Manga of the Month: 7-nin no ShakespeareJuly 3, 2012
One of the reasons people are usually drawn to manga is the sheer diversity of topics it can touch upon. It often seems no matter how wacky the topic there is at least one manga about it. There is salaryman centaur manga. A manga with a half man half horse creature who works in an office. Erin from the Ninja Consultants does a panel just about unusual manga genres and some of the strangest titles within. So when compared to competitive wine tasting or dissociative identity disorder death metal a comic about Shakespeare would appear to be down right mundane. But as usual there is some unexpected twists to this formula.
It is almost impossible to truly know of Bard of Avon. He is one of the most famous western authors of all time. Although there are countless books about him there is still much of his life we know little of. 7-nin no Shakespeare starts at the Globe Theater with politics swirling around William Shakespeare with everyone including Queen Elizabeth. But it seems that much of these shadowy conspiracies also involve an unusual Chinese woman named Li. Li has the seemingly cursed ability to foresee the future that has haunted her more than it has ever helped her. How does the life of this fantastic woman tie into the fortunes of England’s national poet?
Narutaki and I love historical fiction. You throw a manga at us set in an unusual time period and we will usually eat it up. So I was curious to read this title if for nothing else just to see what they were going to do with such a well-known historical English character. At first it seemed like a standard historical dramatization with some intriguing politics. But the last two pages of the first chapter change everything as we see that the plot also revolves around Li, a Chinese woman with the gift for prophecy. They then spend the next several chapters showing how Li’s powers have been a burden as she grew up in England’s Chinatown. Only recently had Li met Shakespeare after he saves her life so I am curious to see where the story goes from here. It is most certainly not the manga I expected it to be.
I knew that the artwork seemed very familiar but I only realized that this manga is also written by the same author as the Beck manga when I started to write this post. As BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad was a previous anime of the month if I had known the author I would have jumped on this title in a second.
Li is a very quiet character (especially after a certain traumatic event) but we do get a good sense of who she is when she does take the center stage. In compensation she has a very vibrant supporting cast in her little Chinatown village. Almost all of them have an interesting mix of kind and cruel. None of them are heroes but likewise no one comes of as simply villainous. Also from what little we have seen of him Shakespeare comes off as a larger than life character and quite charming to boot.
The manga has a good sense of place with the costuming and story. That is vital for any serious historical piece. I don’t think I have ever seen an examination of the Chinese population of England during the Elizabethan era. That alone makes it worth something to check out. As always Harold Sakuishi has a good mixture of charter types to his designs. There are some very pretty people as well as some downright ugly characters with a good deal of designs that are in the middle.
I have only read twelve chapters but I have been intrigued by what I have read. I await to see where Harold Sakuishi takes this plot and I thought you might as well.