Learning aids for Japanese
It can be hard, obviously, to learn a language that is very different for native speakers, who have completely no idea how a certain language can be similar to one another (For instance: an English speaker trying to learn Japanese)
Therefore, in hopes of aiding you in your progress, I am going to suggest tips on how to achieve fluency in Japanese, from the experience of being an intermediate learner in Japanese.
Duolingo is not bad for learning a new language, but I suggest that you should learn the hiragana and katakana characters on your own to save time. For your help, there is a grammar book that may help you start off well, and it is a book worth reading. Seriously.(and it's free): https://archive.org/stream/Genki/Genki%20I%20-%20Integrated%20Elementary%20Japanese%20Course%20%28with%20bookmarks%29#page/n31/mode/2up
There are also many other Genki books at this link (The books are marked in blue font): https://archive.org/details/Genki/page/n25
After you familiarise with the roots of Japanese, you must then progress onto learning the Kanji, which is obviously the most difficult task, as there are thousands of them. However, this task can be achieved much efficiently and easily if you follow this book: The Kondansha Kanji Learner's Course by Andrew Scott Conning. This will help you to learn the many Kanji characters that you will need to achieve a high level of fluency. You can also download the book as a pdf at Scribd as a document
I hope this would help you. HOWEVER, PLEASE REMEMBER THAT ONCE YOU COMMIT TO LEARNING JAPANESE, YOU MUST STICK WITH YOUR BELIEF. Believe me, I stopped learning Japanese and now, I have to pay the price.
So whatever you do, keep going. If you feel lost, like I did, when learning Japanese, just imagine the rewards you would reap and all the time gone into use after you become fluent in the language.
There is also an Educational RPG series called Learn Japanese to Survive that will help learn and practice some of the basics. Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji each have an entry in the series, and can commonly be found on sale for just a few dollars each.
If you're just concerned with recognition of the characters and don't plan on handwriting them, I would go with LeaRN Japanese RPG: Slime Forest Adventure https://lrnj.com/
Unlike Learn Japanese to Survive's set enemy groupings that are dependent on location, Slime Forest Adventure selects katakana, hiragana, and kanji algorhythmically based on which ones you're having trouble with while slowly introducing new ones, and it has you use them all over the overworld. I find this and how it forces spaced repetition to be more conducive to learning.
Also, where Learn Japanese to Survive has you selecting answers from a list, Slime Forest Adventure has you type out answers, making sure you memorize the answers and not their list position.
And the best part is that it has a free demo. So you don't even have to pay before you try it out.
I started in August and I would also recommend another iPhone app called "Learn Japanese!" by Howell Peebles, as it teaches you how to both recognize and write hiragana and katakana characters. Learning and practicing the drawing/stroke order by drawing with your finger and getting feedback is awesome! I found that I have to practice every day to keep up my handwriting skills. The jisho.org web site is an amazing dictionary. Also Misa's YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/misa) is awesome as she has great grammar and vocabulary lessons. 開けお目！
I completely agree with entire post. ESPECIALLY the part where you talk about how you stopped learning Japanese as the same thing happened to me. I once took a 4(ish) week break and came back, only to find out I had forgotten a few kana characters and much of the grammar which dropped me almost back to an absolute beginner.
The flip side is that if you do have to take a break, it will come back easier than never having learned it. Not overnight, but the Japanese I learned years ago and had forgotten I am having a much easier time with this attempt at learning. Practice it as much as you can, but if you can't and forget a few things, it's not a total loss so don't stress too much about it, beyond just knowing that it will take some effort to catch back up.