Soulless: The Manga Vol. 1

Soulless: The Manga by Gail Carriger and Rem

I generally tend to steer clear of manga adaptations of books I’ve already read. I have read the first three books of Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series, and then I stopped following it, because of plot element that I usually find extremely annoying in romance novels. I spotted this manga version recently at my local library and decided to give it a try.

Soulless the book is a witty take on the steampunk/paranormal/historical romance genre. Heroine Alexia Tarabotti is a bit of a black sheep in her own family due to her intelligence and looks taking after her father instead of her mother. She’s also a unique and rare specimen of supernatural being because she’s a preturnatural, someone born without a soul. This gives her immunity to vampires and werewolves, which comes in handy as Victorian era London is overrun by supernatural beings.

Alexia has an encounter with a rather stupid vampire after she ducks out of a party in an attempt to find something decent to eat. This doesn’t sit well with the overbearing werewolf Lord Conall Macon, who is working for the government. Alexia and Conall insult each other and stalk off, only to find themselves thrown together again as unusual things begin to happen with the local London vampires. As a heroine, Alexia is very entertaining. She doesn’t hesitate to rescue herself by staking the odd vampire, and her status as a spinster ensures that she’s going to speak her mind without much regard for social conventions. On the other hand she has a hard time believing that anyone, even a werewolf would be attracted to her, because she’s been the topic of frequent put-downs by her family.

It is difficult to adapt an almost 400 page book into a 225 page manga. A certain amount of world building and character development does get lost in the process. The book goes into much more depth with Alexia’s relationships with the foppish vampire Akeldama and Ivy, Alexia’s good friend with horrific taste in hats. Some of the details about what exactly a preturnatural is and the more steampunkish aspects of this particular London were glossed over. But the essential plot and the developing romance between Alexia and Conall was maintained, so overall I can’t really quibble with the adaptation choices.

The art by Rem is detailed and fluid, with distinct designs for each character. The occasional lapse into chibi/wolf puppy style when Conall was in the grips of werewolf emotion was funny, and overall the art was extremely appealing. The illustrations did a good job at portraying the humorous reactions the characters have to each other even while they are dealing with plenty of suspicious supernatural incidents. Overall, I thought that this adaptation was one that fans of the book would enjoy. It also reminded me of what I liked about the prose series, so I might give the fourth book a try now.

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