Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice

Let’s be clear about this right from the beginning – I love a good Jane Austen adaptation. I love the movies, the BBC productions, the audiobooks. I love the modern spin-offs like Bridget Jones’ Diary and The Jane Austen Book Club. I’ve read plenty of the Austen continuations (my personal favorite is Darcy’s Story by Janet Almer). I gobble it all up, but it never occurred to me that someone would take one of Austen’s stories and turn it into a graphic novel.

PPmanga cover

UDON Entertainment Production is evidently planning to release a whole line of Manga Classics. The first two books of the collection, both published on August 19, are Les Miserables and Pride and Prejudice. What a fabulous idea. Evidently, this isn’t even the first P&P adaptation of its kind. I poked around Amazon and found that Marvel Comics (you read that correctly) has a version of P&P as well. Mind blown. The only graphic novels I have ever read are Maus and Hyperbole and a Half, and my experience with manga is limited to a brief (though surprisingly intense) obsession with Sailor Moon as a child. But when I saw this title on NetGalley, I knew I had to try it.

The text was adapted by Stacy King, and the artist is Po Tse. According to UDON, these Manga Classics are intended for young adult readers, “with strong and accurate adaptations that will please even the toughest teacher or librarian!” As I was reading this one, it reminded me of the Great Illustrated Classics I read as a kid and loved so much. They really opened the door for me as a reader, and I think that these adaptations will do the same thing for kids who love comic books.

I have to start off my thoughts on the experience of reading this by saying that the artwork is absolutely beautiful. I have no idea how long it took to illustrate this, but the amount of detail included on each page is astounding. Take a look at this drawing of Elizabeth and Jane:

PPmanga elizabeth jane

I could have spent hours looking at the illustrations, just soaking up each facial expression and clothing detail. Really, really beautiful.

Beyond the gorgeous artwork, Austen’s story that we know and love is still what keeps you turning the pages. The good stuff is all there – Mrs. Bennet is as irritating as a swarm of gnats, Mr. Collins is ridiculous, Lady Catherine is imperious, and Wickham is dangerously charming. Since this adaptation is geared toward a younger audience, King occasionally took some liberties with the story. These instances were rare though, and I understood how simplifying certain plot points or making the occasional small change could make the adaptation easier to follow.

Every once in a while, King will make a shift in the language that feels abrupt. The occasional exclamation of “No way!” doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the dialogue that King has obviously tried to keep as close to the original as possible.  But even these moments are not enough to distract you from plowing ahead.  I found myself itching to flip ahead a few pages to see how some of my favorite moments in the story would be illustrated.  For example, here is Sir William Lucas pairing up Lizzy and Darcy for a dance:

PPmanga darcy2

As a manga newbie, I appreciated the guide at the beginning of the book that explained to me how I should start at the back of the book and read the pages right to left. It wasn’t that hard to adjust to, and after the first few pages, I didn’t find it at all distracting. I think this is a great new medium for appreciating an old favorite story.

What do you think?  Would you be willing to give this a try?  What are your favorite Austen adaptations?

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6 thoughts on “Manga Classics: Pride and Prejudice

  1. This does indeed remind me of the much-loved Classics Illustrated comics I devoured when I was a child. They introduced me to the world of literature, and I remember many of the illustrations even now, 60years later. The depictions of poor Jane Eyre’s boarding school have always been my standard of misery. I too have never read a manga book, but these are really intriguing to me.

    • I know what you mean about the illustrations sticking with you! I can see the pictures from my “Little Women” Great Illustrated Classic in particular so clearly in my mind after all these years. If you like adaptations of P&P, this could be a good way to give manga a try.

  2. I really enjoyed Radioactive: Marie and Pierre Curie, a Tale of Love and Fallout by Lauren Redniss. I’d call it more of an art book than graphic novel, though.

    The big problem for me with graphic novels is the visual breaks if the illustrator is using panels. On film if I’m watching a movie adaptation or in my head when I’m reading a book, the transition between scenes feels fairly seamless. Panels just make anything longer than a regular newspaper comic strip feel choppy to me. It’s awesome that manga is more widely available now than it used to be, though, as some people seem to really like it.

    Apparently there are stage adaptations of Pride and Prejudice. Has anyone ever seen one?

    • I know what you mean about the panels, Heather. It’s a very different way of absorbing the material than watching a movie or reading a novel – but I really enjoyed this one!

      Haven’t seen a stage adaptation of P&P, but that sounds intriguing!

  3. I have not seen the stage adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, but my daughters did a few years ago at the Utah Shakespeare Festival and really enjoyed it. I got to see Sense and Sensibility at the Utah Shakespeare Festival this summer, and it was fabulous. It was written by the same duo that wrote the P&P adaptation that my daughters saw. I am a huge musical theatre fan as well as a Jane Austen fan, so it was right up my alley. I thought it was very true to the original story, and I would love to see the Pride and Prejudice adaptation by the same writers.

    This manga adaptation would be so out of my gearhouse, but this review makes me curious! I definitely appreciate the tip to start from the back of the book and read from right to left.

    I love Austen adaptations. I can’t pick a favorite! Two of the more unusual ones that I like are the Lost in Austen movie/tv mini series and the book Pirates and Prejudice.

    • I would love to see a stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility! That’s actually my favorite Austen book. I have never heard of Pirates and Prejudice – I’ll have to look it up!

      Paige, I know what you mean about manga being outside your usual scope, but I really did enjoy this.

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