EL本棚紹介(75) Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, illustrated by Sonia Leong, and Prince of Cats, by Ronald Wimberly

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These two books are modern representations of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, but they were made for very different audiences and are very different books.

Manga Shakespeare literally tells the story of Romeo and Juliet using Shakespeare’s original words, but drawn in a Japanese manga style and set in modern Japan. The pictures in the story, use of manga stylization (e.g. using chibi style to visually represent characters’ feelings), and shortened snatches of dialogue all make this book very easy to understand. There is a ton of what language teachers call “scaffolding”—elements to help you understand the text, even though some of the words and grammar are difficult.

My (first) two cents: To be honest, the art is not very good and changing the setting to Japan is just awkward, but I still highly recommend this book as a way of experiencing Shakespeare’s language. I would even recommend it to a native speaker.

Prince of Cats is basically the opposite of Manga Shakespeare. It is an entirely original piece of art with beautiful and crazy illustrations, a creative story and script that combines Shakespearean language, hip-hop aesthetics, and Kurosawa Akira film aesthetic. It tells a secondary story, focusing on the character Tybalt, as a member of a gang in 1980s New York.

My (second) two cents: This book will be extremely challenging, but also very rewarding. You don’t have to read the whole thing: enjoy the art, try some of the language, and see where it takes you.