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Romeo and Juliet
Kevin Leathers

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Romeo and Juliet

Distributor
Self Made Hero
Author/Artist
Sonia Leong
Price
£6.99

Now, hoping that the British education system is actually doing something right, everyone should know whoWilliam Shakespeare is, and one of his most famous plays, Romeo and Juliet. What we have here is something different. Publisher Self Made Hero and one of Sweatdrop Studios core members Sonia Leong, have come together to bring a fusion of British storytelling mixed in with a visual style from the far east. An interesting experiment at the very least. But is it a classic for the ages or “a plague on both your houses”? (Sorry, couldn’t resist).

While the story and the dialogue is untouched from Mr. Shakespeare’s original play, the setting has been placed in modern-day Japan and our two lovers are part of Yakuza families. The “prince” of the city is a police chief and being manga, everyone has more eastern weaponry. The stage is set, so let the play commence.

If there is anything to say about Sonia Leong and the Sweatdrop Studios, is that they have a very unique style in the world of manga. Much like MegaTokyo, there is a very western feel to the manga that gets produced by the guys and gals over Sweatdrop Studios. This isn’t a bad thing, as it helps make the book feel closer to home even with the Japanese setting. Credit must be given to Sonia for doing a fantastic job on the book and bringing to life a play that, for some, is very hard to understand. Trying to visually interpret the writings of Shakespeare is not an easy task in itself, but here Sonia’s characters fit their Shakespeare counterparts effortlessly.

There is a stumbling block however, which is down to the text more than anything. Unless the reader knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, a newcomer will find the dialogue very confusing. Most will get the gist of it, but to understand everything that goes on can be a very daunting experience if you know nothing of Shakespeare.

When I was studying the play at GCSE level (bearing in mind this was a few years ago), it became a chore to work the way through the dialogue and then figure out what had been said by using the illustrations. When this much work needs to be put into reading something at leisure, it can horribly dilute the experience.

This version of Romeo and Juliet won’t be replacing school textbooks anytime soon, but as an addition to someone’s studies, the illustrations could help with understanding a complex play. The illustration work is fantastic and does complement the original old English dialogue. However, that same dialogue is what puts a damper on this book, making it a chore to read. Should you pick this up, be warned that some serious time and energy will be required to get the most out of it, because this is not an easy read.

Romeo and Juliet is still a classic love story and this version helps bring the story up to modern times. Just don’t expect to read this in one sitting.

7
An intense read with great artwork, just don’t expect an easy ride
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