The Manga Classics series has done it yet again with an excellent adaptation of Anne of Green Gables; turning the classic literature into an easy to read, and easy to understand story that put Prince Edward Island on the map. The book starts off with a beautiful quote, “Dedicated to all the children who dream…” and the family of original author, Lucy Maud Montgomery, provides their seal of approval with a foreword written by Montgomery’s granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler.
Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are siblings who decide to adopt a boy to help them manage their farm, Green Gables. By accident, a girl; Anne Shirley is sent instead of a boy. Anne is full of wonder, flowery language, and so much excitement at the thought of being adopted that Matthew decides to overlook the mistake and brings her home with him. Initially, Marilla and Anne have many differences to overcome, giving the story tension and comedic points. Anne has been raised as an orphan and has never been taught the social graces expected of a lady. Nor has she ever had to reign in her wild and colorful imagination that flows continuously from her.
Crystal S. Chan works wonderfully with illustrator Kuma Chan by providing him with details of how certain scenes should be drawn to ensure their accuracy; including seating charts for where students are sat at Avonlea’s school. She includes an interesting section on this at the back of the book for readers to enjoy a bit of how a huge project like this came together. Kuma Chan’s style is true to manga style with this black and white book reading from right to left, and characters feature big eyes, small lips and dramatic hair; which is quite fitting for Anne’s famous red locks. The backgrounds are realistic and set to the time period of the story, keeping it more on the accurate side rather than the fantasy side, which is often the setting for manga novels. This would be appreciated by any reader who is looking for an adaptation that stays true to the original work.
This is a very well done adaptation of the original Anne of Green Gables story. The medium of manga allows for a different interpretation of what’s happening in the story as we have visuals featured more prominently than simply text. Thought bubbles are shown as characters are having conversations, which gives the reader a full experience of what’s going on in a particular social interaction. As the author rightly points out in her notes at the end of this novel, it aids events in making them more clear and vivid. As a lover of the original story, however, I do have to admit that the flow of flowery language that is what Anne’s character is loved so much for doesn’t quite have the same feeling as reading through the original book. I highly recommend enjoying this manga version paired with the original version to truly enjoy how magical this story is.
Manga Classics: Anne of Green Gables 20 By Crystal S. Chan Art by Kuma Chan ISBN: 9781947808188 Manga Classics, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: 13-16 Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13) Character Traits: Creator Highlights: Related to…: Classic to Comic
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 Dreamby 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
Manga Classics: Dracula by Stacy King begins with a young man arriving in a foreign land on a job assignment. Despite warnings and foreboding feelings of doom, he is spirited away on a carriage to Count Dracula’s castle. Count Dracula, a pale older gentleman wearing dark black robes, escorts him to his room. Jonathan Harker notices how strange the Count acts around him. The Count doesn’t eat with him. He sneaks up behind Jonathan as he is shaving. We get a visual clue that something is amiss as the Count’s reflection does not appear in the mirror. The Count, gazing hungrily at the cut on Jonathan’s cheek, lunges towards him but is stopped at the sight of a crucifix.
The next sequence follows Mina and her friend Lucy Westenra. Mina wears her hair up and is covered from the neck down, showing that she is more reserved and modest. Lucy has long flowing curly hair that is pulled back by braids. She wears a fancy dress, with a black choker, and a parasol to match. We can tell this is a free-spirited woman with high energy. She is pursued by three suitors: a doctor, a Texan, and a wealthy suitor. Strange things began to happen with Lucy. She is caught sleepwalking several times by her friend Mina. In one instance, Mina finds Lucy sitting alone on a park bench. In silhouette, a shadowy figure behind her is feasting on her neck.
The manga follows the story of Bram Stoker’s Dracula to the letter. It’s not interested in providing a reinterpretation. Dracula takes on many forms, such as a wolf, a bat, or mist slowly seeping into a room. I was impressed that after his initial introduction at the beginning of the story, he remains more of a mysterious figure. We hardly see him, but we do see the devastation he leaves in his wake. My favorite example of this is on one of his attacks on Lucy. He raps on the window like a bat and crashes through. Then like a television that is snowing, a demon-like face appears with jagged teeth. Shading begins to be very important to the storytelling and adds to the mood and atmosphere. Lightness follows when the story features the heroes. Darker shading indicates mystery, madness, and death. We can’t tell what horrors await us in the dark. My one gripe is that Van Helsing as presented here comes off as a character with very little personality. I have always viewed Anthony Hopkins’s portrayal of Van Helsing in the movie version as one of my favorite interpretations.
