Adaptations of classic literature seem to be a logical step in the normalization of graphic literature in education. Manga Classics has cornered the market on manga adaptations, and deservedly so. Though I am not typically a fan of many graphic novel adaptations, I was thoroughly impressed with the work of Manga Classics. Manga Classics are not just for the young adult reluctant reader. They are fun, engaging ways for all to experience favorite classic novels. With the intention of making classic literature more accessible, a small team of story adaptors and artists have worked tirelessly to bring this project to life and, quite frankly, it shows. 

Let’s take a look at just four of the over sixteen titles currently adapted: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, adapted by Crystal S. Chan and illustrated by Julien Choy; Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, adapted by Crystal S. Chan and illustrated by SunNeko Lee; Hamlet by William Shakespeare, adapted by Crystal S. Chan and illustrated by Julien Choy; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, adapted by Crystal S. Chan and illustrated by Po Tse. The first noticeable similarity among all four volumes is the consistency and quality. The ability to adapt texts accurately and adequately across almost 300 years is a testament to Chan’s talent as a writer and story adapter. 

Of these adaptations, Les Misérables and The Jungle Book are particularly impressive. That Chan manages to condense Les Misérables, a novel clocking in at over 1000 pages, into less than 350 pages, without losing any of the context or emotion of the original text is a great indication of the works yet to come from the Manga Classics team. The primary difference? A manga adaptation is much less daunting than the original, behemoth book. Similarly, Chan makes The Jungle Book, a relatively dense text for modern readers, charming, fun, and accessible to a new generation of readers.

Fans of manga, both of new generations and old, will certainly enjoy the artwork throughout Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The fantastical premises of these works, rife with ghosts, fairies, and mythological figures, lend themselves to visual interpretation. Julien Choy and Po Tse bring these works to life through vivid imagery and beautiful character drawings. Tse’s interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s act two, scene one is nothing short of stunning. It takes a particular artistic skill to bring illumination and movement to black and white drawings, yet Tse is thoroughly successful. Choy is equally triumphant in bringing life to the ghost of Hamlet’s father. The artwork throughout all of these volumes is sure to appeal to manga fans everywhere. 

I cannot recommend volumes from the Manga Classics series enough. These volumes are fun, easily digestible, and clearly made with care and intent. Though I only reviewed four volumes of this series, I am confident that any volumes your library system selects from this series are a good investment. These volumes will fit on the shelf perfectly next to the rest of your library’s manga collection.


Manga Classics: The Jungle Book, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Les Miserables, Hamlet
By Crystal S. Chan
Art by Julien Choy, Po Tse, SunNeko Lee

ISBN:

VolumeISBN
The Jungle Book9781772940190
A Midsummer Night’s Dream9781947808102
Les Misérables9781927925164
Hamlet9781947808126

UDON Entertainment Inc., 2019
Publisher Age Rating: 14+
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: Indian
Creator Highlights: Chinese-American
Related to…: Classic to Comic

  • Olivia

    | She/Her Local History Librarian, South Pasadena Public Library

    Olivia Radbill is the Local History Librarian at the South Pasadena Public Library. In addition to assisting in Adult Services, she is responsible for all archival objects, documentation, and historical inquiry. Previously, she served as the Literacy Services Librarian at the Santa Fe Springs City Library. Originally from Maryland, Olivia has previously aided in archival and genealogical projects at both the National Sporting Library and Museum (NSLM) and the Frederick County Historical Society. In her free time she runs a graphic novel book group for women and indulges in absurd amounts of vegan food.

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