Pride and Prejudice - Manga Classics
There are a lot of graphic novel adaptations out there for Jane Austen novels. This latest venture, done in the visual style of manga, is by far the most successful I’ve read. It captures Austen’s dry humor, making me laugh out loud several times. The hefty page count (triple the length of the Marvel adaptation) allows it to do the full story justice. If you’re looking for a visual adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, this is the one to buy.
Most of you know the story of Pride and Prejudice, so I won’t spend much word count on it here. Instead, I’ll focus on the manga. The plot is intact, but the script is adapted, with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original text. Lines in Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth, for instance, are lifted directly from the book. In most scenes, however, the script is modified into shorter lines of more modern English. In its best moments, this helped the humor come through more clearly. I laughed when Mrs. Bennett begs Elizabeth to reconsider Collins, because “Maybe it’s not too late,” and Elizabeth, with a perceptible eyeroll, says, “It was always too late for Mr. Collins.”
There are, however, sloppy mistakes. “Everyday” is used instead of “Every day.” Elizabeth wonders if things are over for “Darcy and I,” when it’s “Darcy and me.” In fact, it shouldn’t be Darcy: what happened to the “Mr.?” This omission is done consistently throughout the book, not just for Darcy but also for Bingley, and for the sisters (no longer Miss Bennett and Miss Elizabeth in order of precedence, but ordinary Jane and Elizabeth). I guess it’s influenced by the fact that we modern readers all refer to these characters by these names. Or maybe, because space is at a premium on a graphic novel page, their names were easier to fit this way. Regardless of why, it’s still wrong. More disastrously, a maid refers to Jane as “Lady Jane,” and Wickham calls our hero “Lord Darcy.” Neither is titled, so this makes no sense.
As for the visual part of the review… let’s get it out of the way. I absolutely hated the depiction of Darcy. He’s long and skinny, with grasshopper legs and coattails that billow so dramatically that he must have a fan on him at all times. His tousled hair and shadowed, brooding eyes made me think he’d been cut-and-pasted into this manga from a vampire comic. Worst of all, every now and then, the pleating on his pants is so heavily shaded that it looks exactly as if he is wearing a man-thong. I did like that the depiction of Darcy noticeably changes when we see him again at Pemberley – his lines are softened, his face is relaxed, and his eyes are less shadowed. It was deftly matched to the changes in his character and in Elizabeth’s perception of him.
The rest of the character art was very good. The book has many women in it, but I could always tell each Bennett sister from each other and from other women like Charlotte Lucas and Caroline Bingley. The artist does have to resort to inaccuracies of historical fashion to accomplish this. Mrs. Bennett is a funny little dumpling of a woman, which reinforces the shallow cartoonishness of her character against the more realistic depiction of her husband. Bingley looked appropriately beta-cute, and Collins is amusingly absurd, shaped vaguely like a bowling pin in a clerical collar.
I also appreciated the clever layouts and visuals. Collins hilariously barrages Lizzy with proposals, popping out from behind bookcases and flying out of floral arrangements. The artist understands pacing, using size and page placement to make your eye linger on important moments and to reinforce the message of the scene. For instance, after Elizabeth accepts Darcy’s proposal, we see Mr. Bennett remind Mrs. Bennett of how much she dislikes Darcy at the top of the page. In the middle, she learns that Darcy will marry Elizabeth and recalls his vast wealth. At the bottom, she declares, “I like Darcy very much indeed!” Putting this all on one page underscores the absurdity of Mrs. Bennett’s whiplash turnaround.
This manga is not as complex as Austen’s novel, and it has some shortcomings in execution, but it captures what I always loved best about Austen: sparkling character interactions. It’s a fast, funny read, as if the crew of Clueless had placed their Emma adaptation in the original setting. Which reminds me, I’ll be eagerly awaiting Manga Classic’s release of Emma this winter!