REVIEW: ‘Manga Classics: Dracula’

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Vampires are great, and the story of the one who started it all is even better. Personally, I enjoy reading and watching any and all iterations of Bram Stoker’s work from the 1992 movie starring a young and badly accented Keanu Reeves to the reimaging of Dracula in The Historian from author Elizabeth Kostova, and of course all the anime adaptations of the character from Castlevania to Vampire Hunter D. So when I noticed that Manga Classics, had a manga adaptation of the Dracula, I jumped at the chance to review.

Manga Classics: Dracula is written by Stacy King and features art from Virginia Nitouhei, and is a mostly faithful retelling of Bram Stoker’s original novel which was published in 1897. Now, if you’re not familiar with Manga Classics as a publisher, they publish manga that adapt classic stories from literary history. Their library includes titles like The Count of Monte Cristo, Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and many more. Truthfully, for fans of the “classics” and manga, this publisher does a good job of maintaining what makes the works special while also adapting them to a manga format. And that is also true for Manga Classics: Dracula. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Stoker’s story that began a new genre and inspired all the vampires we know today, it begins with Jonathan Harker, a young English lawyer traveling to Transylvania. Heading to the Count in Castle Dracula to finalize the details of a real estate transaction with the titular count, he finds himself thrown into a darkness hiding in the beautiful countryside. While he’s warned by villagers on the way to see him, Jonathan doesn’t heed those warnings. When the Count becomes attached to Jonathan, his life, and his bride waiting for him in London, the story kicks off and we have the first tale of a vampire leaving bodies in his wake and the survivors who have to defeat him.

As a retelling of Stoker’s work, this iteration is rather faithful while also making sure to add the signature sex appeal that Dracula has picked up through the years but wasn’t exactly present in the original story. This is especially present in the moments when we first meet Dracula. Instead of looking like the decrepit old man that Stoker describes, this Dracula, with astounding facial hair and strong cheekbones doesn’t need his powers to bend people to his will. While some don’t appreciate an attractive Dracula when he first meets Jonathan, I do and the choice here leans into the manga tropes of “everyone is attractive.”

Additionally, Nitouhei’s artwork beautifully reimagines some of the story’s darker moments, specifically in the way she captures Lucy. In the panels where Lucy and her transformation are highlighted, there is an ethereal quality to how she is captured that showcases the innocence and changes that the character goes through. In fact, Manga Classics: Dracula offers up my favorite version of Lucy next to the 1992 film’s iteration. One of the most important things about Lucy is her beauty and ultimately how she retains it as she changes, which is handled extremely well.

Finally, King’s writing is well done and the use of narration and letters works well with the source material and isn’t hard to follow along. The way the manga moves from dialogue to narration and how Nitouhei visualizes it, is executed well and done in a way that gives the words character and doesn’t feel like exposition.

Overall, Manga Classics: Dracula is a fine addition to your manga library if you’re a fan of Dracula and vampires. That said, there is something slightly jarring about reading a direct adaptation in such a different format. But once you get over that, it’s easy reading with great art.

Manga Classics: Dracula
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TL;DR

Overall, Manga Classics: Dracula is a fine addition to your manga library if you’re a fan of Dracula and vampires. That said, there is something slightly jarring about reading a direct adaptation in such a different format. But once you get over that, it’s easy reading with great art.