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Jane Eyre - Manga Classics

Stacy King

FINALLY, my beloved Jane Eyre gets the adaptation it deserves. I enjoyed this graphic novel so much that I picked it for my best read of 2016.

The pacing of this long (324 page) novel is excellent. Jane Eyre is much bigger than the love story, a fact which seems to escape most adapters. Certainly film and TV scripts try to get to Rochester as quickly as possible, and so did the other graphic novel adaptation I’ve read. But Brontë didn’t, and neither does this adaptation. Jane the child, with her temper and her frustrations and her snarky remarks, is necessary to understand that Jane the governess is not silent because she has nothing to say, but rather because she’s learned not to say it. When older Jane has better control, story editor Crystal Chan makes good use of “voice-over” bubbles to let us see her internal life. For instance, when Rochester observes, “You may have intolerable defects to balance your few good points,” Jane thinks, but doesn’t tell him, “And so may you.”

Rochester is a bolder, more obvious character than Jane, so it’s less unusual to find a version that does him justice, but this version certainly did. I clearly got the sense of him “fishing” for signs of Jane’s interest and trying to provoke her into revealing her feelings. That’s essential to making Rochester a gentleman surprised and uncertain when he finds his soul mate outside his class, as opposed to a creepy employer taking advantage of his governess.

I also liked the art for Rochester. Most of the other Manga Classics I’ve read have been  illustrated by by Po Tse, who does a very ornate, feminine “shoujo” style. That’s not a terrible mismatch for the Regency period, although I have, at times, wished for heroes outside of the pretty/skinny/androgynous style. This is my first by SunNeko Lee, and I’m just delighted by her work. Her linework is heavier and her characters less stylized than the Austen illustrations, which fits my personal “feel” for Bronte’s text. Rochester looks like a grown man, and never like a shadowed, haunted vampire (which is a great temptation for people who think every Brontë hero ever, by any sister, is Heathcliff). Jane is a bit generic, but she looks effectively young. The huge height difference Lee gives Rochester and Jane effectively represents, in visual form, their age and power gaps.

The story appears to be set a little later than most adaptations, costumed for the 1840s-50s rather than 1830s-40s. If you don’t care about costume accuracy, you can skip this paragraph, but it’s one area in which I do have some critiques. As is usual in graphic novels, the hairstyles are used for character differentiation rather than accuracy. Only Jane consistently wears her hair up, which all women should have done in the period. Rochester’s hair and sideburns are a solid match for the era, but in either the 1840s or 1850s a well-to-do gentleman should be wearing a frock coat rather than a high-waisted dress coat (cut at the waist with tails).

In positive news, Blanche Ingram is finally the dark beauty she’s described as in the book rather than a blonde to contrast with Jane. She’s also not in the character’s typical frilly, poofy dresses and spaniel curls. For costume nerds, it’s always annoying because those are a dated holdover from the 1830s and Jane’s dark, severe dresses are on trend. Both graphic novel women seem to be in the same decade.

Besides quibbling over the cut of Rochester’s coat, I could also ask for a bit more of the controlling darkness that characterizes Jane’s relationship with St. John. But these are nitpicks. The entire team behind this book has done a great job capturing the many spirits of a huge, thoughtful work. Jane’s coming-of-age story, the Jane/Rochester love story, themes of class and religion – it’s all there. I loved this adaptation and highly recommend it.

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Book Details

Reviewer :      Caroline Russomanno


Grade :     A


Sensuality :      Kisses


Book Type :     


Review Tags :      | |


9 Comments

  1. Blackjack January 6, 2017 at 5:35 pm - Reply

    I mentioned in the Best of 2016 list that I got this for my niece after reading your review. I’m going to have to read it myself, as Jane Eyre has been a lifelong favorite of mine. Many literary critics believe that just on artistic merit, the first third of the story, Jane’s childhood and orphanage years, is her best writing, though the Rochester romance is what many take away from the story.

  2. Suzanne January 6, 2017 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    I’m no literary critic, but I’ve always believed (read) Jane’s years in the orphanage is what makes the story of Jane Erye. What makes the romance between her and Rochester believable is Jane. If not for her past, Rochester, for all his wealth, would not be worthy of her, regardless that he suffered emotionally before he met Jane, or physically afterward. He did not deserve her; nor did St John. Jane could have done much better than either man, but she chose Rochester in the end, and I trusted Jane as a reliable narrator throughout the story. Therefore I trusted in the romance. And with my 50+ years and my modern 2cents, I hope he is still grovelling, lol.

    • Caroline Russomanno
      Caroline Russomanno January 8, 2017 at 7:00 am - Reply

      I think one nice aspect of this story is that it challenges the whole concept of “worthy.” It’s not about who is good enough FOR Jane, but rather who is good enough TO her.

  3. Anne Marble AAR January 6, 2017 at 11:21 pm - Reply

    OK, you’ve sold me. 🙂 I’m not crazy about reading graphic novels on my iPad because the iPad screen is still smaller than most graphic novels (although I have become a fan of Guided View). But because most manga are smaller than the iPad screen, I think this should work well.

    • Caroline Russomanno
      Caroline Russomanno January 8, 2017 at 6:56 am - Reply

      I haven’t read any formatted ebooks for Manga Classics, just proofs for reviewers. I was able to read them on my phone without difficulty so I expect your iPad will be fine. Just know it’s a right-to-left read, Japanese style.

      • Dabney Grinnan
        Dabney Grinnan January 8, 2017 at 11:07 am - Reply

        I bought the actual book because I just can’t read manga on my ipad. But, maybe if there’s a matching thing with this book, I’ll try it.

      • Anne Marble AAR January 8, 2017 at 12:40 pm - Reply

        Good point! The first time I tried to read a Japanese manga on my iPad, I was ready to return it because i couldn’t get it to go to the next page. Then I realized what I was doing wrong.

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