Manga Classics: Hamlet adapted by Crystal S. Chan, illustrated by Julien Choy

Manga Classics: Hamlet (Modern English Edition) by William Shakespeare, adapted by Crystal S. Chan, illustrated by Julien Choy. Manga Classics, 2022. 9781947808232

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Paperback graphic novel/manga

What did you like about the book? This book is a manga that uses a modern English translation to tell the story of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The book is formatted as a standard manga, and so it reads from right to left, with black and white art accompanied by speech bubbles. The translation is a great compromise between the original Shakespearean English and annotated version; the language is complex and the vocabulary is hard, but it’s much clearer and faster than reading in the original. For example, “I will tell you why. So shall my anticipation prevent your discovery, and your secrecy to the king and queen moult no feather.” turns into “”I’ll tell you why they sent for you. That way you won’t have to break your promise to my mother and father to keep this secret.” In terms of adaptation, manga is a terrific form for reproducing theater. They both generally only give dialogue in textual form, and the art beautifully shows the action of the story. The characterization and style of the manga work well, with Hamlet very much coming across as dramatic, sticken, devious, and murderous as the play goes on. It’s easy to distinguish between characters, and the artist has provided us with lush backgrounds for Hamlet and his players to inhabit. 

Anything you didn’t like about it? This is a comparatively long manga, and I would have loved to see it broken up into volumes based on the acts of the play. The book is thick, and it does take more time than you’d think to absorb all the art and plot happening on any given spread. I think that if they had broken up the story into acts and had them as a series, this would be less intimidating and more digestible. As of now, it feels very much like reading an omnibus edition of a mainstream manga series. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Anyone interested in understanding the story and plot of the play who feels the original language is a barrier. The writers have done a great job of adapting the language so that you miss none of the meaning! I’d also absolutely recommend this for people who are new to either Hamlet or manga; if you’re familiar with one, then it will be a huge boon in learning the other.

Who should buy this book? Middle schools, high schools, public libraries. I think this is a great tool for learning and a deeply enjoyable way to experience Shakespeare.

Where would you shelve it ? With my manga collection

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? It’s not a new story, but if you’re looking to familiarize yourself with manga, and you love the play, this is a great way to do it.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Rose Marz, Boston Arts Academy, Boston, MA.

Date of review: January 20, 2022

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