Heartstopper Adaptation Stays True to Graphic Novel

The following contains spoilers for Heartstopper, Season 1, now available on Netflix.

The first season of Heartstopper, based on the series of graphic novels by Alice Oseman, is now streaming on Netflix. Originally published as a webcomic, Heartstopper follows Charlie Spring and Nick Nelson as they meet, become friends, and fall in love. The Heartstopper adaptation is incredibly accurate to the graphic novels, and stays true to its source material in both content and themes.

Alice Oseman, the author and illustrator of the Heartstopper graphic novels, is heavily involved in the TV series. They wrote every episode, and their illustrations are regularly incorporated throughout the show as animations. The first three episodes of Season 1 cover Volume 1 of the graphic novel, while episodes 4-8 cover a significant part of Volume 2. Although the pacing has changed, and some new characters have been added, the adaptation follows the graphic novels very closely and stays faithful to them.

In the Heartstopper TV series, Nick and Charlie meet in the first episode, when they get assigned to sit next to each other during form class. Like in the graphic novel, Charlie is secretly seeing Ben in the pilot. In the TV series, Elle has just very recently switched schools from Truham to Higgs. In the graphic novel, though, she has been at Higgs for a little while. The television format gives more of a focus to Elle, Tao, Tara and Darcy as they all navigate their lives and their relationships. With eight half-hour episodes, the show is able to give more attention to each character's individual story.

Elle deals with starting a new school and making new friends. She is the first of the group to befriend Tara and Darcy, and she brings them into the friend group. This is a change from the graphic novels, where Tara and Darcy join the group after befriending Nick. This change allows Tara and Darcy to enter the series sooner than they do in the graphic novel, thus making Tara and Darcy a part of every episode. The TV series, like the graphic novel, is a sweet, coming-of-age love story that focuses primarily on Nick and Charlie. The medium of TV gives more attention to other characters in the friend group. While Tara, Elle, and Tao's individual stories are more hinted at in the graphic novel, they are heavily explored in the show.

The show stays true to the graphic novel's themes of identity, love, acceptance, and found family. Charlie learns to value himself and stand up for himself, while Nick begins to understand his sexuality and comes out as bisexual. Tara and Darcy tell everyone about their relationship, and Tara deals with people treating her differently after she comes out. Elle adjusts to life at Higgs. Viewers also get to see a new side to Tao. In both the graphic novel and the show, Tao is very protective of Charlie, and sometimes hostile towards Nick. Now, though, the audience learns that Tao is afraid of being alone and being left by his friends. Tao and Elle's relationship gets set up more as well, and the show will likely see them get together in Season 2 if it gets renewed.

Heartstopper uses the animations to bring a graphic novel feel to it, with Alice Oseman's animated drawings floating around to indicate characters' emotions. The animations are used to emphasize the romantic feelings between Nick and Charlie, Tara and Darcy, and Tao and Elle. Alice Oseman even makes a cameo towards the end of the season finale. While Nick and Charlie are on the train to the beach, Oseman sits in the seat across the aisle from them. The adaptation remains very faithful to the graphic novel, but also manages to breathe new life into it.

All eight episodes of Heartstopper are now streaming on Netflix.

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