By William Shakespeare, adapted by Richard Appignanesi, illustrated by Emma Vieceli
Another entry in the impressive line of Manga Shakespeare graphic novels of which I’ve previously looked at A Merchant Of Venice and Twelfth Night. And just like those previous two volumes, I have to say I really liked this contemporary reinterpretation of one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. The whole Manga Shakespeare concept is something I really enjoy, stripping away the stuffy mystery of Shakespeare, energising it with Manga stylings and taking the bard’s wonderful words and fantastic stories and making them interesting to a whole new readership – it’s a very good thing indeed.
Much Ado About Nothing is a classic Shakespeare comedy, full of trickery, romance, mistaken identity, deceit and marvellous wordplay:
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(Benedick and Beatrice engage in their “merry war” of words. But can love really be waiting for them? From Much Ado About Nothing, published by SelfMadeHero)
Claudio loves Hero, whilst Benedick and Beatrice spend their lives ridiculing and fencing with each other, engaged in a “merry war” of barbed, delicious wordplay. But love and hate are very close things, as we’re about to find out. Plots are carried out Claudio and Hero are united, but the story is baarely begun at this point. Two more plots are to form the rest of the story, one delightfully setting Benedick and Beatrice together (and wouldn’t you know it – under all those barbed words, true love is blossoming), the other a darker plot set by the villain of the piece Don John to drive Claudio and Hero apart. It oh so nearly succeeds but in the end, as it should be in this glorious romantic comedy, it all comes good and it is indeed, much ado about nothing. The adaptation does everything right, the words are funny and heartfelt in equal measure, the villainy devious, the characters play their assigned roles well. This is a wonderfully romantic comedy, just as it was originally written.
(Emma Vieceli’s gorgeous art from Much Ado About Nothing. Published by SelfMadeHero)
Emma Vieceli’s artwork is gorgeous, sumptuous and very pretty, full of all the lush backgrounds and romantic characters of the Italian Risorgimento era. It’s a deliberate stylistic choice on the part of Vieceli, who sets the action in her familial home of Tuscany and populates it with the wonderfully romantic fashions and styles of the time.
It’s particularly fitting that Vieceli illustrates this most romantic of Shakespeare’s tales in Shoujo Manga style where everyone, male, female, good, bad, are ridiculously pretty characters. Indeed, if I were to be hypercritical, it’s sometimes a little too pretty, with characters all looking a little too similar at times. It can sometimes take a little work on the reader’s part to keep up with the story, and work out whether this particularly pretty face is male or female, hero or villain. But like I said, that’s too critical and after all, whenn the words are so good, it’s worth concentrating that little bit more to make everything work perfectly.
Like the other two Manga Shakespeare titles I’ve read, Much Ado About Nothing is a great read, with great art. But better than that, it’s a great way to get more and more readers enjoying Shakespeare – and that’s always a good thing.