This is my first Manga Classics read. I chose it specifically because I've read the work on which it's based, although it's been a few years. Also, while I didn't love the original Jane Eyre, I didn't hate it either, which is more than I can say for some of the other works adapted for the Manga Classics series.
This seemed to be a pretty faithful adaptation. It began with Jane's childhood - first her aunt's mistreatment of her, and then her life at a school for poor and orphaned children - and then continued on to her time as a governess at the Rochester household and everything that happened after that point.
I'll be blunt: I don't actually like Rochester. I didn't when I originally read the novel (I'd already long since learned his big secret via cultural osmosis), and I didn't when I read this adaptation. He and Jane had some nice moments, and Chan and Lee did a great job, but it didn't erase my fundamental dislike of the character. He's a selfish man who tried to maneuver a much younger woman, his employee, into a position he knew would horrify her if she knew the full truth. And he didn't plan on telling her one bit of what was actually going on until well after it was too late.
I remembered really enjoying the portion of the original novel set during Jane's childhood. That part seemed a little weaker in this adaptation, although I'm not sure why. Still, it was nice seeing Jane all small, angry, and cute.
All in all, this adaptation was well done. The story was easy to follow, and the use of certain manga visual conventions (such as the sweat drop when Rochester tried to explain away some of the strange things Jane witnessed and experienced) was very nice. The artwork was attractive, and if there were times when Jane seemed awfully young-looking compared to Rochester, well, she was quite a bit younger than him.
I'd like to take a look at more entries in the Manga Classics series, but at the moment the series looks like a good potential starting point for building a more purposeful library graphic novel collection (as opposed to my library's current method of relying mostly on random gifts) that would probably be considered acceptable by staff members who are more leery of graphic novels as a format. The one concern I've heard was from a coworker who worried that students would use them as a way to avoid reading the original novels. We don't collect Cliff's Notes for this reason. However, I'd argue that, if this was such a big concern, we wouldn't collect movie versions of the books either, and we certainly have those. This manga adaptation isn't going to tell a student anything about Brontë's style or use of language, or every little change Chan made to the story to adapt it to a new format - they'll still have to consult the original for that.
I own the Manga Classics version of The Scarlet Letter, so I might try that one next.
- 2-page comic-style afterword by SunNeko Lee
- 4 pages of notes from Crystal S. Chan, discussing the work she did to adapt Jane Eyre to manga format, including some slight changes she made to improve the flow of the story in this format, the limitations of the novel's original first person narration, the advantages that manga gave her over other formats like film and TV, and info about some of the decisions she and SunNeko Lee made for the artwork.
- 2 pages of background notes written by Stacy King - info about Charlotte Brontë, the novel, and life as a governess.
- 2 pages of character design sketches
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)