I should start by saying that, while I don’t dislike the “Scottish play”, it is also not in my most beloved of Shakespeare’s works. So when I give the Manga Shakespeare version of Macbeth a middling rating it is not a direct response to either the illustrations done by Robert Deas or the adaptation of the text as done by Richard Appignanesi. However, that is not to say that I was one hundred percent swayed by this adaptation either.

Initially I found the feudal-esque Japanese samurai twist to be interesting (assuming you could ignore that it was intended to be a Scottish play, which I had no problem with). Jumping in head first, ready to see what delightful adaptations awaited me, I was met by a confusing but still interesting post-apocalyptic world that combined feudal Japan with modern and futuristic technology alike, all in a world that had clearly been blown up quite a bit. My problem lay in the sudden use of the technology, from telescoping binoculars and very basic motorbikes, to holographic messages and (admittedly my favourite part of the book) teleporting robot ninjas. However, as much as I loved some of these changes (mostly the ninjas), I became frustrated by how infrequently this technology was used, especially in a world that was both at war and had a murder to deal with. Obviously they couldn’t have changed much of that without altering the whole story of Macbeth, but for that reason I feel like the story could have done without this sporadic technology. Perhaps sticking to a post-apocalyptic feudal Japan feel alone, with a heavier reliance on samurai history, would have been enough. That is, in truth, what I had been expecting when I’d picked it up, and I found the technology, while occasionally intriguing, to be quite jolting.

However, I found the artistry to be impressive, with randomly delightful tidbits of hilarious facial expressions (though not perhaps fitting with everyone’s idea of the characters) and beautifully created weird sisters and spirit dragons. I also believe that this visual medium for Shakespeare would be a great way to get those less inclined toward literature to become interested in literature, and luckily the series offers a variety of the Bard’s plays in various tellings based on Japanese history and culture. And despite not being overly enraptured with the work itself, I was impressed enough to want to read these other works, especially those that I hold higher in my personal esteem. Definitely worth a try for anyone with an interest in graphic novels as a genre, especially if they already have a love of Shakespeare’s plays or would like to have but find the texts themselves daunting.

Manga Macbeth by Richard Appignanesi/Robert Deas/William Shakespeare ★★★☆☆

** This review also posted on Observing the Scenery**

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