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Victor Hugo

FelixSH

(He/Him)
The subforum isn't quite right - I want to talk about Les Miserable, but not only the book, also the movies, the musical, the anime, whatever. But there is no reason to restrict this, so let's just talk about the author, his works and versions of them in other media.

I recently discovered the anime version of Les Miserable (Les Miserable: Shoujo Cossette). Watched the first 13 episodes in a few days, I'm catched. Like, it's really, really good and a bit addicting. The structure reminded me a bit of soap operas, twists might happen in the last scene of an episode, to turn everything ugly. I thought of that comparison, when one episode had Jean Valjean finally meat and talk with Fantine, and her former superior offering to get her daughter. But the innkeepers are assholes, and demand ridiculous amounts of money. So Jean promises to go himself. In the last episode, the police guy who is looking for Jean Valjean comes into his office (forgot his name, sorry), and tells him, that he can't be Jean Valjean, as someone else has been found and identified as that person. And the trial is on the following day, the very same, when Jean wanted to get Collette.

And, because I apparently can't get enough of this horrible world of early 19th century France, I started to also read the book now. Still at the very start, but my translation (a German one, so nobody here will no it, I guess) is surprisingly easy to read. I really wished I could read French, so I could find out how it was in the original.

So, any fans of the author here? Or maybe someone wants to talk about the musical, or the Disney version of Hunchback?
 

Fredde

Let me rock you Chaugnar Faugn
The thing I remember most from reading The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is when Hugo decides to take a break from the story and spends an entire chapter complaining about modern architecture, with only a very tenuous connection to the rest of the book. This seems to have been a popular phenomenon among old-timey authors, since similiar things happen in both Moby-Dick ("let's spend a chapter categorizing whales") and in Don Quixote ("I've got an entirely unrelated story, let's just cram it into the middle of this book"). And then The Princess Bride did a brilliant parody of it.
 
I love Les Mis with a passion of a thousand suns. I read the book many years ago (well, I skipped all the boring stuff that didn't really have anything to do with Valjean & co.) It's one of my favorite stories of all time. I love the musical to death (I used to have a cassette of the highlights to the original London production with Patti Lupone as Fantine, and on CD I have the Bway production, the Complete Symphonic Recording, and the 10th anniversary concert) . I have seen 3 different movie versions, plus the recent musical adaptation (a black and white that I think was from '38, the Liam Nesson one, and I owned a 3 volume VHS of a French dubbed version, which I would love to own on Blu-Ray or DVD one of these days). I have also read a pastiche sequel called Cosette years back. Les Mis = life

I have affection for Hunchback of Notre Dame too. I'm a pretty big defender of the Disney movie and love the soundtrack
 

Phantoon

I cuss you bad
The only exposure I have to Victor Hugo is the film of Les Miserables which I loved and apparently it's pants compared to the real thing

I should probably see the proper thing, huh?
 
I was completely obsessed with Les Miz in middle/high school. I love everything about it, although certainly have more links to share about the musical since it's such a powerhouse. The characters are all so distinct and their character arches are amazing.

Thénardier is pure money-obsessed evil, and it's especially frustrating (but well written) that he comes out in arguably the best place at the end of the book and becomes a slaver in the US if I remember correctly. But Master of the House is pure fun, and was my song of choice when we had to sing at vocal concerts in school and I think I did it at karaoke with friends a few times too.

Screw Marius in the book. What a dick. The changes in his personality for the musical definitely make sense to make the audience connect more with him and I'm glad because Empty Chairs at Empty Tables is haunting and I couldn't love it as much if he was as terrible as he is in the book.

The unabridged book has tough moments (the Waterloo section ugh, not as off-topic as architecture was in Hunchback but still), but there are a lot of things that are usually cut that are worth reading. My father-in-law who is pretty religious always recommends reading the first 100 pages to anyone looking to be a better person. I forget his exact wording but the Bishop's story is an example of Christ-like behaviour. The Bishop is cut down to barely any presence in most abrigded versions of the book and the musical but his forgiveness is still what transforms Valjean.

the police guy who is looking for Jean Valjean

Javert is possibly my favourite villain in any media. Stars is a beautiful, beautiful ballad. Confrontation is a very cool duet (this isn't the best version but I can't find many videos of this). In the stage production when he commits suicide the stage is usually rigged with a trapdoor so the actor disappears. In the book he's even more conflicted and has so much depth. Dark, frustrating and brilliant character.