For those looking to entice readers into trying some classic literature, you can’t go wrong with Manga Classics: Dracula. I didn’t enjoy reading the ebook version, and probably would prefer the paperback one instead. It’s a faithful adaptation, captures the mood of the story, and is a great introduction to the story of Dracula. I found this to be a very appropriate title for teens.
Manga Classics: Dracula by Stacy King Art by Virginia Nitouhei ISBN: 9781947808065 Manga Classics, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: T for Teens
This manga adaptation of Twain’s classic novel recounts the adventures of small-town rascal Tom Sawyer and his cohorts growing up in St. Petersburg, Missouri in the mid-nineteenth century. This volume in the manga classics series stays true to the plot and themes of Twain’s work, following Tom, Huck, Becky, Aunt Polly, Injun Joe, and the other residents of St. Petersburg on a series of adventures. The flow of this manga version is episodic, including all the memorable scenes of Twain’s original. We see Tom trick Ben Rogers into completing his work painting a fence, Tom’s tumultuous relationship with Becky Thatcher, and the drama as Tom, Huck, and Joe Harper witness their own funeral.
While the majority of the manga consists of these loosely-connected episodes, Tom’s eventual decision to come forward after he and Huck witness Injun Joe commit a murder, and the implications of that decision, is a thread running through much of the novel. The story continues in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which has also been adapted by Manga Classics.
Manga Classics: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has been classified as a Young Adult title for ages twelve and up by the publisher. This designation is fitting, not due as much to mature subject matter as to the fact that the novel is a challenging read both textually and visually. The adapters have been faithful to Twain’s novel, which captures the dialect of the American South in the mid-1800s, including, as they acknowledge, racist language. Characters also use expressions and syntax which differ greatly from the speech patterns of today. In addition, characters who appear out-of-frame may still speak, so readers must connect a speech bubble to its unseen owner in order to follow a conversation. The episodic nature of the story can make transitions between scenes somewhat abrupt. While the novel is divided into chapters with each chapter number labeled, the numbers appear at different places on each page, which can make them difficult to spot. Finally, the fact that this book reads in typical manga style from right to left makes it a more challenging text for Western readers.
The gray scale illustrations are done in traditional manga style—characters have large eyes and thin, angular frames. Huckleberry Finn actually looks Japanese with straight black hair and dark eyes, while the other characters have various hair, skin, and eye colors. Manga conventions are often used, such as when characters express surprise and their eyes grow wide with large pupils. Characters are clearly distinguishable from one another, though there’s not much distinction between the way children and adults are drawn, apart from the older adults such as Aunt Polly. Inanimate objects can also be a bit difficult to discern. The panel structure is quite variable in size and function. Some panels introduce setting, while others introduce characters and character details. Each character is introduced for the first time with a large-scale captioned portrait standing apart from the panels on the page where he or she first appears. End matter includes notes from the text adapter and illustrator which provide insight into the adaptation process as well as sketches of key characters.
Manga Classics: Adventures of Tom Sawyer is an enjoyable way to experience Twain’s classic novel. The drawback to any graphic format of this book is that it must leave out large amounts of the narration that is a hallmark of Twain’s work. This is certainly noticeable here, and the flow of the story does appear a bit jumpy in places as a result. However, Chan and Chan have still done an admirable job adapting the work to the manga format.
Young adult readers, manga fans, and those interested in adaptations of classic literature will find this piece enjoyable. Adept middle grade readers may be able to tackle it as well, and it has potential for use in classrooms as part of a comparative study, along with its companion Manga Classics: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Manga Classics: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Crystal Chan Art by Kuma Chan ISBN: 9781947808027 Manga Classics, 2018 Publisher Age Rating: 12+
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:
Tuesday, August 11: Interview and giveaway, The Book Lover’s Nest