Manga Classics Review: Les Miserables by Stacy King

Overview: UDON's Manga Classics' rendition of Les Mesirables has captured the spirit of the story no matter how limited the pages. The scriptwriter was successful at keeping the tone of the manga the way the movie adaptation did even without the emotional musical. The manga drawing style was very captivating that none of the pages will ever hurt your eyes, the only discrepancy being the absence of prominent shades to give emphasis on the mood of some crucial scenes.

Genre: Sequential Art, Manga
Authors: Stacy King (Editor), Tszmei Lee (Illustrations), Victor Hugo (book author)
Date Published: August 19, 2014
Publisher: Udon Entertainment
Size: 336
Edition: ebook (ARC)
ISBN: 9781927925164

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Adapted for stage and screen, loved by millions, Victor Hugo's classic novel of love and tragedy during the French Revolution is reborn in this manga edition!

I'm so sorry to admit that never will I read the original material of this story, Les Mesirables, a novel by Victor Hugo. There are just too many plots that I can't be bothered to read them. It's not that I don't like branching stories, I love epic fantasy after all (A Song of Ice and Fire ftw!). I have watched the movie adaptation (2012) and watched a part of a Broadway production (via youtube with my country's very own Lea Salonga as Eponine). Pretty much, everything is still the same.

Of course, reading the book would give me a better perspective but one thing will never change: I'd never like Cosette. Yes, that character is the very reason why I'd never read the book. I don't like her in the movie and this manga didn't even change that. In fact, the manga has just reinforced my dislike for her.

Everyone in this book manga is a victim of circumstances. After Napoleon Bonaparte's fall at the battle of Waterloo, the Monarchy has taken over France again. Once the "evil king" was ousted, another evil king took his place. When democracy was supposedly for the taking, the king has dampen the people's hope following after the war that soon they're likely to be begging on the streets. Say, the country's gross domestic product collapsed when people can't toil their soil (that's supposed to be theirs, not their king's) that stop them from contributing to the economy, then there are damages from the war to be mended and debts to be paid, the country has become impoverished. And let's not forget the longing to be free from one's reign. Okay, sorry that's not part of the story.

Well, you get it. With the people striving to live in a poor nation, there will be others who'd be pushed to great lengths when there seems to be no other choice. That's what happened to Fantine. Abandoned by her lover with an illegitimate daughter, Fantine was casted out of her village. Don't you just hate it when people are very judging and such hypocrite prudes?

Helplessness. The manga was successful at establishing just that. Even minus the image of Anne Hathaway singing that sad song (which won her an Oscars), Fantine's bleak situation in the manga rubbed itself on me. Cutting to the chase on her part, finding a job was not easy that she took a seedy route when the very people whom she thought are taking care of her daughter (out of the goodness of their hearts) are demanding for more money. And then she was taken ill.

Fantine's story was short and is just a subplot. There are many others you have to follow through but hers is essential. Jean Valjean is the true main character and basically, readers are following his story. So there's Jean Valjean in the guise of Mayor Madeleine who crossed paths with Fantine, who was away from her daughter Cosette, who was under the "care" of the Thenardier couple with their daughter Eponine, who has fallen in love with Marius, who was smitten with Cosette, who was adopted by Monsieur Guillaume Lambert who later disguised himself as Fauchelevent who is actually Jean Valjean who was an escaped convict with Inspector Javert hot on his heels.

They say Les Mesirables is a story about love. But which kind of love? Cosette and Marious' love story is just tedious. I find the revolutionary part far more interesting than their non-substantial love affair no matter how little the manga has covered it. The departure of scenes with Gavroche is quite notable but Enjolras' sublime rendering made up for it.

The reason why I dislike Cosette is because she's nothing but a recipient of love. There's her mother and then later Jean Valjean who stood as her father and then her other half, Marius. She might be abused by the Thenardiers as a child but her mother's suffering is far greater than hers that I just couldn't empathize with her. Basically, what I hate about the story is the weakness of the female characters. There's like this general feeling of misrepresentation of women. Cosette's manga rendition alleviated that feeling with her too-innocent eyes and frailty. In fact, Cosette contributed nothing to the story but just being everybody's apple of the eye. Being pretty has been her greatest achievement as far as I can tell. She's like a mere decoration, you need not take a look at her thoughts. Fantine as another is too stupid not to notice how shady the demands of the Thenardiers had become as time went by. But yeah, the Thenardier woman was one heck of a woman. But don't get me wrong, Fantine was strong in doing all that she could for her daughter.

If there's one character I like, that would be Eponine. Sure, she was spoiled as a child. But she has compassion growing up. She's jealous but never selfish. The manga has quite portrayed her well in comparison with the film adaptation (the famous Broadway production has quite a different take on her).

I'm not entirely a feminist. I just think that Les Miserables will not appeal to my province. With our culture, I just couldn't understand how such once innocent and delicate girl still remain to be even after her adversities (she must be like Frodo Baggins). So pardon me if I hate that "weak feeling". Maybe it's just me.

Quite a thing I noticed of the manga: Fantine is immaculately sexy.

Recommendation: If the book is required for reading in lower education level, this manga would be a perfect alternative if one only needs to summarize the story. Or better yet, read this manga first before submerging in the book to have a better picture of the story. But then honestly, I don't really know what Victor Hugo liked to impart with Cosette at the center of the picture. For my own clarity, she's just an accessory for Jean Valjean's story.

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