William Shakespeare, Manga Shakespeare: Hamlet (Amulet, 2007)
Ever since I first heard about the Manga Shakespeare titles, I've been intrigued by the idea. I admit, I'm one of those people who generally finds Shakespeare a chore to read, even the plays of which I am perhaps overly fond. So, yeah, Shakespeare in manga form? A great idea, in concept. Execution not so much, at least where Hamlet is concerned.
First, the good stuff. Emma Vieceli (Vampire Academy), who does the adaptation, isn't slavishly faithful; she puts a subtle, but there, sci-fi feel into the adaptation that somehow manages to feel right at home in fifteenth-century Denmark. For some reason I was especially tickled at the bio-scanning door locks. I still have no idea why this is. And all the stuff people know is here, at least in abbreviated form.
On the other hand, there's the bad stuff. I know it's accepted manga style, especially in shojo (and this is definitely a shojo-style book), but come on, manga artists, do we have to keep making so many principals per book look almost identical to one another? It drives me up the wall. And Vieceli shows, with a couple of characters (Polonius, especially), that she's capable of coming up with wondrously quirky, distinct characters. I kind of understand making Rosencrantz and Guildenstern identical. It would actually be a disservice to the play if they weren't interchangeable, I think. But come on, Hamlet should be distinguishable from Horatio by more than a dark spot in his hair. Second, I mentioned “abbreviated form” above. When I say “abbreviated”, I'll quantify. The Folger Library Hamlet is four hundred pages, all text. Now, I know that includes more than the play itself, but bear with me. Manga Shakespeare: Hamlet is 192 pages, and no more than an eighth of each page is text.
...what? This thing should have been a doorstop, folks. At least four hundred fifty pages, maybe broken into multiple volumes. It should definitely have included the complete text. (One of the reasons I checked this out is because my daughter has Macbeth assigned her this year—in ninth grade!—and I wanted to see if this series would have made it easier. Assuming Macbeth is as cut as this, if she tried writing a report based on it, she'd fail...)
As a prototype for what a manga edition of Hamlet COULD be, it shows some promise. As a finished product, I wanted it to be so much more than it is. ***