Quick and Dirty Manga Shakespeare Impressions

Globe 1614


  • Story: A self-centered prince alienates anyone sympathetic to his cause. Nearly everyone dies. Oh, and the adapter made sure the Oedipal undertones came through in Hamlet’s scenes with Gertrude.
  • Art Style and Setting: Saturday morning futuristic cartoon anime with the least visually distinct characters of the series. None of the characters have much detail, and even though I have read the original play several times, I was still flipping to the front to figure out who was who.

Julius Caesar

  • Story: A noble leader must choose between his ideals and his friend. Nearly everyone dies.
  • Art Style and Setting: Contemporary military with a dash of the fantastic. I really like the characters, but the war scenes used so much black that it looked like the printer malfunctioned.

The Merchant of Venice

  • Story: A money-lender learns to word his contracts more carefully. I really enjoyed this story. After reading so many plays with dysfunctional families and relationships, I was happy to see people who had their lives together and intelligent women who weren’t either miserable or dead at the end.
  • Art Style and Setting: Unabashed Western fantasy. All the characters are elves in odd colors: peach, gray, purple, and green. Most of the panels are quite elegant and detailed, but the particularly frivolous scenes are illustrated using chibis. It makes the “oh, you have GOT to be kidding me” over-dramatic dialog funny instead of grating.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  • Story: Three couples show romantic love requires misery. And lies. And drugs. Maybe. Okay, I couldn’t really find a proper plot or point to this play.
  • Art Style and Setting: Ancient Greece meets modern technology. This title too has the overly emotional lines delivered by chibis. Hee.


  • Story: A husband decides to murder his wife rather than talk with her. Nice.
  • Art Style and Setting: Alice in Wonderland meets Dante’s Inferno. It’s odd, but at least I had no trouble differentiating the characters.

Richard III

  • Story: A horrible hunch-back stabs and decapitates his way to the British crown before being killed by the totally awesome King Henry VII. It gets a little silly towards the end, like Shakespeare’s in the back yelling “Can I mention again how much I ❤ your ancestor?” to the reigning monarch. Still, I enjoyed this one. Richard knows what he wants and goes after it.
  • Art Style and Setting: Believable 1400s England. The castle, tent, and battlefield sets are simple and let the characters’ interactions be the sole focus.

Romeo and Juliet

  • Story: A clergyman capitalizes on two teenager’s obsession with one another to bring peace to his city. This was my least favorite of Shakespeare’s plays going in, but the manga version makes rereading it possible.
  • Art Style and Setting: Contemporary Japan; the Montagues and Capulets are now yakuza families. Again, exaggerated chibis make the overly-emotional scenes tolerable.

The Tempest

  • Story: A wrongfully exiled duke magically summons his enemies to his island and decides their fates. The plot didn’t capture my interest, but Duke Prospero fascinates me. I need to read the original play again.
  • Art Style and Setting: This one is a mutt of the fantastic and the believable, of different time periods and continents. Some of the characters’ clothing has an Asian monk influence, some a contemporary Western civilian influence, and others an 1800s Western military influence. The air spirit flies by the drunken Edwardian butler. None of it feels jarring though.

All the titles in the Manga Shakespeare series are faithful reworkings of the original plays. I may not enjoy a particular title, but these books provide a quick way to get a feel for the plot, numerous characters, and most famous quotes.