Manga Review – Les Miserables by Victor Hugo Adapted by Manga Classics

Manga Classics: Les Miserables

Series : Manga Classics by Udon Entertainment / Official Site
Illustrated by : SunNeko Lee
Adapted by : Stacy King, Crystal S. Chan
Original Author : Victor Hugo
Year Published : 2014
Genre : Manga, Classics, Drama, Historical Fiction
Edition : Digital (also available in Paperback, Hardcover, and Kindle eBook)
# of Pages : 337 pages

Summary

Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo’s classic novel of love and tragedy set in 19th century France is reborn in this fantastic new manga edition!

Gorgeous and expressive art brigns to life the unforgettable stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the tragic Fantine in this epic adaptation of Les Misérables!

Review

I’m going to say the most important thing first. This is my favorite of the Manga Classics selections I’ve tried so far, I can’t imagine how it can be outmatched, and I recommend it to practically anyone.

So I have a Goodreads account and it shows that apparently I’ve read 1,000 volumes of manga. Have been thinking of starting a once weekly post about manga recommendations, titles I’ve read/am reading, all of that. After 17+ years of reading manga, I’m not often moved by a series these days.

I am beyond impressed by this adaptation of Les Miserables. The art flows by like a film, perfectly paced, clean, each panel resonating and encouraging immersion.

The art style is adorable when it needs to be adorable, the child version of Cosette is aww-worthy and incredibly cute. It can be serious when it needs to be serious, Jean Valjean is drawn in a way that is mature, poised, and fatherly. As is his more sinister-looking adversary, Javert. I really adored the art style for its clean lines and just aesthetically, it completely worked for me. It just looks polished and vetted for quality. But it’s definitely not a style for everyone. The cute aspects might be too cute, especially when it comes to the adult female characters. Subjectively speaking, I liked EVERYTHING to do with this art style. If I could draw, I would want to draw my characters like this. Hoping the artist will or has done other work with Manga Classics.

Now about the storyline and characterization. Lets start by stating that Les Miserables is a 1,400+ page behemoth of classical literature. Unfortunately, not all of the sub-stories were included in this adaptation. The end notes mention some of the sub-plots that were unfortunately missing. This manga volume is 337 pages. I wish it had been 600+ or split into multiple volumes but I can see how that could be an issue, not to mention counter to Manga Classics symmetrical record of keeping to one extra-large volume per classic retelling. That said, I would have totally been open to 600 or 800 pages of this. But what was already present- particularly the character development of the main character, Jean, was already enough to make me tear up at the emotional ending.

I went in blind. No prior interest in nor exposure to the story of Les Miserables. After reading this, I have a determination to read the classic novel someday. Now I know how worthwhile and suited to my interests the storyline is. I’ve mentioned something like this before in another review of another Manga Classics volume, but the broader value of an exercise like this (adapting classics to a manga format) is that within a 1.5 to 3 hour span (however your reading speed is) one can get a fulfilling experience of a classic that might otherwise be looked over due to length or the difficult prose within. This is what makes adaptations so special. I feel like I have a working knowledge and admiration of the plotting and characterization and am up for the challenge.

Overall Rating – 10/10

Why You Should Try It – Clean, cute, yet versatile art style. Perfectly paced and quick-flowing yet detailed panels, and a storyline that’s so good I’m kicking myself for not pursuing some adaptations of it earlier.

Why You Might Not Like It – The late 2000s-2010s-style cuteness/roundess of some characters (aka moe) might be off-putting. The relentless suffering in this story (it does translate as The Miserables after all) can be hard to stomach.

Manga Classics: Les Miserables

Are you interested in reading this adaptation or have already read it? Have you read Les Miserables or seen any adaptations of it before? I am curious about your thoughts. As always, your likes and comments are very appreciated.

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