Les Miserables (Manga) by Victor Hugo, Crystal Silvermoon (adaptation), and SunNeko Lee (art)

I had previously reviewed the Manga Classics edition of Pride and Prejudice here. When I had the opportunity to check out Les Miserables, I took it, mostly out of curiosity.

Les Miserables (Manga) Front Cover

Les Miserables (Manga) Front Cover (Udon Entertainment)

 

THE PLOT: This manga is an abridged version of the classic book, and I’m summarizing a great deal here. In 1815 France, Jean Valjean is released from prison (for stealing a loaf of bread) and finds that he can’t find honest work. Thanks to a kindly bishop, he is able to break parole, open a factory, and eventually become mayor of a town. One of his factory workers, Fantine, is unjustly fired and turns to prostitution to support her young daughter, Cosette. Valjean finds a dying Fantine and promises to care for Cosette, but his identity is discovered by Inspector Javert, who has been hunting for him. Valjean takes Cosette from the Thernadiers, the horrible couple who bilked Fantine for every penny, and finds sanctuary at a monastery.

Years later, Valjean and Cosette live in Paris as father and daughter. Teen Cosette catches the eye of Marius Pontmercy, a young man who takes part in the June Rebellion. Valjean has to come to terms with eventually losing Cosette to marriage as well as facing his past, and his old enemy Javert.

MY TWO CENTS: It’s been many, many years now since I read Les Miserables, and the manga includes a bit more story than you get in the musical version, but not much. The art is very interesting. Cosette and Eponine are drawn in traditional big-eyes format, as is Fantine as a factory worker. As Fantine’s fortunes fall, her image becomes more realistic. Jean Valjean and Javert are drawn more lifelike, so sometimes the combination of different styles can be jarring. Javert is a little too sneery for my taste (we know he’s “the villain,” but he operates from an overdeveloped sense of self-righteousness.) Eponine is far, far too buxom for a starving waif!

In the end, I didn’t feel like this version brought much that is new to my “Les Miserables” experience. It’s interesting, to be sure, but not a “must-have.”

BOTTOM LINE: A new (abbreviated) take a on well-loved story; check it out if you’re curious, but will probably be most-enjoyed by die-hard Le Miz fans.

TEACUP RATING: Three out of five teacups.

ON SALE DATE: Available now in hardcover and paperback.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Happy Marriage?! Volume 8 by Maki Enjoji

I guess I should have paid more attention when I reviewed Volume 4 of this series here, and said this:

Hokuto is still a little too controlling for my taste…

Unfortunately, I’ve gotten to a point where I have to give up on this series. I’ll explain why below.

HM8

Happy Marriage?! Vol 8 Front Cover (VIZ Media)

 

THE PLOT: In this volume, we learn that the couple have now been married for three years (seriously?) Hokuto suddenly decides to make a deal: He’ll give up being CEO and, if he can turn around one failing company in a year’s time, he’ll become the Mamiya heir. In the meantime, someone seems to be stalking Chiwa.

MY TWO CENTS: I should have listened to my instincts when I read Volume 7. There was a moment where the couple was fighting, Chiwa became hysterical, and…Hokuto slapped her. I should have realized right then that I wanted nothing more to do this series, but I thought, “Maybe it’s JUST because she’s hysterical, and that doesn’t come across so well via manga, and…” Yeah, I should know better. You should NEVER try to explain away a slap. Because then, in this volume, he hits her again.

Here’s how it goes down: Chiwa is being stalked, but she’s trying to keep it from Hokuto so she’s no bother to him. (Uh-huh.) But the stalker gets progressively gutsier, pushing her down, causing minor injuries, etc. Chiwa’s ex-boyfriend and coworker Asahina figures out what’s going on with Chiwa’s weird behavior and clues in Hokuto. In the nick of time, the two of them stop the stalker from attacking Chiwa. Hokuto confronts Chiwa, asking why she didn’t tell him, basically bullying her by cutting off her mumbling by screaming at her to “SPEAK LOUDER!” When she tells him she didn’t want to worry him for nothing, he hits her.

To repeat: A MAN HITS HIS WIFE BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T WANT TO WORRY HIM WITH HER SILLY STALKER PROBLEMS.

He follows up the slap by falling to his knees, burying his face in her stomach, and crying about how he wouldn’t want to live if something happened to her. People, this is domestic violence 101…the violent act followed by the honeymoon phase.

I just KNOW some readers are going to try to excuse this. Some might say it’s a cultural issue. I don’t care what cultural background you’re from, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS NOT OKAY. Others might point out that Hokuto is a hot alpha male and he was just so upset and lost control of his emotions and it’s so romantic. To anyone who would even think this, I say: DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BY A HOT MAN IS STILL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE! No one, NO ONE, EVER, under ANY circumstances, should try to justify hitting. And it is NEVER ROMANTIC.

Finally, there will be those readers who say, “God, chill out, it’s only a book (or a manga).” I suggest those people think about the books that shape and influence people’s lives EVERY SINGLE DAY. It really only takes one impressionable young person to read this and decide it’s okay to be hit as long as it’s by someone young and hot and emotional.

BOTTOM LINE: I don’t recommend this volume or the series, because HITTING IS NEVER OKAY. The only way I’d recommend it is if somewhere in future volumes Hokuto sees a counselor for his control issues, or maybe Chiwa dumps him. But I really don’t see that happening.

TEACUP RATING: I’m going to go with zero teacups, because DOMESTIC VIOLENCE IS NEVER ROMANTIC.

ON SALE DATE: October 7, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Pride and Prejudice (Manga Edition), adapted by Stacy King, art by Po Tse

The first time I read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, I was in high school. It was the book I chose for my senior thesis paper (specifically, I focused on the character of Mr. Collins). To give you some perspective, the Colin Firth miniseries was still a good five years away at that point. So I’ve been a fan for a long time, and I love manga, but I wondered if I could accept a manga version. Could it do the story justice?

