Learning Hiragana and Katakana, with over 40 characters respectively, is always a daunting prospect to begin with. But there a couple things you can do to make learning them easier and fun. Now, you’re still not going to be able to master them over night, but it should be quicker, and hopefully more natural.
1) First, have in front of you a sheet of the Hiragana or Katakana table. Then write down, in Romaji (Japanese in Roman letters), a paragraph or two about yourself, or you family, or anything at all that you feel like. Then proceed to convert that, using the characters charts you have, into the desired alphabet underneath. Do this several times with different paragraphs and you’ll soon find you are learning them instinctively, rather than having to actively and painfully memorise the symbols individually.
Note: You can also do this the other way round, converting Hiragana into Romaji for example. Eventually you can try it without using the character charts. You could also do this with a friend, converting each other’s work to make it more fun.
2) Find a Japanese pen pal. There are various sites where you can do this – I would recommend Japan-Guide. It’s a fun way to practice, make friends, and learn. You can add a Japanese Keyboard, Microsoft IME, into your computer through Control Panel which will allow you to type in Japanese. Push yourself to write in Japanese and try to translate what your pen-friend writes, and you’ll soon pick it up naturally.
I recommend doing both these things, as they helped me more than anything else, and it was an ENJOYABLE, not laborious way to learn. Give it a go and see if it works for you too!