Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Written By: Mark Twain
Story Adaptation By: Crystal S. Chan
Art By: Kuma Chan
Published By: Udon Entertainment
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I must admit, I haven’t read Mark Twain’s most popular works since I was a child…maybe around the age of seven or so. When I received notification from Manga Classics about their release of a manga version of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, I thought it would be a great way to reacquaint myself with the classic. I never realized how much of the story I had forgotten.
Fourteen-year-old Huckleberry Finn is used to adventures, having had awesome ones with his friend Tom Sawyer. They were an escape from his drunk and abusive father. Recently, a family has offered to adopt him. Unfortunately, much as he likes the people who want to give him a normal life, Huck rankles at the civilized restrictions of his new home. When his father comes by seeking to get a hold of the money he and Tom found (treasure stolen by now-deceased robber Injun Joe), Huck realizes he can no longer stay in Widow Douglas’ home.
He fakes his death and sets out on the river in a canoe. On Jackson’s Island, he runs across Jim, a slave owned by Miss Watson, Widow Douglas’ sister. Together, they go off on their own adventure on a raft, seeking to get Jim to a place where he can be free. Along the way, they run afoul of some robbers, some con artists and more. Jim gets bit by a poisonous snake but survives. Through it all, Huck mulls over what it is he is doing – after all, at this time in America, helping a runaway slave is against the law and considered an immoral act. But as he and Jim travel together, Huck wonders about that – Jim has become his friend and how could it be immoral to help a friend? In the end, Jim is recaptured, but Huck and his old friend Tom rescue him once again, and Tom soon reveals that Miss Watson had set Jim free along time ago. When Huck learns that yet another family wants to adopt him, he takes off, seeking out the less civilized life he longs to live so desperately.
I confess, I had forgotten more than I remembered about Huckleberry Finn. Thus, reading this manga was like a whole new experience for me. The writers of the manga admit to leaving out some things. They kept in the controversial stuff and the use of the N-word, because they felt it was important to the story, but took out Huck’s use of tobacco, hoping to keep that particular detail away from the youth this manga is aimed at.
The art of the manga version of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was okay – there weren’t very many detailed drawings, but it did keep with the manga format, so I can’t complain much. The story, despite the minute portions cut from it, was in keeping with the classic and still tells the tale of a young man who craves freedom, seeing what that freedom might mean to a person who has never been given an opportunity to have it. The morality of slavery and how African Americans were treated at the time comes into question, an extremely controversial thing when you consider that Mark Twain’s book was originally published in the United States in 1885.
Some call the book the most racist piece of literature they have ever seen, based on the content of the novel and the way Jim is portrayed. I counter that, believing that this book was meant to be an eye-opener to all those who believed that slavery was a righteous act. Twain didn’t sway from the idea that the black man was just not as smart as a white man, but that was the belief at the time, and who could deny the lack of education of the black man – he was not allowed to be educated in this climate, after all. Thus, Jim was meant to be an example of what slavers have created, not of every black man in history. In this way of thinking, I believe that the lesson taught here is that slavery is immoral and that the treatment of blacks in this time period was horrifically inhumane.
Certainly, the character of Huckleberry Finn is not a perfect person. His lack of education and some questionable values on his part make him a flawed figure. The fact that this flawed figure could still see the good in others and do good for others is important in getting Twain’s message about slavery across. That is why Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is such an important piece of literature and I commend Manga Classics for bringing the youth of yet a new generation a version of this classic that can enlighten them as much as it entertains them.