[Book Review] Les Miserables (Manga Classics) by Victor Hugo (Stacy King, TszMei Lee)


Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (author); adaptation by Stacy King & Crystal Chan; TszMei Lee (illustrators) • Udon Entertainment • 2014 •  345 pages

Blurb
(from GoodReads): Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo’s classic novel of love & tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this fantastic new manga edition! The gorgeous art of TseMei Lee brings to life the tragic stories of Jean Valjean, Inspector Javert, and the beautiful Fantine, in this epic adaptation of Les Miserables!

Genre/Themes: I want to call this an OEL Manga.. but that wouldn’t really be accurate; Manga Classics, Classics, Literature/Fiction, Suffering, Redemption, Love, Letting Go, Sacrifice, Vendetta, Misery, French Revolution, History, Historical Fiction,

Got My Copy: e-ARC From NetGalley

Overall Rating: 3/3.5 of 5 stars

Review & Evaluation:
Illustration/Art: 2.5/3
Plot/Concept: 4
Delivery: 3.5
Message: 4

Likes:

  • The story (obviously — it IS Le Miz after all)
  • Some of the character designs
  • Decent capture of the massive saga
  • The bulk of the story (as in the middle portion, some 150+ pages I guess) was pretty solid. I won’t say there wasn’t anything wrong with it, but at least I wasn’t as irritated by anything specific to mention.

Dislikes:

  • Art (was neither here nor there, some of it worked… some was just waaay off)
  • It was waay overdramatic at all the wrongs times
  • The character designs for some of the cast (like Fantine & Marius)
  • Paneling and Page Layout was weird at random times
  • Is this a bandwagon thing? “Manga Classics”? What even…
  • The at-times stilted and unrealistic dialogue between some of the characters

Other Thoughts?

Okay. So there were parts of this book that I really liked, but for the most part it was just “ok” for me.

shrug-1

Where do I begin?

I suppose the easiest place is to point out that I fully expected this to be horrible. XD I’m really not a fan of publishers (or artists) jumping on the bandwagon of some trend or novel idea simply for the sake of doing so to garner more cash or seem like “they’re cool, too” which is exactly what this book and the whole “Manga Classics” line thing came across as.

But… this book ended up being… a bit more than my expectations initially allowed. It wasn’t great, but it certainly wasn’t horrible either.

Another thing to point out is that I’ve actually read Victor Hugo’s massive book, so my following thoughts are based off that. This manga is definitely an adaptation and not a retelling of the classic tale, and although some areas were altered and others removed entirely… it was still a decent attempt at capturing this unforgettable tale of suffering, redemption, sacrifice, and love. My biggest problem with this story, actually fell to the art — moreso than the actual script — and its placement on each page, the panels, as well as the placement of certain text and how it should flow from one area to the next. Although the artist wanted to “authenticate” the book in the Japanese layout and style, there was actually quite a bit of fumbling on several pages where the text wasn’t where it needed to be in order to be read properly. Not to mention, the… rendering of certain characters (namely Marius and the “still-beautiful” Fantine) which made me want to cry because, “WHAT EVEN?!” Who came up with these designs?!

But lastly, what really did it was… the over-dramatic nature of the art (at the most RANDOM of times, too…), and the at-times stilted and unrealistic dialogue between some of the characters. It just really bothered me because it would jar me out of the story… or completely take me off guard because I would end up laughing at or commenting on the ridiculous nature of it while reading. (Which, if it had been done right, I should have never noticed nor paid the slightest attention to. And it always happened at the most inappropriate of times!)

The positives are less numerous, but still there nonetheless and I won’t forget to mention them. Namely, the decent capture of the massive saga, although lacking some of the subtleties that would have translated parts of the story better to the reader. Also, the whole… middle portion of the book was surprising very well done. It’s mostly the beginning and ending that really needs work. The middle flowed well enough and kept me engaged in the story, and the art didn’t jump out at me too often, either (which was, of course, a big plus).

1524

Now, a confession:

Sometimes I write notes all over my books: in the margins, inbetween the lines, on the empty pages at the back of the book… And from these notes, I make my assessment of a particular book, manga, or what-have-you. (Note: This will make sense when I’m done explaining it)

In this instance, for this book… I made notes.

3 PAGES worth.

However, since the copy I was reading from was an e-ARC, I ended up writing all these notes and random commentary down by hand in my little notebook (which is steadily becoming my “review only” notebook XD ).

For this review, my notes were all a bit… repetitive. Because my thoughts were generally the same throughout this bizarrely long read. (And by “bizarre,” I mean, “it shouldn’t have taken me this long to read a 300+ page manga” -__-;; )

If I were to sum it all up in a single word, I would use the same one I did. Constantly. Over and over again. ALL over my notes.

DRAMATIC.

Here. I’ll be even more specific by adding the word:

UNNECESSARILY dramatic.

OVERdramatic.

And kinda… off, too.

It wasn’t bad. In fact, that’s why it gets the rating of 3.5. It was ok. That’s about it. The idea behind it, which is to get readers into the classics, is a good one… and one I think would definitely work with this kind of book. But from the perspective of a long-time manga/manhwa/manhua reader, fan and native… it’s just… obviously not manga. 8D; And on that note, my biggest quip is that they dare call it that. Sure it might be drawn in the manga-style… but the actual storytelling itself was very un-Japanese (not just because the story was Le Miz, either) and it was a bit frustrating. The art was also a bit all over the place in terms of style and character design. Some of the characters like Cossette (especially when she was younger)

cossette

and Jean Valjean (in almost all his age ranges, but in this one:

jean valjean…and this one, in particular…) jean valjean2

look fine, even what I might have thought of when imagining them. But Fantine (WTF MAN. WHY DOES SHE LOOK LIKE THE MOST GENERIC PRETTY GIRL LONG HAIRED ANIME CHARACTER ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET?!

fantine2

And don’t even get me started on Marius. That dopey, stupid looking kid makes me want to gag. I mean, not trying to compare kimshe to decadence, but… how do you go from this

10685459

to THIS?

omfg this dopey looking child

FBSJLAFSLBFLSA

That has got to be some kinda crime with capital punishment as retribution.

639

Would you recommend this book?:

Listen. I doubt I would buy this for myself, but I suppose… if I were asked to recommend it, I might have to give it the “go-ahead” if for no other reason than because it’s Le Miz, and I could never turn down the opportunity of getting someone interested in this wondrous tale – by whatever means necessary. 🙂

 

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