I’m still working hard on taking care of moving stuff, but I’m also going to try to catch up here. I’ve read a number of books that need reviewing (largely due to my new obsession with manga and graphic novels) and there are a ton of new books coming out that I am dying to read. Daughter of Smoke and Bone was just delivered to my kindle, so we have a date tonight if I can get all my stuff done.
I’ve been intrigued since I first heard about manga versions of Shakespeare’s plays, but Julius Caesar by Adam Sexton and Hyeondo Park is the first one I’ve been able to read. There is actually another manga version of this play that I do hope to read so that I can compare the two, but for now I’ll just give my thoughts on this version.
The manga starts with an introduction to the play and why a manga adaptation works. The plays are words, but they aren’t fully realized unless there is a visual element. Manga is a way for a reader to experience the plays the way they were meant to be experienced, without having to actually go to a performance. Like many productions, the original work was edited, dropping scenes here and there, adding visual interpretation, but always using Shakespeare’s original words.
I will say this now. Even though I don’t always understand Shakespeare, he is a beautiful writer and I appreciated that his original language was retained. For the most part I could follow what was happening, although I did miss the annotated version I read in high school. I would love to reread the play and then take another look at this manga version.
Much like the language, I wasn’t always aware of what was going on. I’m not sure how much of that was missing scenes (it’s been over ten years since I read the play) or the fact that I’m still getting used to the graphic novel / manga format. I would often have to reread pages after realizing I read the panels in the wrong order (but I got better towards the end!). The end seemed incredibly abrupt to me and it was the part I had the hardest time following.
Reading this play I wasn’t sure who was the bad guy or who to root for. I’ve always loved Mark Antony and Brutus, but now that I’m older the rest of the characters seemed more interesting. I don’t know enough about the history to know if they were really trying to accomplish good or if it was all politics and all you can hope for is the lesser evil. This is a large part of why I would love to read an annotated version before taking another pass.
I definitely think this version could intrigue reluctant readers and make a writer like Shakespeare more approachable. I love that versions like this can open up a door to literature for students who might otherwise resist it. However, I think the manga will work best along with an annotated version or a cliffnotes style essay that explains some of the story details that aren’t quite clear.