A Voyage to the New World: Viola’s Journey to View Man’s Estate in Shōjo Manga Twelfth Night

Yilin Chen


In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Viola expediently travels in men’s clothes. She is intelligent and courageous enough to disguise herself as a boy in order to enter the men’s world. Her cross-dressing not only creates gender ambiguity, but also invites infinite imagination of homoerotics. In Act II Scene 2, Viola feels trapped in homosexual relationships. The theme of gender bending in Twelfth Night is attractive to Japanese shōjo manga, the comics dedicated to young female readers. Morikawa Kumi’s shōjo manga version of Twelfth Night (1978) portrays Viola/Cesario as an adolescent girl in boy’s clothes where Orsino is depicted as a bishōnen (beautiful boy). The pseudo shōnen-ai (boy love) marginalises the discussion of female sexuality. By doing so, the young female readers are shielded from recognising their sexuality. In response to the global dissemination of Japanese manga in the twenty-first century, Nana Li’s Manga Shakespeare Twelfth Night (2009), published by the British publisher SelfMadeHero, mimics the manga’s visual grammar, style, and techniques. This article examines the ways in which Viola and her sexuality are explored in these two manga adaptations of Twelfth Night to illustrate social attitudes toward gender and sexuality in different cultures.

Full Text:


Popular Entertainment Studies ISSN 1837-9303