An illustrated reimagining of one of Shakespeare’s most memorable tragedies.
From the very beginning of this clever adaptation, effort is made to prioritize accessibility of both the manga form and the classic Shakespearean play: The frontmatter briefly highlights the reading direction of the panels, and characters are labeled when introduced, coming to life via a striking combination of early modern Venetian dress; quintessential manga hairdos and facial expressions; and pronounced linework. Like the rest of the series, this account of Othello remains faithful to the original. The black-and-white illustrations allow for Iago’s conniving manipulations to manifest visually as well as animating characters’ bigotry in impactful, distressing ways. However, there are shortcomings: Where the original text may use parentheticals and asides to progress the story, the occasional appearance of parentheses in speech bubbles are a distracting reminder that comics utilize storytelling tools that haven’t been fully adopted here. Likewise, panel after panel of Othello’s turn to violence and his enraged face obscured by shadow provide a poignant dramatic effect but seem to exacerbate prejudices inherent to both the play and medium. Not only is the titular character visually distinguished from other characters by his shading, hair, lips, and overall size, unfortunately neither Shakespeare nor the illustrator seem wholly prepared for a contemporary conversation regarding racial representation in one of literature’s most infamous depictions of othering.
Will appeal to manga fans but raises questions around depictions of racialized material.(adapter’s notes, character designs) (Graphic fiction. 13-18)