This classics has gone through a multitude of adaptation through different mediums, from stage performances to the film and this manga is no exception to being a beautiful adaptation.
If you are unfamiliar with the novel, it was published 1862 by French writer Victor Hugo and is considered one of the most brilliant written works of the 19th century. The novel is definitely a tricky read, meaning you may read it the first time having no idea what you just looked at, but once you take in the plot you will agree that the story is one filled with much emotional turmoil and affection for the characters. There are a handful of characters the plot focuses on, but the primary story follows an ex-convict named Jean Valjean who is on a journey of redemption in a world plagued with poverty and unkindness that seems determined to not let Jean escape his past.
This Manga Classics edition is perfect for those that enjoyed reading the novel but would still like to see an adaptation with a less intense format. Thanks to the team at NetGalley, I was able to take a look at a reader’s copy of the manga and was pleasantly surprised how much I was taken to the manga within just a few pages. As someone that read the original novel over five years ago, I still found myself feeling shock and anger at the event depicted on the pages. It was difficult to imagine a manga art style being able to capture this historical text, but I was disproven and found the art held up the original writing and even clarified points in the plot I could never quite get right in the reading.
This adaptation is especially useful to student and educators reading the original text and may be experiencing some difficulty processing or breaking down the reading. Jean Valjean goes through multiple names in the plot as he escapes his past, so seeing his journey visibly makes it easier to keep track.
This manga works well as an introduction to the Victor Hugo novel as it avoids the dense parts of the original to focus on the bigger plot points of the story. Because there is so much going on in the story to fit in this manga, the pacing is a bit fast as time is constantly being manipulated in order to speed the timeline of the plot’s entirety. You can notice at times that the manga is clearly trying to quickly get to the more tense moments of the plot, which unfortunately cuts time from the more slow and emotional scenes.
Overall, the manga was a great adaptation and I recommend it to those who enjoy the original novel or would like to know the plot but have no desire to read the original text.