I’ve been on a graphic novel kick lately and my most recent discovery is this line of Manga Classics which I discovered through NetGalley. You might remember from my recent post that I’ve been having mixed results with classics turned graphic novel. I liked some but found others lacking. It’s hard to really convey the full emotion and essence of a story in graphic novels without them being mammoth beasts. But manga seems like a different beast altogether and I was curious to give them a try.
If you are new to Manga, the most important thing you need to know is that the books are read basically entirely backwards from how you are familiar. The first page is going to be what you consider the last page and even the way you read each page is different. This image from Manga Classics does a great job explaining this:
So for my first Manga experience I decided to read my all time favorite book, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen:
Being my favorite book could be setting an unfairly high bar for this edition but to be honest I’m kind of obsessed with reinterpretations of Pride and Prejudice. All the movies and tv series, modern adaptations like Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld and especially the youtube series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. So really, all this book had to do was not be terrible.
To say I was not disappointed would be an understatement. I loved the artwork – the story drifts between lush, beautiful portraits and quirky even more cartoonish asides with fun sketches thrown in. It feels like a true lover of Jane Austen developed this – it’s playful but attentive to every detail. The book does an excellent job of fleshing out all the emotions of the story through varied artistic styles to fit the mood and the illustrator is a pro at making extremely expressive facial features.
It also doesn’t feel overly abridged. I think it did a good job of paying homage to the original and may even be a leaping off point to get people to pick up the original book afterwards or other books by Austen. Any road to Austen is a good road!
My Rating: 5/5
Next I decided to be really bold and attempt reading the Manga Classics edition of The Scarlet Letter, one of my least favorite books of all time basically. Like anyone who has spoken to me about books for more than 5 seconds probably knows how I feel about good ole Hawthorne.
So in reading this version, I wanted to find out if I’d be able to appreciate the story more in a graphic and abridged version or if I’d even finish it at all. Could the manga format make Nathaniel Hawthorne bearable?
Bearable, yes. I even finished it. The artwork continues to be stunning and very emotive and because of the nature of the book there are no never ending passages describing nothing in particular making me want to throw the book over a cliff.
Was this book a super fun read? Definitely not. It’s a pretty depressing story tbh and also kinda creepy. I think this is probably what Hawthorne was going for and having actually finished the story finally I understand why it’s required reading at a lot of schools. There are important ideas being considered in this story – but Hawthorne is so stupid boring that I never even got to them in high school. Or maybe my teacher was boring? Who knows. Either way, a graphic version of this story went a long way with me. I could SEE the story being told and understand what was going on.
My Rating: 3/5 stars but those 3 stars are earned entirely by the Manga Classics peeps. Without them it would continue to be a 0/5.
I think Manga Classics could be an awesome addition to a high school reading curriculum. The kids that are just not breaking through with the original might really benefit from a more visual format and these editions are excellent. Even the kids who are already inhaling Austen like it ain’t no thang would probably enjoy experiencing it in another format as well. It’s a great opportunity to compare and contrast and possibly more timely than BBC adaptations, awesome as they are.
Do you read manga? Do you have a favorite?
What’s your favorite classic novel?