Manga Review – Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast
Reaves, Mallory (story), Studio Dice (art)
Shoujo – Adventure, fantasy, historical, romance
2 Volumes (complete)
Tokyopop

Summary:

Bookworm Belle feels out of place in her small village. Meanwhile, in a castle not too far away, a prince has been placed under a spell. But when the most beautiful girl in the village is taken prisoner by the ugliest monster in all of France, perhaps a new story will be told…

Review:

Gaston may be “perfect, a pure paragon”, but, unfortunately, the manga adaptation of Beauty and the Beast isn’t.

I’m not going to delve too deeply into the story. I’m sure all of you have at least a perfunctory knowledge of the fairy tale, and a good portion of you have probably seen one of Disney’s movie adaptations. Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite Disney movie, and I think the live action version changed a few things that, overall, made the story even better.

While I have it listed as two volumes, Beauty and the Beast is actually two separate books. Both retell the 2017 live action movie, but one does so from Belle’s perspective while the other is told from the Beast’s point-of-view. While the idea was intriguing, I really feel like Beauty and the Beast should have just been a two-volume series. In several cases, the exact same images are used in both books. Tell the story once, and switch between inner monologues as necessary. Why copy the same page and just add in a short sentence or two?

Between the two, though, The Beast’s Tale is better than Belle’s Tale. The original directors of Beauty and the Beast have debated over who is the real protagonist of the story, but the Beast definitely hasn’t taken center stage very often. We get to see the specks of the human inside that existed before Belle fully awakened him. We get to see why Maurice wasn’t thrown out or locked up the minute he stepped on to the castle. It’s little details like that which help add to the original and remake of Beauty and the Beast.

Unfortunately, though, as I mentioned, these additions come at an expense. Lefou gets I think a whopping three lines (two of which are extremely short) in Belle’s Tale and zero in The Beast’s Tale; the piano is MIA completely. He’s a sidekick character, but considering his elevated status in the live-action movie, it’s disappointing to see him almost locked out of the story. The village, Maurice’s escape, even a lot of the servants’ longing to be human again are mostly absent. Since the manga is limited to the leads’ perspectives, we miss a few critical scenes like the full tear-jerking climax.

Beauty and the Beast is read in Japanese-style, right-to-left. I was surprised considering this was commissioned for a Western audience. What’s more bizarre is that all sound effects are in Japanese with no English translations. Not very kid-friendly in a story rated for all ages.

The art can be described in five words: Sailor Moon Crystal Season One.  Besides the fact Belle’s manga-style face is remarkable similar to Usagi’s, the two suffer from an issue of consistency. Studio Dice is made up of 10 members, and it feels like the pages were divided up. Each member seems their own… unique spin on the characters. Belle’s freckles randomly appear and disappear, and she seems to age up or age down in various images. The ten members of Studio Dice also seem to be split on trying to faithfully recreate the movie and trying to reimagine it in manga style. The man Belle borrows books from, Mrs. Potts, and Maurice look strikingly similar to their movie counterparts. Yet Gaston looks like he ate his actor, put on a fat suit and stilts, and then borrowed a 70s manga face mask. I actually like his style better than some of the “draw them just like the movie” style for other characters. Let the manga be a manga.

Studio Dice did have access to reference materials, and much of the background imagery is directly lifted from Beauty and the Beast. I’m sure it was no easy task trying to show off the Beast’s high class tastes with all the accents on the doors and walls. However, perhaps my favorite scene was the two page spread representing the original “Be Our Guest” sequence. Nothing will be the dazzling Broadway-style number, but the manga captures that essence without a single word.

The text is laid out in some awkward ways. Quite a few speech bubbles have to be read left-to-right in order to form complete sentences. Others just don’t make any sense:

You read the upper left first, then go to the right (Western style), then jump down to Belle’s response, then either read the middle and then back to lower bubble or the lower bubble then the middle. Huh? Another instance has what should be the wardrobe’s line looking as if it was said by Belle. Just weird layout choices. Finally, though.

WHO PICKED THE HORRIBLE FONT?!?!

It might be okay as something, like, a ransom note or when someone is telling a scary story. But it is both hard to read and just plain ugly. I don’t know what it’s called, but my first thought was “Little Kid Writing in All Caps”. Okay, okay, there are several similar fonts (Viner Hand ITC, Augie), but I still don’t want to read it for 160 pages straight.

Final Comments:

It’s okay. Beauty and the Beast could have been better; it could have been worse. Ideally, I would have liked to seen a much smaller group of artists and/or assistants working on it for consistency, and two volumes that didn’t rehash content between each other. However, it’s Beauty and the Beast in manga form. If you’ve ever read a junior movie novelization, there’s only so much a writer can do within the confines of their medium. The individual volumes or the box set might be a nice gift for a younger fan or collector, or perhaps borrow the series as a way to hold off movie lovers until the home video release.

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