By: Jun Asuka
Release Date: November 22, 2016
It took an awfully long time for me to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. Decades, in fact. I wasn’t quite five when it came out, and my parents banned me from watching it on account of me being too scared. This was probably a smart move in retrospect as I vividly remember being terrified that Halloween by a fellow trick or treater dressed up as a ghost (quite literally a middle schooler under a sheet with two eye holes cut out) and ran down the block, screaming, and refused to believe it wasn’t a real ghost. (Sorry, Dad).
Now, at long last, I can say that I have officially watched the movie. And read the manga.
November 22, 2016 will mark the release of Disney Manga Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, written by Jun Asuka. This is a hardcover special collector’s edition manga featuring the story of The Nightmare Before Christmas, published by TokyoPop.
Yes, you read that right. The official title is Disney Manga Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, a thing of truly asinine length.
Inane additions to the movie title aside, this is a manga adaptation of the iconic movie. And I have some mixed reactions.
First off, let’s look at the dialogue. For the most part, it’s very good. Text from the songs weaves its way through the narrative. The humor and macabre charm of the movie are retained, and retained well. However, every once in a while there is a line that makes you pause, and go ‘what?’
Now, this didn’t happen often, but it shouldn’t have happened at all. If this were a normal manga translated into English I could understand this happening. I would not condone or excuse it, but I do understand. Translating fiction is more of an art than a science. Some words have no direct translation, and nuance can be lost. But this is not a translation. The movie the story is taken from was originally in English. And, even if these bizarre, grammatically baffling lines were in the movie, they simply cannot be retained in original form within the manga. This is, after all, a much different medium. Flaws in dialogue may not be immediately obvious, or else covered well by on-screen distractions or sheer acting skill. Manga, by and large, does not have such distractions.
But this is a manga, isn’t it? So how does the iconic character and world design translate into a manga?
Some pages are beautifully drawn with immaculate detail. Other pages are virtually blank, with little to nonexistent backgrounds. It’s almost as if the assistant in charge of background was on sick leave and no one bothered to finish drawing those cells. Now, lack of background can be fine with well detailed characters. However, the character design does not work in favor of this technique. Long, thin limbs and extraordinarily round heads make Jack and Sally look like stick figures on a blank page. And this is a real shame, because where they actually tried the drawing is very beautiful.
I also want to mention another aspect of the drawing style. In some sections a more western comic book style of shading is used, namely the myriad of dots, etc., we are used to seeing. The blend of styles works well together. It’s just a little bit different, an interesting combination. However, it suffers from the same thing the rest of the art suffers from. Inconsistency. This design choice isn’t used everywhere, popping up only sometimes throughout the book with no clear rhyme or reason I could discern.
I struggled to give this a proper rating. Everything that really shines – the plot, the characters – are pulled from the original movie. The inconsistency of the art is where this book really falls short. In the end, I gave Disney Manga Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas a solid three stars. I expect many fans will buy a copy or receive one as a gift, even if its purpose will only be to sit on a shelf and round out a collection of related merchandise, the cover doomed to never open. If you are not a fan of the movie, but you enjoy manga, do keep in mind that the art is less than stellar in places and does leave something to be desired.
you are a fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas, you enjoy reading manga and graphic novels
Don't Read If:
you are more critical of art in manga, you aren't a fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas