Manga Classics has a great track record with me - I have DIK’d their Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Jane Eyre - so I was excited to see that they were trying Anne of Green Gables. And they didn’t let me down! This fun, energetic visual rendering of a classic story will satisfy long-time Anne fans and win new ones.
The story of Anne of Green Gables - an older brother and sister decide to adopt a boy, get Anne by mistake, and decide to keep her - is generally known, so I’ll focus on what makes the graphic novel work.
- The dialogue. This adaptation was officially supported by the Montgomery estate on the condition that they use original text, so the graphic novel retains the feel and sound of the original.
- The art. The house of Green Gables is meticulously depicted based on the actual house in Prince Edward’s Island. The characters are terrific, from Anne’s bouncy pigtails to Diana’s dark-haired beauty, from the kindly Matthew to the more severe-looking Marilla. Oh, and never fear - the author and artist capture Anne’s beloved puff-sleeved dress. (My only disappointment was Gilbert’s hair, which sticks up like he’s from a kid’s action manga like Dragon Ball Z and feels out of tone). And the landscapes? Almost worthy of Anne’s verbose ecstasies.
While I like Anne in the books, I prefer the character as she ages. Honestly, I find the opening sequence where she babbles about how wonderful everything is and gives it all twee names (the famous “Lake of Shining Waters”) kind of annoying. I’ve never seen a film adaptation of it that didn’t leave me wanting the actress playing Anne to shut up.
Somehow, though, Manga-Anne worked for me in a way that no other Anne ever has - not even Anne from the book. Maybe it’s the way that her commentary is spaced out across pages rather than dumped in one text block, giving us a break from the rhapsodies. Maybe it’s the illustrations, with the charming sights and Anne herself appearing authentically starstruck, like someone for whom a clean pond is a wonder on par with Disneyland. Flashback images of Anne struggling as the orphan servant in other households strike the right balance, inspiring empathy for Anne without being grim.
The manga is labeled by chapters. It works, in the sense that sometimes we need a title to tell us a new section of story is starting, but it also has its drawbacks. The adapter included, I think, every single chapter of the book, and that’s a lot to fit into a graphic adaptation, even a three hundred page one. On multiple occasions, chapters are squished to just one page. It would have more fluid for such short chapters to be omitted. One especially jarring example? A brief chapter about Anne accidentally dying her hair green ends with her hair all chopped, but her waist-length braids are back on the next page. That’s a heck of a time skip.
On the whole, though, this is a joyful read. I devoured this book, smiling the entire time, and then immediately went to order copies for gifts. If you love Anne in other formats, you’ll love her in manga, too - and you might even love her more.
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