Manga Review : The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Manga Classics

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter

Series : Manga Classics by Udon Entertainment / Official Site
Illustrated by : SunNeko Lee
Adapted by : Crystal S. Chan, Stacy King
Original Author : Nathaniel Hawthorne
Year Published : 2015
Genre : Manga, Classics, Historical Fiction
Edition : Digital (also available in Paperback, Hardcover, and Kindle eBook)
# of Pages : 308 pages


A powerful tale of forbidden love, shame, and revenge comes to life in Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter. Faithfully adapted by Crystal Chan from the original novel, this new edition features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee (Manga Classics: Les Miserables) which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into the Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tragic saga of Puritan America. Manga Classics editions feature classic stories, faithfully adapted and illustrated in manga style, and available in both hardcover and softcover editions. Proudly presented by UDON Entertainment and Morpheus Publishing.


Note : Many thanks to NetGalley and Udon Entertainment for providing an e-Arc of this title to me for the purpose of review.

I was pretty sleepy when I started this one and just intended to read 20 or so pages or a designated single chapter and put it aside. Turned out I was enthralled enough to finish the whole thing in one sitting.

In order to express why I loved this one so much, it would probably be beneficial to reveal some of my subjective and very favorite components of fiction, all of which this story and adaptation happens to have in spades.

  • A dark, thick atmosphere.
  • Characters who are harshly challenged by the plot in some way.
  • Psychologically complex and puzzling characters.
  • A brisk, focused, and consistent pace.
  • A sinister yet thought-provoking tone. Not just grim for the sake of it.
  • Messaging that is critical of injustices.

There are a lot more things I like but that is just a short list of what is very present in The Scarlet Letter and extraordinarily well adapted here. One thing of note though, forbidden romance is mentioned in the synopsis. I really did not sense any romance whatsoever here, nor affection between the main couple. The whole matter of them even getting together seemed mysteriously inexplicable. Just in case anyone may be expecting a touch of romance, that’s not the aim of the story or characterization here.

The main thing I focus on with Manga Classics is the art style and adaptation qualities.

The art is by SunNeko Lee who was also responsible for the art in Les Miserables, which I’d heaped considerable praise on for its art. The Scarlet Letter is one year newer and noticeably even better when it comes to finely detailed art style.

There is a lot more shading, characters are of a slightly more realistic proportion, and their expressiveness (both facial and the overall vibe of each character) is more distinctive. There are few characters though so that was probably easy to accomplish. The backdrops have lovely little details.

I was most impressed with the marked strength and dignity of Hester and how this was expressed both in text and in her facial expressions. Her child, Pearl, is the cutest thing imaginable but also has an eerie, pixie-like quality. It’s mentioned in the end notes that the artist strived to make her eyes unique to embody how the text mentions her eyes looking different from ordinary people. Long story short, I love the art, it’s carefully thought out and nice to look at.

I’m thinking of making a mega-post of the Manga Classics after some time of finishing the ones I have access to, and ranking them in order of my absolute favorites. As a sneak peek I’ll just say now that this would most likely make the top 5 at least.

Now the final thing I want to cover and perhaps the most important- the original novel, The Scarlet Letter. On Goodreads among other sources, classics are highly rated and praised. Negative reviews are kind of buried by a deluge of positive ones. The Scarlet Letter is a sort of exception to that rule and there are no shortage of reviews lambasting the book as profoundly boring, with a very unlikable if not impenetrable writing style.

I’ve read multiple reviews before (perhaps more than five, from varying sources) that bring up (paraphrasing) how it’s unfortunate for this book to be taught in high schools as there are so many more appealing and readable classics that could be chosen. By comparison, The Scarlet Letter could dissuade young people from reading.

I haven’t read The Scarlet Letter myself (very curious if any of you have, would love to hear your thoughts!) but just from all I’ve heard, it’s amazing how appealing this adaptation is. Perhaps simplifying the core of the storyline and characterization may have played a big role in that, but I do have a bit of an interest in seeking out the classical novel now after reading this.

Overall Rating – 10/10

Why You Should Try It – A darkly atmospheric tale with odd and distinctive characters. Without familiarity of the original novel, there were several tense moments where I wasn’t sure what to expect. The art is lovely and went far in getting me to feel for the cast, especially the adorable and precocious Pearl. The original book has a wide reputation for being one of the less exciting classics, so the fact that I was glued to the pages of this adaptation is really special.

Why You Might Not Like It – That aforementioned dark atmosphere lends a grim sadness to the overall tone of the story. Some of the behavior of the characters can be hard to fathom without a larger understanding of the setting and cultural norms of the time. The art style is not for everyone.

Manga Classics: The Scarlet Letter (Amazon Link)

Have you read any titles from the Manga Classics line from Udon Entertainment, or do you want to? Are you familiar with The Scarlet Letter? Feel free to comment, I appreciate your likes and comments.

6 thoughts on “Manga Review : The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Manga Classics

  1. This is a fantastic review!! I love it. And the of a magna review is very compelling.

    The boy has a friend who got so fed up of the canon of this teaching in English that she threw it at the teacher…

    Kinda puts my writing a six page paper on my hero… Nikki Sixx as revenge for shoving Ethan Fromme down my throat to shame.

    Liked by 1 person

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