(I used to have a cassette of the highlights to the original London production with Patti Lupone as Fantine, and on CD I have the Bway production, the Complete Symphonic Recording, and the 10th anniversary concert)
I got rid of/sold a lot of them when I moved, but used to have very strong opinions about which song was best in which version. I had the original French concept album (really interesting), a later French version, London, a German version, the Broadway version, the Complete Symphonic and the 10th anniversary concert. Fucking love that musical and absolutely no lie used to know the entire thing (like the full symphonic version, not just the soundtrack) by heart.

Also Animaniacs did a fun parody of the musical. Can't find a full version free online, but here are the Castle on a Cloud and Do you Hear the People Sing/Look Down parts.

I also freaked out in Persona 5 Strikers when Valjean showed up as a persona, works so well for the character.

It's such an epic tale, and once you are familiar with the book and musical you see the themes and the characters in a lot of other things.
 
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FelixSH

(He/Him)
I have affection for Hunchback of Notre Dame too. I'm a pretty big defender of the Disney movie and love the soundtrack

I love that Disney movie. Never experienced the story in any other way (it's another book, that I have wanted to read for over ten years), but when I watched the movie for the first time in 2012, or so, I was blown away. Part of it is the music, the songs are amazing (starting with the great The Bells of Notre Dame). But also, as a kid I never had any interest in it, because it didn't look fantastical. And when finally seeing it, I realized that it is actually a very well done movie (with the caveat that it's a Disney movie, and therefore has it's story changed quite a bit, I assume). And surprisingly dark for a Disney movie, too.

The unabridged book has tough moments (the Waterloo section ugh, not as off-topic as architecture was in Hunchback but still), but there are a lot of things that are usually cut that are worth reading. My father-in-law who is pretty religious always recommends reading the first 100 pages to anyone looking to be a better person. I forget his exact wording but the Bishop's story is an example of Christ-like behaviour. The Bishop is cut down to barely any presence in most abrigded versions of the book and the musical but his forgiveness is still what transforms Valjean.

So, the version I have starts with the life of the Bishop (I assume it's the one, who helps Valjean become a good person - the Anime also only shows him in a few flashbacks). Does this mean the version is probably unabridged? I mean, it's called that on Amazon, but with these books, it's still hard to tell. And one review talked about a scene of some students, who was missing, I think?

Dunno, I find it really weird to abridge a book. I can just skip parts that are too boring, or at least would appreciate them just moved to the back of the book, with a note at the part where they are supposed to be. Taking away parts of the text just feels wrong, I'd like to decide myself what I read and what not.

Edit: Just listened to Forgiveness, it's great too. I mean, of course, after listening to some of these songs I'm not surprised.

Also, thanks for the song links. I only know Do you Hear the People Sing and On My Own, which I quite like.
 
So, the version I have starts with the life of the Bishop (I assume it's the one, who helps Valjean become a good person - the Anime also only shows him in a few flashbacks). Does this mean the version is probably unabridged? I mean, it's called that on Amazon, but with these books, it's still hard to tell. And one review talked about a scene of some students, who was missing, I think?

Dunno, I find it really weird to abridge a book. I can just skip parts that are too boring, or at least would appreciate them just moved to the back of the book, with a note at the part where they are supposed to be. Taking away parts of the text just feels wrong, I'd like to decide myself what I read and what not.

The Bishop seems like the main character of the book for a very long time when you start reading it so that sounds right. There are students throughout the book but I don't specifically remember anything during the Bishop's part, could easily have forgotten though. That's bizarre to me that he's not in the anime much, weird!

And agreed on the abridging, although as noted by @Fredde it was a weird trend in authors for a while to discuss things that had no relevance so sometimes I see how obvious the places to abridge a book are. I'm with you and would still rather decide for myself.
 
