Boarding School Juliet
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 3 of
Boarding School Juliet ?
Romio and Juliet's clandestine romance was bound to be discovered eventually, but I figured it would take more than just a few weeks for someone to weasel their way into the action. Unfortunately for our young lovers, the Tyrannical Princess Char has arrived on the scene, arriving at Dahlia Academy with all the pomp and circumstance one might expect from western royalty, as well as some photographic evidence of Juliet's crossdressing jaunt as “Julio” from last week. Knowing that all of Juliet's work would be undone if their secret were found out, Romio begrudgingly accepts the role of Princess Char's lapdog, forced to answer her every beck and call lest she spill her guts to the White Cats and the Black Doggies.
Char is an excellent character to toss into the Boarding School Juliet mix; equal parts devious and dignified, she at first embodies the perfect example of a character type that will undoubtedly make certain fans very happy. She's pompous, pretty, wears a cat-ear tiara, and at multiple points throughout the episode she quite literally stretches out her legs to step on poor Romio's head – that's when she isn't riding him sidesaddle like a trained pony, of course. Though she's playing to an obvious character type, her theatrical antagonism is a great ingredient to add to the current cast mix, working as an appropriately over-the-top antagonist while still staying well within that comfortable realm of anime camp. There aren't any thugs attacking Juliet in the park this week, and thank goodness for that.
Char has more going on than she initially reveals, though. As he desperately tries to figure a way out of his devil's bargain in time to celebrate his month-iversary with Juliet (which is such a perfectly dorky high-schooler thing to do), Romio begins to suspect that Char's relationship with Juliet goes beyond simply being an estranged childhood friend/bitter roommate. His attempts at sneaking into the girls' room to uncover the truth make for some of the funniest gags of the week, with my personal favorite being how he “discovers” Char's hidden closet by mistaking her mirror for a window and diving headfirst into it like a very earnest but very stupid dog. It's just too fitting.
What he ends up discovering is a literal shrine of Juliet photos, leading us to a twist that wasn't hard to predict: Char isn't torturing Romio to get back at Juliet; she's doing it because she's been in love with Juliet for years, and she can't abide seeing Juliet together with Romio of all people. I'm of two minds on this reveal, because on the one hand, I appreciate Char being more than just a potential third prong for a contrived love triangle, and I loved how Romio was quick to empathize with Char's inability to express her true feelings to Juliet. On the other hand, I've never been a fan of this kind of token lesbian character, who must dutifully pine for her love from a distance without ever actualizing her desires anywhere. It's a tired trope, because no matter how Romio compares his love for Juliet with Char's, he's actually in a position to make that dream of romance a reality, whereas Char remains trapped in the purgatory of chaste longing that so many LGBTQ characters have been banished to over the years.
That Romio and Juliet make for such a cute couple makes the problem both better and worse; I'm such a sucker for the sappy little moments of affection the pair share, like how the post-credits month-iversary meetup reveals how Juliet repaired Romio's broken rosary gift from last week, which causes Romio to burst into huge blubbery tears. Then we cut to Char lurking with her binoculars in the background, refraining from meddling with the pair for now. I really like these characters, and I suppose I'd rather Char's protective streak and romantic rivalry with Romio come from a friendly place, but it stinks that my enthusiasm for Boarding School Juliet's central romance has to come at the expense of the happiness of the Tyrannical Princess of Cat Ears. Maybe the show will just get really daring and have Juliet decide to date them both?
Well, a guy can dream, anyway.
Boarding School Juliet is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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