[This post is dedicated to a friend.]
This series reminds me of two other series: Senjou no Valkyrie and Fable III. If anyone aside from me is familiar with these two things, one will have a good idea of what they’re getting into with Romeo x Juliet. If not, allow me to explain.
Romeo x Juliet is a very loose retelling of William Shakespeare’s classic tale. The general things are still in place, such as the Montague and Capulet families, Romeo and Juliet as lovers faced with an ironic fate, and various other names and references. And that’s essentially it. The rest of it is up to the writers to make up as they see fit… and make up they certainly did. This is Romeo & Juliet with a pound of Final Fantasy VII soup!
Here I am throwing another franchise into the mix to further confuse the audience; notice that I may only be doing so to show my reach as a reviewer! I compare one thing to another, and another, and another! As a reader, you must be thinking “Hrmm, he seems very intelligible!” Indeed, I am very knowledgeable about indulging in things that fetch me no profit.
Let’s refocus: Romeo x Juliet is a very spirited adventure full of emotion and gusto. I was rather taken aback by just how much I enjoyed meeting the characters and following along with the process of the narrative. It really did feel planned out and detailed, ensuring that no one gets lost through multiple bouts of early exposition (which was slightly irritating). What made it more intriguing was just how much they deviated from the original story. Some hints here and there remind the viewer that it’s still a work of Shakespeare (including adding Shakespeare himself as a character), but otherwise there’s quite a bit that definitely feels like pseudo-epic fantasy gobbledygook. A tree of life that controls the world, a floating island no one is aware of, human sacrifices and glowing symbols. It’s very… Japanese. Anyone who knows just knows.
Though the story isn’t air-tight, absolutely not. The story is probably the worst part of the whole affair, especially considering how many leaps of logic it takes and the lazy writing tactics employed (such as deus ex machinas and villainous monologues). Around the halfway point, the story also takes a bit of a breather by focusing on random subplots that eventually end up not meaning much to the final product, though do serve to develop the world just a little bit. Not entirely pointless, but in comparison to what came before and after, it feels strangely placed. Even so, I thought the pacing was fairly good, but could’ve been quicker without all the jabbering exposition. Also, the ending is almost purely THE POWER OF EMOTIONS!!!. Super cliché, and I was sick of it before the credits rolled.
Seeing as this is an adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, I was curious to see if they’d stick to the source and kill Romeo and Juliet. So do they? Hrmm…
I don’t remember if I’ve ever discussed this on the blog, but I’ve noticed that anime series spanning between airing dates of early to late 2000’s has this really ugly color saturation to it that makes everything super dull. I hate this quality to series, and in the past I hated it to the point where I’d outright refuse to watch any older anime that had that quality to it. Such a fussy dude I was. Romeo x Juliet has this specific saturation, which made me grimace upon the first few minutes. Thankfully, it isn’t always persistent, yet still rears itself most of the time. It fades the color of the series to, perhaps, make it look more realistic. To that I say “C’mon! This is fiction! And stupid fiction at that! Show me the rainbows!”
I also enjoyed the variety of character designs here. Not all the women look the same, not all the men look the same. Old people look old, young people look
like babies young. There were, however, some fluctuations in how some of these characters looked, especially in faraway shots and general scenes. There were occasions where Juliet’s face looked really long by placing her nose and mouth really far down on her face, and I even captured a screenshot of her looking very… giraffe-like. I could tell this wasn’t a super-duper budgeted product, but it generally, generally, looked okay. Aside from the horrid saturation, but I digress.
Characters were also properly developed and felt fairly reliable/realistic. A little too keen on turning some characters insane by the end, which is disappointing, but it didn’t impact the entirety of their presence. I was initially pretty turned off by the main antagonist’s iron fist for seemingly no reason—the “Bad guy to be the bad guy.” It wasn’t until later that it gave some insight to his psyche, which was appreciated. He’s not just evil, he’s coo-coo evil! Even Romeo, who for the most part is just standard male hero, had his moments. But the star of the show here is Juliet, who has the most going for her and the most intriguing background/reason for the audience to care.
Another deviation from the original tale is that Juliet and Romeo have switched places in society (if I recall; it’s been years). Romeo’s the rich noble and Juliet’s the one who’s doing what she can to survive. She even dons a “Red Whirlwind” persona to uphold justice in the corrupt town she lives in. That’s something! Romeo’s… a nice boy. Cool. There’s some subtle feminist subtext that makes the story a little more spirited, putting both Romeo and Juliet into situations where they need to rely on each other to get them out. It’s an appreciable quality to it that isn’t found much in older fiction, and occasionally newer fiction.
There’s an English song as a major track for this anime! It was really bad! That’s what stood out the most for the soundtrack to this piece. Vocal performances were decent. A little too much screaming and crying, but I guess this is Shakespeare.
I won’t call myself a Shakespeare buff by any means. I can count the number of stories I’ve read of his on one hand. Romeo & Juliet was one of them, however, and I liked the atmosphere of tragedy that was evoked in it. This is kind of hard to really compare it to, especially since the content is so drastically different. I liked parts of it that evoked that same tragedy, but also other things that felt like it was created under their own power. For what it’s worth, the strengths and weaknesses of both Shakespeare and anime are on full display here. I think Shakespeare is a little bizarre of a topic to make an anime adaptation of, but then again, anime seems to have a strange fondness for Alice in Wonderland. This specific piece is just competent enough, along with a whole helping of fantasy goodness, to get a passing grade from me. A flawed display of creativity.
Final Score: 7/10
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.
To see the ratings for all entries in this Summer and all others, check out the Summer of Anime Archive!