One of the perks of being a Jane Austen fan (or Austenite) is the abundant para-literature on all of dear old Jane’s books. Current variations include zombies, vampires, and gender bending of characters with other formats in the mix. Manga Classics: Emma is no different.
(Side note: Austen’s work and related items are an astonishing cottage industry grossing $1 billion a year. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. Even more amazing given that Austen’s work is over 200 years old and she only wrote six books.)
Emma Woodhouse is a bit of an interfering snob who takes it upon herself to make romantic matches in her circle of friends and relations based on one previous successful pairing. She’s well meaning, of course, but can’t accept criticism or other people’s feelings on her choices of love. In due time, Emma ends up getting paired herself and, as in all romantic comedies, everyone is married or in love by the book’s end.
There is a lot to admire in the book’s gorgeousness. The art is delicate, almost otherworldly, and incredibly detailed, which brings to life the historical. There is a feeling of immersion into Emma’s world, which helps in retelling a 200-year-old story in a contemporary format. The writing is crisp and the translation of the language from Austen’s time to 2015 is superb. Lastly, the added bonus content on the adaptation of the book, character sketches, creating characters, and how to create a manga page is perfect for those new to manga.
As an Austenite, there were a few things in Manga Classics: Emma I wasn’t keen on. The first was that some of the clothing styles were out of period. Next, Emma comes off as being impossibly snobbish and class-driven, more than she was in the original telling. Then there is Harriet Smith. In the original, Harriet is described as being plain to everyone except to Emma, who finds her attractive enough to find a man and get married. In this version, Harriet is impossibly beautiful (which negates Harriet having a hard time matching with anyone Emma puts before her in their social class).
Udon has half a dozen classic titles in its Manga Classics line with more titles coming this year. Like Emma, all will make great introductions for anyone who is interested in reading manga or wants an entry point to reading classics, but is intimidated by the original work. It is especially good for Austenites who want to add to their collections, not that I would know anything about that.
Editor’s note: This review is part of a blog tour featuring Stacy King, the editor for Manga Classics: Emma. If you’d like to check in on the other stops on the blog tour, please check them out:
Keep an eye out for our interview with Stacy King, appearing soon!
Manga Classics: Emma
by Jane Austen, Stacy King (editor) and Crystal Chan (editor)
Art by Po Tse
UDON Entertainment, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: Young Adult