Criticism of 'Japanese through manga' books
This post at Irresponsible Pictures, denouncing textbooks that claim to teach Japanese through manga, puts a finger on some very real issues.
While we haven't had an occasion to do an in-depth review of the materials described ourselves, a cursory look at them would seem to confirm some of the problems described in the blog post. The comment on a lack of examples rings especially true. Paging through most 'Japanese through manga' books, it all looks like a standard textbook explanation with one or two manga panels on every page illustrating the grammatical point that was just made.
This is not 'learning Japanese through manga'. It's simply slapping a picture on the example phrases that can be found in any textbook. We're avoiding this trap at the very least: our students are analyzing entire pages, in large numbers, from actual manga. Also, before they start looking at manga, they've already built up a solid knowledge of the language through intensive 'standard' classes; they can use manga to enrich their linguistic prowess instead of having to fumble with the basics. Our use of manga in the classroom is still a very experimental project, but I believe that we are at least getting some things very right. In the end we hope to amass the online resources to allow people to use manga as an effective learning tool, not just glorified example booklets.
That said, I should repeat that we haven't analysed these 'Japanese through manga' books thoroughly in any way. It's definitely on our to-do list.