The beginning was never really a problem for me, nor really the Waterloo section (it's ultimately essential because we are introduced to Thenardier) . It's when Valjean and Cosette hide out in the convent and Hugo goes on and on about the history of the place
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
In the Anime, Marius appeared. Not a dick, at least for now. I'm curious, where we are going.

The Bishop seems like the main character of the book for a very long time when you start reading it so that sounds right. There are students throughout the book but I don't specifically remember anything during the Bishop's part, could easily have forgotten though. That's bizarre to me that he's not in the anime much, weird!

Oh, no, I meant the students that appear later (after the time skip, as I now know). The chapter was called "Friends of the ABC" (I at least guess that's the English title), which actually is in the book, so no idea what the reviewer was talking about.

Dunno, it did work, not having the Bishop much in the Anime, except for the flashbacks of Valjean. He does kind of work, as this kind person without much else personality, that is only there as a vessel for Valjean to draw goodness from. Also, the Anime focuses very much on Cossette. No idea how that is in other versions, but even in episodes about Valjean, they always spent a good amount of time on her. The main exception was the introductory episode of Marius, where we spend most of the time with him.

EDIT: Also, I remembered about this weird japanese Beat'm'up of Les Miserable, and watched a youtube video of two guys playing it. It's really bizarre. There is a robo-Valjean, every time Cossette does a stronger attack, she summons Valjean instead to do the punch, there is a stuffed rabbit as a playable character, the embodiment of Justice is playable (and, fittingly enough, completely overpowered) and Thenardier is playable, but is drawn completely different than all the others (his air attack is a fart).
 
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Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
I have vague memories of seeing that doujin fighter Les Mis once upon a time.

As for the actual work, I've never read the book but I feel like I've known most of the songs from the musical more or less forever through general cultural osmosis. I think I have a piano score for at least some of them. In college a group of friends did a filk/parody of One More Day to make it be about the first major exam the freshmen have to take.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Yesterday, I watched the last episode of the anime. That I watched the 52 episodes in such a short amount of time (subbed even, which normally hurts my motivation quite a bit) should tell you all about how much I enjoyed the show.

Spoilers, in case you care about them, for this story.

As far as I know, Javert kills himself in the book, right? After his brain breaks apart, because he finally understands that Valjean DID change? Well, in the anime he certainly doesn't. I guess, he becomes a force for good now. He certainly is one of my favourite characters, and I wished there was a bit more focus on him. He is clearly a side character - an important one, but Cosette and Valjean are the clear focus of the show. But in general, I find Javert fascinating, this absolute focus on his role, as he perceives it, and that he is actually a competent cop. Fascinating guy. Also, is he the basis for rival characters? I had to think of Dragonball Zs Vegeta so often, when he appeared - with this fixation on one single person, that beat you, but that you never really give up on.

I loved Gavroche. He was always a joy to watch, with his optimism, strength and the way he looks out for weaker people. It was so heartwarming, to finally see him reunite with Cosette (does he actually survive the book? I was really surprised, when he didn't die through the shot). Talking of dying, I expected Chou Chou to die, way back in Cosettes childhood. Seemed like a story, where something like this happens - a miserable person finds something nice, and than it's taken away.

Then, as much as I hate them, the adult Thenardiers are great villains. The show was at its most griping, when they were in power (or felt like it). I think it makes a lot of sense, to not start with the Bishop (as much as I like him) - I read the first 50 pages by now, and there is nothing directly happening. We only learn about his live. Well, maybe they could show this in one episode, and end it with the guy who lives alone, abandoned from society, who is soon dying. But, whatever you might show, starting with Cosette and Fantine, and their loving relationship, and ending the first episode with the realization that Cosettes nice live is over (at least for the next few years), when Ms. Thenardier shows her true face, makes for a great start. I couldn't stop watching, because I just wanted to see Cosette finally, finally get out of this hellhole. Later on, when Valjean is caught by the Thenardiers, it's another very exciting moment (and probably the funniest one in the show, when he writes down a wrong address, and you see a shot of Ms. Thenardier standing in the middle of nowhere). Despiceable people, and he is way more dangerous than I expected at the start of the show, but they work really well.

