Monday, March 17, 2008

Shakespeare manga!

These have been kicking about our house for a while now, but since they're either in my sister's room or my mum's, it's hard to get a hold of them. What I have seen, however, I'm rather impressed with. There seems to be two series of them now, one the "Manga Shakespeare" published by Self Made Hero, and a "Manga Edition" series by Wiley.

Seriously, I wish we'd had something like this when I was at school. We were just given the books and made to read the plays out in class. It was bloody godawful. I was lucky because I'd read those Stories from Shakespeare-type books they publish for youngsters, so I knew a lot of the stories already, but most of my classmates didn't, and in English there was nothing worse than having to read aloud that (let's be honest) difficult language without having come across it before, and trying to get the gist of what was happening at the same time. These manga editions, however, give a visual of the setting and characters alongside very decent abridgements, which, I think, would be a good thing to have alongside the main text in a classroom. Both series include introductions and plot summaries, and the Manga Shakespeare versions also include a visual dramatis personae at the beginning of each, as well as a short section on the life of Shakespeare himself. The Manga Editions also separate the story into its Acts. They would definitely make good side-reading for pupils, and maybe even get the more reluctant readers interested. But most importantly, they emphasise that these stories are timeless, and that they were written to be enjoyed!

And, of course, the wide range of genres that manga incorporates means that just about any Shakespeare play can be adapted. Some of them have been given a modern setting, but others, like Richard III and Julius Caesar, have kept to the original.

They've got a range of titles available at the moment. The Manga Shakespeare line has Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Richard III, The Tempest, and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The Manga Edition series, meanwhile, has Macbeth, another R&J and Hamlet, and Julius Caesar.

Of the ones I've looked at so far, I think the Manga Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet is among the best, and it's not even one of my favourite plays. The adaption is well done, and the artwork is lovely. I like the transition from 16th century(?) Verona to modern Tokyo, and the Capulets and Montagues being two rival yakuza families.
Shakespeare seems to transport very well to Japan. Akira Kurosawa's film Throne of Blood was an adaption of Macbeth set in the Warring States era of Japan, and that worked very well, too.

The Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream also have gorgeous art which heighten the fantasy themes. The Macbeth adaption, naturally enough, looks like it would appeal, as a manga, to those who're into Trigun and Battle Royale and the like. I'm quite disappointed with the artwork in Hamlet, though. It's a bit plain and flat, and I don't think it really does justice to the overall atmosphere of the play. I think it might have benefited better from the dark, gothic style of artwork used for Richard III. I'm not actually that familiar with Richard III as a play - I know the story, vaguely, but never actually read it - but I think I'll read this version, on the strength of the art alone.

At the moment I'm reading Julius Caesar. As a manga it's fairly decent, and again, the play has been adapted well. What I like about this one is that it puts distinct faces to the conspirators; I remember when we read it in school I lost track a bit of the mention of two Brutuses (Marcus Junius and Decius), two Cimbers (Metellus and Publius, brothers), and the two Cinnas (one's a conspirator, the other is an innocent bystander who gets mistaken for the conspirator and is murdered by the mob).

It also made me realise we need some Roman manga. How about a version of The Twelve Caesars? I think that would work nicely. :)


Crystal said...

You know, these books are ALL over the bookstores now but I guess I just thought they were comic ytype books. I had no idea about these! Next time I go i'll have to make a point to stop and look through them. Hope you had a wonderful day;o)

cj kelly - stardust flicker said...

I've bought Macbeth from a different collection and it is sooooo cool. Has the history of the real Macbeth in there too, and is in full glorious colour. (Not quite as good as we3 but good.)
have a shufty at and get a look at jane eyre. OMG!!!

Kirsten Campbell said...

Crystal - Manga are comics, and you can get some real gems amongst them. Some real duds, but some real gems. Most of them are in series, so there's plenty of opportunity for character and plot development. Even when school almost killed my love of books, it was manga that kept me reading. :)

CJ Kelly - Hello, and welcome. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for that link, too! That Macbeth also looks brilliant, and they've got The Canterville Ghost coming soon, I see. God, I hate being skint!

Gabriele C. said...

I'm not a manga fan, but I can see how it would be a cool thing for schools.

The other Latin class at mine got to read Asterix while we were stuck with Nepos. Well, better than Cicero's boring ol' speeches. ;)

Kirsten Campbell said...

I think they should introduce them in schools. School Shakespeare tends to skip over that vital fact that the plays were written as entertainment.

Lol, I wish we got Asterix in Latin. A friend of mine had to read Cicero's speeches when she was doing the Catiline wars in Classical Civilisation, and when the course later moved onto the death of Cicero himself, she said she wasn't the only one who laughed. :) I just loved her ranting about him and his speeches.