One way that a series can receive more exposure is to be given a new adaptation. Be it a movie or a spin off book series, it’s always an interesting experience to see a new take on the original story or to see it expanded on. It is rare, though, to see how another country interprets the story through their own popular media.
This is the case with mangaka Takahiro Arai asking Darren Shan for permission to create a Cirque Du Freak manga.
What’s great about this is that Shan was actually involved with the process. Within the small sections where Arai draws his muse, he recounts meeting with Shan and discussing the manga. So not only did fans receive a faithful adaptation in the form of a manga. They also got a collaboration project that the original author was heavily involved with. This is something that is even more rare.
But does the collaboration pay off? Does the manga offer new to the series?
The first, most noticeable difference is the visuals of the series. Initially, there’s nothing all that special about Arai’s style. Many of the characters do have rather generic looks and even the freaks don’t seem particularly distinct in any way. As the series progresses, there are some very subtle aspects of the illustrations that attribute to the creepy atmosphere. One instance in particular that stands out is the very first time Darren drinks blood. In the book, it was difficult enough to hear Darren’s thoughts as he described his first time he felt like he let go of his humanity. It’s a completely different experience to see him in near anguish as he forces himself to do the one thing he’s fought so hard against since he became a vampire.
These moments makes the characters even more endearing and can make readers sympathize when some of the worst characters in the series. This is incrediblyimpressive for the manga to pull off since it’s not the original source material. Usually, the characters are the first things that lose something in an adaptation. They either become one note tropes and lose what makes them special or they are reimagined and completely different from their original incarnation. The manga, however, uses the visuals to give a deeper look into the characters without explicitly saying that they are one way or another. It can even be said that Arai takes it a step further by evoking new interpretations of the characters and offering even more depth than what was originally intended.
Which, honestly, is all any fan could hope for when it comes to an adaptation.
While the creepy imagery may be not as prevalent as would be expected from a “horror” story, the fact that it could make readers care more about the characters than the original source material is no small feat. Seeing Darren grow and mature in his journey to become a vampire just builds on the already well told story with simple and sometimes heartbreaking visuals. Even fans of the books who don’t usually read manga would find something new in their favorite characters with this faithful adaptation.
The Cirque Du Freak manga is available from Yen Press in bookstores or online.