Pride and Prejudice Manga Classic

Pride and Prejudice Manga Classic (UDON Entertainment Corporation)

THE PLOT: Wait a minute, you don’t know this classic story? Go read it right now. Go on, I’ll wait.

Okay, seriously: The five Bennett daughters don’t have large dowries or good connections, but they need to marry well because their cousin will inherit their home when their father dies. Things are looking up when a wealthy young man, Mr. Bingley, moves into the neighborhood and is smitten with Jane, the oldest daughter. Second-oldest daughter Elizabeth, an intelligent and witty young lady, spars with Bingley’s unpleasant (and rich) friend, Mr. Darcy. Add in a gold-digging mother, various meddling relatives, a degenerate fortune hunter, stupid little sisters, and two of the worst marriage proposals of all time, and you’ve got yourself a classic.

MY TWO CENTS: As soon as I saw this, I was intrigued. Elizabeth and Darcy in manga format? For the most part, it works well. The art is very pretty, although Elizabeth’s hair is down in formal company a bit too often for my Regency tastes (I know, I’m being picky). The art of Mr. Collins made me laugh out loud every time I saw it.  The story is streamlined a bit, and there are some liberties taken with both the story and language (no one will convince me that Regency-era folk said “No way!” EVER.) There are a couple of weird moments that I’m pretty sure aren’t canon (Elizabeth’s tearful breakup with Wickham). But overall, it’s a fun read.

BOTTOM LINE: A fairly faithful presentation of a classic story. Don’t read it INSTEAD of the classic, though; read it to supplement your enjoyment. I’m interested in checking out more of the Manga Classics that are on the way: Les Miserables (I’m assuming THE BOOK, not THE MUSICAL), and The Scarlet Letter. You can check out the style of the art here: http://www.udonentertainment.com/blog/tag/manga-classics/

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups for this adaptation. (The original, of course, gets a million teacups.)

ON SALE DATE: Both hardcover and paperback formats will be available on August 19, 2014.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Happy Marriage?! (Volume 4) by Maki Enjoji

Happy Marriage?! Volume 4 Front cover (VIZ Media)

Happy Marriage?! Volume 4 Front Cover (VIZ Media)

I enjoy manga, and I tend more toward shojo, like Fushigi Yugi and Fruits Basket, than shonen (although I do love Rurouni Kenshin). When I saw the first volume of Happy Marriage?!, I was drawn to the plot…a sort of rom-com setup where a young woman is asked to marry her company’s CEO in order for his grandfather to forgive her father’s debt. The young couple had never met, and they don’t exactly foresee a “happily ever after” scenario…but they may be surprised.

THE PLOT: In this volume, the couple is drawing closer, but an incident with one of Hokuto’s family members causes Chiwa to think Hokuto will be better off without her. Her departure causes Hokuto to, at long last, come to some firm decisions.

MY TWO CENTS: I enjoy this manga, and I’m glad things are finally moving along in the couple’s relationship. I didn’t want the misunderstandings and interruptions to go on too long. Hokuto is still a little too controlling for my taste, and Chiwa is still a bit of a basket case, but at least they’re starting to balance each other out. I don’t want to give away spoilers in my review, but readers looking for a payoff should be happy with this volume.

BOTTOM LINE: This is a really cute series if you don’t take it too seriously and try to analyze the characters too much. If you’re looking for a love story manga, check this out. WARNING: This subject matter is intended for mature audiences, and there is some nudity in this volume.

TEACUP RATING: Four out of five teacups. I want to see what’s covered in the last volume. Will the couple finally be truly happy?

ONE SALE DATE: This volume will be available on February 4th, 2014. Volumes 1 and 2 are available now; Volume 3 will be released on December 3rd.

Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Rurouni Kenshin Restoration by Nobuhiro Watsuki

Rurouni Kenshin Front Cover (VIZ Media)

Rurouni Kenshin Front Cover (VIZ Media)

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Kenshin, and when I learned that there was a new release, it was a no-brainer pickup for me. But I was confused as to what it actually was. Advertised as a “condensed retelling,” I was expecting a shortened form of the original story. That’s not the case.

THE PLOT: This is a “reboot” in the way that the new Star Trek movies are a reboot. Or, as the author describes it, a “parallel story.” This means that the same characters are introduced in different ways and have somewhat different relationships from those in the original story. As an introduction, Kenshin is pulled by Yahiko into a show put on by Kanryu Takeda. Yahiko, who works for Kanryu, “mistakes” Kenshin for the Battosai, who is supposed to battle Kaoru in the show. Kanryu now owns the Kamiya dojo, and Kaoru puts on this show in an attempt to pay back the debt and get the dojo back. Weird. Sanosuke and Saito also seem to work for Kanryu as they draw straws to see who gets to kill Kenshin. Just wrong. Sano becomes friends with the group anyway, but he’s introduced as already knowing the “mastery of the two layers.”

MY TWO CENTS: I know Watsuki is helping generate interest in the live-action movie(s) with this new release, but I wish he had done it some other way. I would much rather he had done the sequel with Kenshin’s son Kenji and Yahiko’s son. Since the movie is based off the original stories, I think anyone picking this up would just be confused. Also, the art seems strange. I understand that an artist’s style may change over time, but I don’t prefer this version of Kenshin. He looks more like the New Kyoto Arc Kenshin, or the OVAs Kenshin, than the original or anime Kenshin, which I prefer.

TEACUP RATING: With greatest apologies to Kenshin and Watsuki, I give this only two-and-a-half teacups out of five. However, I STRONGLY recommend that people check out the original manga and the anime series.

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