The best books worthy of manga adaptations are the classics, or at least mega-popular stories. These universal tales — Cinderella, Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein — are so well known that a new set of visuals can make them feel brand new again, especially if we haven’t read them since high school. Even more than that, they are gorgeous pieces of art that stand by themselves.
I’m relatively new to the world of manga, and seeing these classic manga adaptations is a great way for fellow newbies to get familiar with the style. We’ve got straight adaptations that stay true to the original book, horror reimaginings that take the original story and run wildly into the darkest places, and more. My favorites are the horror reimaginings, because, holy butts, who expected Cinderella with zombies? Or a murderous tea party a la Alice in Wonderland? There are also manga adaptations of two young adult classics from my own teen years, which are just delightful.
Buckle up, friends. We’ve got something for everyone in this list of manga adaptations.
Books With Manga Adaptations
Cinderalla by Junko Mizuno
Junko Mizuno’s cute and grotesque style is incredibly fun for dark fairytales, and Cinderalla is the perfect starting point. In this version, her stepsisters and dad are zombies, her family owns a restaurant, and the prince is sick and on an IV support system. When Cinderalla leaves the ball, she loses her eyeball — like ya do — and the prince is on a mission to find the head that fits the eyeball. It’s gross and brilliant. Mizuno has also adapted Hansel and Gretel and a take on The Little Mermaid (The Princess Mermaid), for more psychedelic and morbid manga.
Frankenstein by Junji Ito
Junji Ito, the master of horror manga, takes on Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. This gorgeous edition brings to life the story of the mad scientist, the monster he creates, and the havoc they wreak upon the world and within themselves, with stunning art and starkly contrasting colors.
Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1 by Young Kim
Artist Young Kim worked closely with Stephenie Meyer to keep this manga adaptation of Twilight true to the original vision. It is stunning, capturing the beauty of the Cullens and the feel of the wet and green Pacific Northwest. The pair adapted the whole series, if you’re looking for a good stack to marathon over a rainy weekend.
Alice in Murderland, Vol. 1 by Kaori Yuki
Welcome to the chaotic world of Alice in Murderland by Kaori Yuki, where the Kuonji family hosts a monthly “Mad Tea Party” with all the family’s adopted children in attendance. At this particular gathering, their mother announces that the nine children must fight one another to the death. Stella, our protagonist, morphs into the familiar Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, and the rest of her siblings become other characters from the classic tale of adventure. This is a wild ride with a dash of The Hunger Games.
Anne of Green Gables by Stacy King, Crystal S. Chan, Daria Rhodes, and Kuma Chan
Relive the nostalgia of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables in this Manga Classics edition. When the elderly Cuthberts wanted to adopt an orphan to help out at the family farm, they expected a boy. They were certainly not expecting Anne, the imaginative red-headed 11-year-old girl. Her story is one of adventure and dreams and childhood, now with lovely illustrations alongside it.
The Clique: The Manga by Lisi Harrison, Yishan Li
Teens of the early aughts, rejoice! Lisi Harrison’s book The Clique got the manga treatment, and it’s a delight. Claire is the new girl at a private school in New York where everyone is rich and fashionable. As the newest residents of queen bee Massie’s parents’ guesthouse, Claire’s family is, well, not rich or fashionable. Yishan Li’s art rejuvenates this classic young-adult story about trying to fit in with the mean girls.
Belle’s Tale by Mallory Reaves
It’s a tale as old as time, really. A smart and beautiful young woman is held as prisoner by a beast. They become companions, the enchanted staff nurtures their friendship, and Belle learns to look beyond the Beast’s appearance. This manga edition by Mallory Reaves digs into Belle’s inner monologue, adding depth to the Disney story we all know and love.