I also enjoyed my time with Eponine a lot. I just can't hold too much of a grudge against her, despite her horrible behaviour towards Cosette. She would have been very nice, if her parents hadn't been such horrible rolemodels. And, granted, she was jealous, but still. Just this idea of a child, who has an education, nice clothes and good food, basically a good childhood, but then losing it all and losing all this nice stuff, is heartbreaking. It must be hard, to live up, realizing how your live gets more and more miserable. And, despite her hating Cosette later on, too, she still does good deeds, like making sure that Valjean is there, so that the thieves don't break in. Dunno, I feel like I'm missing stuff here (which, I assume, the book does way better, with all those pages) - like with many things in the anime, it feels like I watched 2.5D characters of three-dimensional ones, like there was always more to them, than was shown. It's a good anime, I think, but it feels like, even with over 50 episodes, it didn't quite give us all we should have gotten. I'm very curious to meet Eponine again, in the book.

Bonus mention, for the guy who had to sell his books, due to increasing poverty (I just love characters, who value books, and he was just such a nice guy), and the nun who never lies (except for that one time). I liked them, they were nice side characters.

I haven't mentioned Valjean and Cosette yet. Which is due to the fact that they felt, to me (and I assume that is at least partly due to the way they where adapted in the anime) they were, kind of, the most uninteresting characters in the show. I'm grading on a curve here, they were still nice and interesting to spend time with, but everyone I mentioned above was more interesting to me. Like, Cosette never felt like much of a character, after she is saved from the Thenardiers. She doesn't have much of a goal, aside from her love story (which was the least interesting subplot of the show). She is just this supergood behaved young lady - which might make sense, but makes her somewhat flavourless to watch.

Valjean was more interesting, but mainly when it was him with another character, that wasn't Cosette. Which I just now realized - when he was captured by Thenardier, we got a really interesting version of him, as we did when he and Javert finally meet, behind the barricade and afterwards. But as the nice father, he was just that - a nice father. He just never showed any emotion, aside from fear due to paranoia, but even that was downplayed. Like, he was perfectly nice, but never showed any genuine joy, or strong emotions at all. Just this calm happiness, of having Cosette with him. Like with her, that made him somewhat flavourless, for much of the show.

Also, I feel a bit irritated about his relationship with her. Don't get me wrong, he was generally great, and I understand why he couldn't tell her the truth (which was sometimes frustrating). But I react a bit allergic at characters (generally men), who are all about protecting another character (generally women). He (thankfully) never got angry about anything of that (he is a hero, after all). And I get, that this is early 19th century France, which we talk about here. But the whole "I finally found someone to take care of Cosette" - dunno, I would have preferred her taking care of herself, and him trusting her with this. But, again, I get where this plays. And, again, I enjoyed this show a lot, so my criticism isn't meant to be too harsh.

Oh, right, there was Marius. To be honest, he didn't leave much of an impression on me, and I have no idea if this might be due to some changes in the story. I mean, the way he stalked Valjean and Cosette was weird and stupid, but it made me just find him to be a teenage dumbass. And he is just way too dumb, to get how Eponine feels about him (but here too, a teenager being a stupid teenager, he isn't intenationally hurtful, just completely oblivious). Elsewise, there was just the awkward love story. Dunno, maybe I overlooked something (it's very possible, feel free to tel me, what you hate about him), but I just didn't find a reason to actually hate him.
 
I'm not familiar with the anime at all, but Javert staying alive to be a force for good is bizarre!

Cosette isn't a character I've ever found terribly interesting, so the anime sounds about right there.

Valjean is incredibly complicated in the book (I've always loved how his hair turns white at the trial of the wrong man) and always has a lot of internal conflict going on. It sounds like the anime really changed him and maybe not for the better.

I should check it out sometime.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Valjean is incredibly complicated in the book (I've always loved how his hair turns white at the trial of the wrong man) and always has a lot of internal conflict going on. It sounds like the anime really changed him and maybe not for the better.
His hair turning white was also in the anime! I forgot about it. Also, I think basically no one knows about the anime version, which is somewhat strange.

Before that trial of the man who isn't actually Valjean, we do spend a long time with him, and learn about his past. Elsewise...I guess the anime just had trouble really going into the details of his conflict. It doesn't sound like he was actively changed, just that the anime isn't quite up to the job of showing all the layers of his personality.

