Top critical review
One person found this helpful
A flawed solution for the pre-SRS era
on January 27, 2016
The cards have their pros and cons. They have a nice system within their format, but clearly it's not as effective as using a modern SRS system like Anki or Memrise. Truth is, there really is no need for paper flash cards anymore, and the flash card format was the main justification for the existence of this product. The digital systems are faster, cheaper, and just work better. You don't have to deal with creating review schedules or trying to keep track of your progress with each card, since all that is automated.
The cards include lots of great vocabulary. I like how they don't show the readings on the front. The main problem with the vocab is that they don't have a system for showing you how the vocab relates to the meanings. Often the meanings are numerous and varied, and you need a way to sort out what the kanji is doing in each word. They say "we believe that the essence of a kanji is best grasped by understanding the meanings it forms when combined with other characters", but there is no guidance about what that all adds up to, in terms of an "essence". They just give you a list of different meanings, without trying to work out an essence.
The fact that there are so many meanings listed also makes it sort of inadequate as a memorization tool. If you're going to study kanji by this rote method of trying to remember meanings from flash cards, then you need to have something concrete to hang onto. Trying to memorize all the meanings they give you would be impossible. The Heisig Remembering the Kanji system boils things down to one keyword per kanji, and you can study it on Anki, obviating physical flash cards.
The physical cards are well done, quality cards. On the other hand, this is a big, bulky product, especially if you go past the first set, and a very big investment compared to the alternatives.
I guess my biggest complaint, other than the outdated format, is the progression of the kanji. They organize them based on radicals and stroke numbers, instead of according to some logical system of learning. It's like studying physiology by studying all the body organs in order of mass, or studying geography by studying all the countries in order of population or area. The Heisig progression is more logical.
All in all there are just too many weaknesses, especially for this price.