Thursday, May 19, 2022

Review: The Scarlet Letter (Manga Classics) by Nathaniel Hawthorne

As my followers know, I do try to sneak in graphic novels whenever I can ,since these do resonate with young readers and are one of the first sections my own kids visit. One criticism I've run across on the graphic novel front is that kids aren't hitting 'real literature'. So, when I stumbled across this series, I couldn't dare pass it up. It takes the classics (a huge range) and has transposed them into graphic novel form. In the series, everything from Pride and Prejudice to Dracula to The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin to Romeo and Juliet to...well, it just goes on and on.

I'm assuming the next question might be, 'Can a manga do a classic justice?' Well, let's find out! 

Manga Classics
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
re-written by Crystal S Chan
Illustrated by SunNeko Lee
Inked by Morpheus Studios
Manga Classics
YA Classic
308 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne's powerful tale of forbidden love, shame and revenge comes to life in this manga presentation of the classic story. When Hester Prynne bears an illegitimate child, she is introduced to the ugliness, complexity, and ultimately the strength of the human spirit. Though set in a Puritan community during the Colonial American period, the moral dilemmas of personal responsibility and consuming emotions of guilt, anger, loyalty and revenge are timeless. This beautiful manga retelling of Hawthorne's classic American novel is faithfully adapted by Crystal S. Chan and features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into this tragic saga of Puritan America.



Remaining amazingly true to the original novel, the illustrations and dialogue bring new life to a classic and allow the tale to resonate with another branch of readers.

The story is as anyone whose read the book already knows—Hester Prynne gives birth to an illegitimate child and must face the town's wrath, hate, and gossip during Colonial times in a Puritan community. And this manga brings exactly this tale across, staying very true to the original. 

First, for those who are new to the manga world, there are instructions on how to approach this type of novel (as they are read in a different direction than our Western world is accustom to). Then, it starts with the writer's finding of his ancestor's notes, which inspires him to recapture Hester's tale. I was wondering how all of this would flow...whether it would be lighter, changed, different atmosphere and such. But this is a very serious read, which brings across the exact same atmosphere, scenes, characterization and circumstances. 

The settings and scenes, of course, pick up mostly in the illustrations, and these do a great job at making the time visual while keeping it simple. Little details like Hester's 'A' poke forward with a subtle intensity to make the scenes and importance sit. I was also impressed at how well the emotions and characters are brought across. The illustrator takes care to capture each one with the right features and let their personalities shine without over doing it, either. The dialogue did meld a bit away from the original, but only in the sense that it was easier to read and understand. I even found this aspect well done.

Of course, classic lovers and those, who really want to dive into the novel, will probably want to grab up the original, but this form does a great job at offering a slightly different point of view without altering the main strings. It is easier to digest and is even worth a peek from those, who do adore the original novel. To say that it is probably more inviting for the younger audience is, in my opinion, a given. 

After reading this one, I'm more than curious to dive into the other manga classics in the series.

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