Lady Murasaki's Tale of Genji: The Manga Edition TP
Publisher: Tuttle Publishing
Release Date: April 26, 2022
Price: $14.99
Creator(s): Lady Murasaki Shikibu (writer), adapted by Sean Michael Wilson; Inko Ai Takita (artist)
Format: 192 pgs., Black & White, 7.25" x 9.75", Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-4-8053-1656-6
Age Rating: N/A
ICv2 Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

The source material for this manga is a creation that may have been the first novel, by modern standards. It’s a huge work, typically translated into English with a total page count of well over 1,000 pages. Lady Murasaki Shikibu was born in the 10th century, and this huge work was an amazing accomplishment.

This manga edition makes no claims to be a complete translation of that work into graphic form. Instead, it is a manga version of one of the plot threads that runs through the prose work, the direct story of the character Hikaru Genji. That ought to have brought focus to the story, but instead, it creates a problem, because abridging even this fraction of the huge work into a single manga volume creates a sort of "Classics Illustrated" feel to it and leaves out almost everything but his various love affairs and odd obsessions.

The result is that the reader spends a great deal of time reading about a character that he or she wouldn’t want to spend any time with in real life, because of the portrayal of him. By modern standards, Hikaru Genji comes across as a real jerk.

That does not mean that this manga isn’t worth reading. Tuttle has been around for over 70 years, publishing material on Japan, and they put a lot of care into this book, which is a rare venture into manga for them. Still, this adaptation might have been better as a multi-volume series, because without the context to go with the story here, a modern reader has too little reason to stay invested in the characters. What remains in this short version is still an interesting achievement and worth taking a look at for adult readers who enjoy manga and are familiar with the source material.

--Nick Smith: Library Technician, Community Services, for the Pasadena Public Library in California.

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