Manga Classics: Les Misérables (Review)
The Manga Classics adaptation of Les Misérables turns out to be a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the novel. Very little is altered except for streamlining, and a lot more is included than I was expecting.
It’s a modern adaptation in manga style. SunNeko Lee makes some really interesting choices with her character designs, taking different stylistic approaches with each. Valjean and Javert are very realistic, for instance, while the Thénardiers are caricatures, and Marius, Cosette and Éponine are drawn in a more shoujo style with big, expressive eyes. It helps to convey personality instantly, as well as keeping them visually distinct in the black and white art.
It has a lot more space to breathe than either Classics Illustrated version, and Crystal Silvermoon makes use of it to make Fantine, Marius and Cosette full characters rather than merely incidentals in Jean Valjean’s story.
Sometimes the transitions can be a bit choppy, which wouldn’t be a problem except for the added complications of the format.
The format is a little wonky. Despite being an English-language production, it’s presented with right-to-left pages and panel arrangements, as if it were adapted from Japanese. That in itself isn’t a problem – I’ve read plenty of manga that way – but the story is choppy enough that there are places where I had to do a double-take before I realized that no, I hadn’t read that in the wrong order, it just didn’t flow.
This is further complicated in the digital edition, where (at least the original ComiXology release) you still flip pages to the right, but of course the panels proceed to the left. Guided View mostly avoids this, as it not only shows panels one at a time, it will often split large panels in such a way as to send you to the earlier word balloon first.
The artist and writer each say a bit about the process, appropriately enough in essay and comic strip form. There are also a couple of joke strips about Little Cosette that could be fun as a regular feature.