) Pick a system and stick with it. There comes a point when you can spend so much time researching how to learn kanji that you never learn any kanji.

(2) Be willing to mix and match elements from different systems. No system is 100% better than any other.

I started learning from Heisig way back when, got frustrated with it. I turned to Basic Kanji Book (similar to the Tuttle book, I guess) to get through the first 500 - I really liked how it gave space to write out kanji and suggested useful compounds. When I ran out of Basic and got to Intermediate, I didn't like how the Intermediate Book was set up, so I ended up switching to Kanji in Context (a lot like the KLC that exists now). I finished learning the rest of the joyo from KIC. But I would often steal bits from other systems to add to my flashcards; for instance, I frequently made a note of the Heisig component part names, even though I wasn't working through Heisig in order. It gave me a label to hang on the shapes I was learning even if it wasn't the most efficient.

I have tried a lot of other mnemonic systems besides Heisig. IMO, none of them succeed in being as thorough, systematic and consistent as Heisig. It may not matter that much when you only know a few hundred, but a system that invents mnemonics that are not consistent and end up conflicting with each other is a real problem when you know 2000.

My choice was basically to follow other systems, but to continue drawing on Heisig for a consistent map of primitives and keywords - even if I didn't know why he was calling something a "hairpin" because I did it all out of order.

Even if you pick one of the systems you listed and download a premade Anki deck for it, you can always add notes to your own cards or edit them to suit yourself - that is where borrowing bits from other systems comes in handy.

Good luck! I don't think you have any bad options on the table.
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(2017-03-17, 1:35 am)jarlsberg Wrote: However, I don't see many community-supported resources on the web such as Memrise or Anki decks which is a big drawback.

This is the reason that I studied RTK instead of others. I had originally started studying kanjidamage but switched over after maybe 100 characters because it seemed I was studying in a vacuum. In contrast, if you study RTK, you can use this site's SRS or hundreds of other decks and some dictionary sites include RTK index numbers. I guess it didn't really turn into any practical benefit for me, but if you're going to spend the time studying kanji, it's reassuring having a large user base that you can discuss stories or hook into other resources easier.

I should mention that I do feel kanjidamage's stories were more memorable considering most of them painted vivid pictures in my mind. More so than RTK.
Edited: 2017-03-17, 12:58 pm
After reading some comparisons, I chose KLC. The anki deck is what put it over the top for me. The system is very efficient and you make quick progress with kanji and vocab at once. I would recommend just studying the "suggested" vocab though.

They're advertising graded reading sets for KLC, but if you go to the page it's just a signup for an email notification, and there's no release date listed. It's been that way for weeks.

I agree with tanaquil that you should not start with one thing and switch to something else (unless it really sucks).

KLC is hardly an offspring.