But also here, it might be me. I tend to miss stuff, that I shouldn't. I certainly do think that the anime is done well enough - as I said, I watched the whole thing pretty fast, which speaks to its strength. I guess it's just the typical case of "the book is better".

I'll keep you posted, about my thoughts on the book.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Wow, I took a really long break, and don't even know why. This book is great, and hard to put down, when I start reading. I actually read the part about Valjean, him getting out of jail and meeting the bishop, some time ago. It was very powerful stuff, and I appreciate how much Hugo doesn't care, if jerks might get angry at him. It's great to read how he straight up says how bad behaviour is bad, and how you should do good. No neutrality here, he takes a side, and that with full force. I really like that, it's refreshing.

I'm really fascinated, by how much Hugo says on relatively few pages. He draws a very good picture of Valjean, takes time to examine him, but nothing feels wasted. The social criticism is, as mentioned, very direct, but I like how Valjean knows that he did some ill. But that he also knows, that it was never bad enough for him to suffer - not only in prison, for way too many years (seriously, these punishments were insane), but also afterwards. The anime made these into flashbacks. In particular the scene after Valjean goes away from the Bishop, where he involuntarily steals a coin from a young boy, comes very late in the show, at least I think so (my memory is already a bit fuzzy, about the details).

Also, the scenes with Valjean and the Bishop are beautiful and soothing for the soul. The Bishop might be a bet too much of a saint, but then, there is an explicit part in the book that shows us his darker side - he can't forgive the revolutionaries. That was essential, I thought, to give him a strong, new dimension. It was also a very interesting subchapter, and I wished my knowledge about the French Revolution was a bit more in-depth, to get more out of it.

Then, we get to Fantine, and I think the book is the only source that goes into detail about her past. The anime certainly never tells us about Cosettes father, and about the one time in Fantines live, where she was probably happy. Reading about it gave so much context and pain to "I Dreamed A Dream" - that said, I couldn't help but think of the Simpsons "A Streetcar Named Desire", where Apu gets a song as a paperboy, for some throwaway line. It's not a fair comparison, the song is a good fit, and important to show us how Fantine suffered, and that she, once, was happy. But the book doesn't go into much detail, when Fantine sells her hair. The book makes clear, that it is important to her, but the scene itself is pretty short, and just tells us that she goes to a guy, and sells it to him.

An interesting change in the anime, I thought, was that it's the Thenardiers, who suggest to Fantine to leave Cosette with them. I guess, the idea was to make her a bit more of a perfect mother figure - in the anime, her whole thought circles around Cosette, and how she wants to be with her again. While this isn't untrue in the book, there is more to Fantine in there. She also buys a bit of stuff that could be considered luxury (not really, just not straight-up necessary, so fair enough), and she simply also thinks of her own life a bit. She isn't JUST the mother.

Javert also appeared (I stopped at the part, where Valjean frees Fantine from her prison sentence). He is absolutely fascinating. I feel like it is too early, to say anything about him, but he has an amazing presence in the book. What a great antagonist. Valjean, too, feels better drawn in the book, than he was in the anime. I already mentioned that his anime version seemed a bit one-note. Here, you just get to know more of his inner life, and it gives him so much more texture. Even if the book hasn't revealed yet, that it's him.

A big difference between the anime and the book is, how much the former focuses on Cosette (which is to be expected, her name is in the title). For the whole time, while she is with the Thenardiers, you see her suffer. In each and every episode. Which is very different to the book, for now. Cosette gets mentioned, and her bad situation gets explored, but she is clearly a side character, at least for now. Where the anime made me really just wish, that she would finally get free from these monsters, I don't feel nearly as strong for her in the book, because she hadn't too much of a presence in it.

So, in summary, this book is great, I'm glad to finally read it and I'm really happy that it's great, considering how absurdly long it is.

Oh, by the way, I love how he starts the third book "In the Year 1817" by telling us a ton of stuff that happened, stuff that probably even during that time no one knew. And then tells us "yeah, you probably don't know this stuff and don't have to remember it. I just wanted to give you a feel for the time, we are visiting." Just that alone makes me love this author.
 
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