Boarding School Juliet
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Boarding School Juliet ?
For the most part, Boarding School Juliet has treated the “star-crossed” nature of its star-crossed romance as more of a comedic inconvenience than anything else. Romio and Juliet can't let anyone find out about their relationship or their social lives will be ruined, so they have to get into crossdressing shenanigans, hide from terrifying preteens in carnival barrels, pretend to beat each other up when all they want to do is cuddle, etc. Things get serious in “Romio and Airu”, however – Romio's uncompromising older brother has arrived to make sure our hero isn't getting into any trouble – such as, by way of a completely innocuous example, a scandalous affair that could bring shame and ruin to both the White Cats and the Black Doggies.
This brings Romio and Juliet's external conflict into sharp relief for the first time since the premiere, and it's a welcome change of pace from the show's usual lackadaisical fare. When Romio and Hasuki find Airu and the twins invading his dorm room, there's a mood of genuine dread in the air, accentuated by the oppressive color palette and Airu's domineering figure. There are still jokes to be had, including a funny bit where Hasuki stops defending Romio after Airu reveals the lingerie that Char bought last week; but every gag is shadowed by the very real threat that Airu represents. As his older brother is quick to remind him, Romio isn't just risking his own reputation, but the renown of the whole Black Doggie clan, and Airu makes it clear that Romio wouldn't just be expelled from Dahlia Academy for his suspected transgressions – he would be completely disowned by his entire family. I'll hand it to Boarding School Juliet, I've been criticizing the show for spinning its wheels lately, but this week doesn't pull any punches.
If I have any reservations about this turn of events, it would have to be that the comedy and entertainment value of the show suffer when it commits to its more dramatic angles. The main issue is that none of what we're seeing from Airu's contribution to the plot is particularly surprising, and since there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Romio and Juliet will figure something out by the time the show concludes in a couple weeks, it's hard to get super-invested in all of the tears and suspense – the conflict can't be all that serious if the show has to wrap up in two episodes, and unless this fluffy romcom is going to pull out some kind of cliffhanger in its final moments, there's little chance that we won't end on a mostly happy note.
Still, I care about these two, and it does sting to see such well-meaning kids suffer for the faults of their lineage. Romio gets beaten down by Airu over and over again, and he bears it all with a grin just so he can see Juliet on her birthday. Juliet becomes a kitchen recluse to master the inexplicably impossible art of not burning cookies, and it's kind of impressive how this very loose adaptation utterly nails the dramatic irony that's fundamental to Shakespeare's story. Those innocent cookies are basically portents of doom when you know what Romio is going through just on the other side of the campus.
The original Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is just what it says on the tins, and folks often forget that Romeo and Juliet's deaths were largely the result of their own shortsighted foolishness. 14th Century Romeo and Juliet were fatally horny and frustratingly stubborn teenagers who couldn't do much more than soliloquize around their doom, but 2018 Romio and Juliet are perfect cinnamon buns who have Done Absolutely Nothing Wrong™. Boarding School Juliet may not be a literary classic in the making, but it has gotten me invested in what could have otherwise been a disposable melodrama, and that's enough to make for FINE Entertainment. Whatever happens next week, Romio better get to eat those damned cookies, and he'd better let Juliet know that he's proud of her for baking them, no matter how silly it is that the omni-talented heir-apparent to a large-scale army of aristocrats somehow needed weeks of intensive training to learn how to use an egg timer to make sure her sugar cookies don't burn.
Boarding School Juliet is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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