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When reading manga, I frequently notice that I have no idea what a character says. This is not because I do not know what the kanji is, rather it is very difficult for me to decipher what the kanji looks like. In printed manga, I measured that printed kanji are often times 4mm in width and just 2mm in length. This is exceptionally apparent with kanji that have increased strokes and are more intricate than others (亭 vs. 璽).

Now this is only really apparent to printed kanji (such as newspapers, manga, etc.) as

  • a) When ink is involved in printing, intricate characters can appear to run together or strokes can become quite close together.
  • b) Characters on things like computer screens are more clear, not as small and can be magnified.

Now I attempted to perform a search on this topic online, and I found nothing. I am hypothesizing that maybe native and experienced speakers just recognize the kanji more easily? Are these problems experienced by others, and how can this be dealt with?

EDIT: Here's an example (however, this is not the same as it is on a computer screen): example (blue arrow indicated easy to read kanji, red is more difficult)

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    Maybe you could provide a sample picture? – firtree Apr 15 '15 at 22:52
  • Edited, atm am looking for a more high-quality example. Will edit again when I find one. – Colbi Apr 15 '15 at 23:16
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    Even at 200dpi, 12pt (~ 4mm) is about 32 dots. Properly printed material will probably have a resolution more like 600dpi. So, if anything, I expect characters to be sharper and clearer in print than on screen. (At any rate, your examples are not so hard to read, despite the image quality.) – Zhen Lin Apr 15 '15 at 23:44
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    I'm afraid that it would always be hard to read the small-font kanji. Native speakers learn lots of kanji by heart, and see them many times, so they recognize them even with unreadable strokes, from the general outline. That's where the non-square contour actually helps. Also the character density pattern helps. And other characters around could help to guess the whole word, which takes a vast knowledge of vocabulary. So you can try to read easier tests with bigger font size and simpler kanji (like 1-6 grades), and see forward to improve your skills. – firtree Apr 15 '15 at 23:51
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    Also, in your second example, the kanji can be guessed by the words' readings (furigana), using the sound-to-kanji dictionary. – firtree Apr 15 '15 at 23:54
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Thanks to @firtree and the other users in the comments for helping me with this. I'll re-post specifically what @firtree stated:

I'm afraid that it would always be hard to read the small-font kanji. Native speakers learn lots of kanji by heart, and see them many times, so they recognize them even with unreadable strokes, from the general outline. That's where the non-square contour actually helps. Also the character density pattern helps. And other characters around could help to guess the whole word, which takes a vast knowledge of vocabulary. So you can try to read easier tests with bigger font size and simpler kanji (like 1-6 grades), and see forward to improve your skills.

Practice, memorization and increased familiarity, looking for radicals and general outlines can all help in identifying small-font kanji.

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    Yes, keep on learning and eventually you will be able to read kanjis in this 7x7 dot font :) – naruto Apr 16 '15 at 3:14

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