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Theatre and Dance

Manga Hamlet & Romeo
Iambic pentameter meets rhymic pen!

Manga Hamlet by The Bard?

E Borley
Forsooth, 'tis The Bard's work, but not as you know it.  There's a growing pulse of comic artists converging in Cambridgeshire, and we caught up with two who've made all manga-like with Will's work…

More on manga

Emma Vieceli and Sonia Leong both belong to Sweatdrop Studios which is a group of over twenty UK-based artists working to create manga-styled comics.

Manga, literally translated, means 'random or whimsical pictures' and is the Japanese word for comics and print cartoons.

Manga took its current form soon after World War II and is defined, perhaps, by its emphasis on story, lines and visual grammar.

The target markets for manga are defined by the following terms: Josei (or redikomi) - women, Kodomo - children, Seinen - men, Shojo - young and teenage girls, Shonen - young and teenage boys.

Manga Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet is published by SelfMadeHero and will be in the shops in March 2007.

Get more here...
audio Listen to Emma and Sonia on BBC Radio Cambs >
audio More from Emma and Sonia on the magic of Manga! >
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"Manga's alive in the UK and there's so many people doing it… the Japanese Embassy approves!"
Emma Vicieli and Sonia Leong

Emma Vieceli and Sonia Leong are local comic artists who've illustrated both Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet, respectively, in manga.  Having had a sneak preview of both, we're thinking that your average bored teenager may just pick up these core texts with a tiny burst of rarely seen enthusiasm.  They're fun, fast and funky!

Visually, stylistically and textually, they rock.  Hamlet is set in a dramatic futuristic world where a great earthquake has split the planet into separate colonies.  Denmark has prospered and defended itself well against neighbouring states, but there's worry that the biggest threat to the state could come from within.  Enter Hamlet into this buzzing cyber-world.

Exciting? Yes, but does it cut the mustard with the sub-text and ripe nuances found throughout the original texts?  Bursting with enthusiasm, Emma Vieceli (illustrator for Hamlet) waxed very lyrical with the following...

"Hamlet is a four-hour long play that had to be cut into 193 pages of comic, each at six lines a page!  As far as keeping the sub-text in - and this is coming from me, a huge Shakespeare fan; I did English Lit at University, studied him, did my thesis on him, then became an actress and acted in Shakespeare… and now, I'm doing comics and he haunts me again! I was coming to this project with quite a lot of apprehension because I really wanted to do justice to Shakespeare's work and Hamlet is so full of sub-text.

Manga Hamlet - Emma Vieceli
Emma & Hamlet!

"What I tried to do within the artwork was trying to show, when someone's saying a line, that there's something else they mean.  Using manga, because it is so visual, when it's something like the 'To be or not to be' speech, we don't just see someone stood there saying it, we see the visual interpretation of what he is saying and what that means to him.

"He's saying basically, 'shall I carry on living or shall I kill myself?'.  He's got so much going on in his head that he just doesn't know.  So, I thought that he's having this angst; he's thinking about killing himself, so I've drawn this image of two Hamlets, one kind of killing the other one - bringing out what he's thinking by using the visuals.

"Some of the sub-text we didn't go into so deeply; there's lots of theories on the Oedipus complex, there's a lot of stuff between Hamlet and Horatio… so, the Oedipus thing is one thing that we've touched on, and I think that I've drawn it to show that Horatio does have some feelings for Hamlet, but there's nothing ever brought out of it.  So, there is sub-text that we haven't gone into." 

Manga Romeo & Juliet - Sonia Leong
Sonia with her Romeo & Juliet

So, it's pretty much all there, although some editorial decisions left some sub-text out (i.e. there's no inference of a super close relationship between Laertes and Ophelia!).

Equally, Sonia gave insight as to the way in which not only did the new publications stick close to the original sub-text, but also to the original tragic irony of the text. 

"In Romeo and Juliet," she explained, "my version is set in modern-day Japan between warring Yakuza (Japan's 'mafia') gangsters, instead of the traditional Italian 'mafia', and it was trying to get modern conveniences to break down (to replicate the tragic knock-on effects of the late delivery of the Friar's message to Romeo in the original); so, in order to plan Romeo and Juliet's get together after Juliet takes the sleeping draught, we had to make it so that email communication went down, mobile phones didn't get any signal, things like that; trying to come up with modern-day adaptations of how the problems happen and where misunderstandings occur."

So, there's sub-text, there's tragic irony, there's manga works of Shakespeare.  It's fun.  It's a fast read and a feast for the eyes.  In the words of H himself; "Look here, upon this picture…". Enjoy!

last updated: 09/03/07
Have Your Say
What does manga do for you?
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Magic jeff
I'm a great fan of manga, tricky to draw i find, but the medium is freeking stunning! :D

the charaters are great. I enjoy drawing and giving them profiles.

Niki Hunter
Manga and anime play a significant part in my life; I'm a professional artist who's been influenced by them even as a child of the late '70s and early '80s. The manga medium has taken a while to 'officially' catch on here in the UK, but now it seems we're finally catching up with the rest of the world! With the rise in popularity of anime and manga I've been finding more and more opportunities to work utilising this art style. For example, I've been commissioned to illustrate GCSE resources for schools in anime style in order to appeal to today's students. Manga Shakespeare is a top-notch idea. What a great way to fuse East and West by giving the works of the Bard a fresh, contemporary new makeover courtesy of manga storytelling techniques. Well done to Emma, Sonia and Self Made Hero!

Manga changed my life!^_~ Well done to Sonia and Emma for making these!

Manga-styled comics are brilliant and diverse, with many ways of telling a story for people of all ages. It is very quirky and stylistic, and actually full of variety. Manga for kids about a baker entering tournaments? Manga for businessmen about golf? Manga for housewives about gardening? It's all out there. Now Shakespeare Manga! Too much fun.

Natalie 'dwinky'
Manga is a really big part of me! I really love manga and have done since I was little (although I didn't know what it was when I was first watching Pokemon). The manga style was completely different to anything I had ever encountered and I was completely taken by it. I think it's very inspiiring to have Sweatdrop Studios around in the UK as I never though there were REAL life manga artists in the UK! I've met both Sonia & Emma before at manga events and they're both very inspiring people. I'm buying my copies as soon as they're released and I encourage other people, especially those who are new to manga, to have a go and read some!

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