Monday, May 30, 2011

Aa! Megamisama!: Shakespeare and Anime

"Midsummer Night's Dream." Perf. Kikuko Inoue, Masami Kikuchi, Yumi Tôma, Aya Hisakawa, and Yuriko Fuchizaki. Dir. Hiroaki Gôda. Oh, my Goddess [Aa! Megamisama!]. Episode 2. Anime International Company. 21 May 1993. DVD. AnimEigo, 2001.

In one of the more bizarre bits of serindipity, I chanced across this while searching my local library for a video of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. I found what I was looking for—but the catalogue also suggested a Japanese Anime version of a popular series of Manga with the quasi-blasphemous title "Oh my Goddess." One of the episodes was itself titled "Midsummer Night's Dream."

To the Westerner, the series is quite odd. The show is for older viewers, and it involves a real-life goddess named Belldandy who is conjured up by a college student—who has no idea what to do when she arrives.

The Shakespeare comes in in episode two. As the image above notes, "Even Shakespeare is said to have used . . . a love potion." While that's not exactly accurate—suggesting, as it does, that Anne Hathaway was somehow bewitched into falling in love with the young Will—Shakespeare did use a love potion as a plot device.

In the anime, as in Shakespeare's play, drinking a love potion is sure to bring about undesired results. Observe:

And I think that concludes our series of Shakespeare in Animated Media—for now.

Links: The Wikipedia entry on the series.

Click below to purchase the DVD from
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Friday, May 27, 2011

Spectacular Shakespeare in The Spectacular Spider Man (Part Two)

"Subtext." By Nicole Dubuc and Stan Lee. Perf. Josh Keaton, Daran Norris, James Arnold Taylor, Ben Diskin, Jeff Bennett, Lacey Chabert, and Grey DeLisle. Dir. Victor Cook. The Spectacular Spider-Man. Season 2, episode 11. Kids' WB! 16 March 2009. DVD. Sony Pictures, 2010.

The same "Shakespeare's Continuing Relevance" theme mentioned in the last post continues in a later episode of The Spectacular Spider-Man—one in which we get to see the cast at rehearsal. The episode "Subtext" uses rehearsals as a very interesting framing device. Near the beginning, we see the actors, uninspired and uninspiring, slogging through an exchange from Act III, scene ii of A Midsummer Night's Dream. They're doing very badly. The words just don't seem to mean much to them, and the director calls them on it.

At the end of the entire episode (after the actors have gone through a series of personal disasters and losses), we return to rehearsals. Now, having experienced something of the loss described in the scene they're enacting, they are much better. But I get the feeling that they would trade the good acting they do at the end for the innocence they had at the beginning. In any case, here are the two parts of the frame, conflated into one clip:

And, since you're here, I'll give you a Bonus Video from an earlier episode. In it, the bad guy paraphrases Gertrude's comment on the play from Hamlet: "The Spider doth protest too much, methinks." Enjoy!

Note: One final episode, "Opening Night," intersperses Shakespeare—the opening night of the school's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream—throughout the Spider-Man story. It's interesting, but its integration isn't as deep as the others I've mentioned. Additionally, a much earlier episode ("Group Therapy") briefly mentions a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor, which Aunt May is heading out to see. According to an alert reader, we briefly glimpse the actor who plays Falstaff in that production. Thanks again to an alert reader for calling my attention to these Shakespearean, Spider-Manian Moments.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the complete series from
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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spectacular Shakespeare in The Spectacular Spider Man (Part One)

"Growing Pains." By Nicole Dubuc and Stan Lee. Perf. Josh Keaton, Daran Norris, James Arnold Taylor, Ben Diskin, Jeff Bennett, Lacey Chabert, and Grey DeLisle. Dir. Michael Goguen. The Spectacular Spider-Man. Season 2, episode 6. Kids' WB! 22 February 2009. DVD. Sony Pictures, 2010.

On 18 June 2010, an alert reader wrote to tell me about another source for Shakespeare in popular culture: the animated television program The Spectacular Spider-Man. In well under a year's time, I tracked down the material he mentioned, viewed it, digested it, and reported on my findings. Well, I'm about to report on my findings.

The show's use of Shakespeare falls into the "thoughtful and revealing" category rather than the "merely parasitical." One indication of this care is the quotations themselves. They are not all taken from a "Top Ten Shakespeare Quotes" list somewhere. In conjunction with that, the quotes also speak to the larger issues of the show—particularly of characterization. I haven't made myself intimately aware of the details of the show's world, but it's clear enough that the quotes they deliver work on more than one level.

For example, take a look at this video clip. Peter Parker's high school is about to mount a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and they're holding auditions. Brief glimpses of the hopeful actors punctuate the episode's action. In keeping with our Macbeth theme, the first quote comes from that play—and it begins the entire episode:

The episode provides quotations from six different plays—Hamlet, as you might expect, gets three of the eight quotes:
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Macbeth, IV.i.44-45
Presume not that I am the thing I was,
[For] I have turned away my former self.
2 Henry IV, V.v.56, 58
Reputation, reputation, reputation! O, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.
Othello, II.iii.262-64
Why strew'st thou sugar on that bottled spider,
Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about?
Fool, fool! . . . The day will come [to] curse [this venemous] bunchback'd toad.
Richard III, I.iii.241-45
O villain, villain, smiling, [cursed] villain!
That one [might] smile and smile and be a villain.
[Go, Villain! Whoo! Yeah!]
Hamlet, I.v.106, 108
Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.
Hamlet, II.ii.116-19
O, it is excellent
To have a giant's strength; but it is tyrannous
To use it like a giant.
Measure for Measure, II.ii.107-09
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad:
Mad call I it; for, to define true madness,
What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
Hamlet, II.ii.92-94
All in all, the audition scenes span an extraordinary range—one that is entirely comprehensible—and it sets its quotations in a context that reveals something of their consistent relevance.

Links: The Episode at IMDB.

Click below to purchase the complete series from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest