Boarding School Juliet
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 11 of
Boarding School Juliet ?
It's always a shame when an anime's artwork takes a nosedive so close to the finish line, but that's what happened in “Romio and Juliet and the Birthday”. Given how much the stakes were raised for Romio and Juliet's relationship last week, you might expect this penultimate episode to keep both the tension and the humor running high, but unfortunately its efforts to amp up the pair's relationship drama are stymied by how bad the episode looks. The first few minutes are especially distracting, where Romio desperately tries to maintain his plans with Juliet for her Birthday, but she's giving him the cold shoulder in an effort to protect him from his brother's wrath. The episode tries to play up the bittersweet humor of the ordeal—one especially silly visual has Romio upping the ante on the stereotypical kabedon move—but the characters are just too wonky-looking to sell the emotions, and the comic timing suffers from stiff animation and awkward editing.
The production quality picks up somewhat when Hasuki tries to cheer Romio up by taking him on a variety of excursions. The two are still frequently off-model, though that isn't as much of an problem as the lackluster storyboarding and editing. It's a less quantifiable issue, but arguably more impactful, as it kills the comedic/dramatic timing and it persists throughout most of the episode. There's a pretty funny scene where Hasuki gets attacked by a horde of sheep that doesn't land nearly as well as it should, and the brief moment of physical intimacy that she and Romio share atop a poorly maintained tower feels inadequately framed, instead of sweet and romantic. There's also lame boob jokes in this sequence that has Romio prodding Hasuki's chest with a billiards cue, though that wasn't going to be funny either way (but the poor art certainly doesn't help). Given Romio's steadfast devotion to Juliet, I've always found it tiresome when Hasuki is positioned as the third prong in a potential love triangle, but there's an undeniable chemistry between her and Romio that might have been truly compelling had “Romio and Juliet and the Birthday” been better constructed.
Char joins up with Hasuki's efforts, and the two manage to get Romio out of his funk for the episode's second half. As it turns out, one taste of Juliet's improved cookies is all it takes for him to be his old self again, and he resolves to take up the old Black Doggies tradition of using Juliet's birthday as an occasion to besiege the White Cat's dorm with a barrage of cream pies. The animation still can't quite keep up with the action, but it's a fun sequence nonetheless, recapturing the “war” aspect of this rivalry between the houses while still managing to go all in with the goofy White Cats characters and the general silliness of a large-scale pie fight.
We even run into Aby Ssinia and Somali Longhaired again, and the best joke of the week comes when we learn that Aby has become a bearded, bedraggled vagabond since his shameful loss at the sports festival, having been forced into a ramshackle hovel in the backyard of the White Cats dorm. The other new White Cats are also interesting, including the comically beefy Rex, the steely Anne Seiber, and the seemingly lackadaisical Cait Sith, the latter of whom locks Juliet in a closet while Romio storms the proverbial castle.
I don't know how much opportunity these characters will have to make an impression, given that the series is ending shortly, but if we happen to get a second season, I'm sure Boarding School Juliet has plenty of wacky adventures prepared for this cast. For now, I'm just anxious to see if the show can get to the end of its freshman outing intact. I'm usually able to take an episode's aesthetic failings in stride if the story can pick up the slack, but it's another issue altogether when they become this distracting. Boarding School Juliet has never looked as solid as it did in its first couple episodes, but here's hoping it can go out on a higher note than this.
Boarding School Juliet is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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