Jane Austen & Co. is kicking off 2022 with another discussion for our Asia and the Regency series! In our talk “Translation and Transformation of Pride and Prejudice in Modern Japan,” Noriyuki Harada discusses the influence of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice on modern Japanese popular culture. To prepare for this lecture and learn more about Jane’s presence in Japan, here are four examples of works that have taken inspiration from Jane Austen's novels.
1. Mochizuki Reiko’s Sense and Sensibility
Mochizuki Reiko’s manga adaptation of Sense and Sensibility retells the story of the Dashwood sisters in a condensed, roughly one-hundred-page story that highlights Elinor and Marianne’s romantic lives while combining scenes from Austen’s novel and from Ang Lee’s 1995 film version of Sense and Sensibility. Though the manga focuses on telling a love story, it also recontextualizes the themes of sisterhood, familial roles and women’s societal expectations to apply to contemporary Japanese culture.
Read a more about Mochizuki Reiko’s Sense and Sensibility in this article from the Persuasions Online journal.
2. Takarazuka’s Angel’s Ladder
Angel’s Ladder is a live musical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice by Takarazuka Revue Company, an all-female company founded during Japan’s Taishō period of Westernization (1912-1926). In Angel’s Ladder, Fitzwilliam Darcy takes the lead role while Elizabeth Bennet’s character becomes the love interest. The musical’s title comes from the fairy tale of the “angel’s ladder,” which states that those that meet under the angel’s ladder (meaning the rays of sunlight that stream through the clouds) will fall in love and have a happy union. In fusing the framework of Pride and Prejudice with Takarazuka’s elements of a male lead and a dreamy romance, what results is a very simplified, harlequinized adaptation of Pride and Prejudice about love overcoming the barrier of social class.
Read more here for a more in-depth comparison between Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and Takarazuka’s Angel’s Ladder. PS. We'll be featuring a talk on Takarazuka's Angel's Ladder in February!
3. Kaoru Mori’s Emma: A Victorian Romance
Kaoru Mori’s manga Emma: A Victorian Romance, while not an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma on the surface, takes inspiration from both Austen’s novels and film adaptations of her books. In this manga, Emma is an orphaned maid in Victorian England that falls for a member of the gentry, William Jones. Mori’s Emma is less like Emma Woodhouse and more like Anne Elliot or Fanny Price with her quiet and sensible nature. Emma and William must overcome the barriers of social class and expectation in order for their love to flourish, creating an Austen-like romance story typical of the restrained English romances of Austen’s novels.
Download the article below by our very own Inger Brodey for more on how Austen’s work related to Mori’s Emma.
4. Nogami Yaeko’s Machiko
Yaekho’s serialized novel Machiko (1928-1930) criticizes the exploitation of the working class whose plot takes great inspiration from Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Like Lizzy Bennet, the story’s titular protagonist Machiko is a passionate, intelligent young woman with a Mrs. Bennet-like mother who fixates on elevating Machiko’s social status by attempting to marry her to a higher-ranking member of the bourgeoisie. Machiko also meets a character similar to Mr. Darcy named Kawai, and the two have a romance comparable to that of Elizabeth and Darcy’s. Overall, the novel contains many similar elements to the plot and characters in Pride and Prejudice while also critiquing Japanese social and working-class dynamics.
Read a review of Machiko here.