Boarding School Juliet
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 4 of
Boarding School Juliet ?
If there's one thing that Boarding School Juliet absolutely nails about its Shakespearean source material, it's the penchant for combining sappy teen romance and swashbuckling. A lot of folks forget that the original Romeo and Juliet features no less than three show-stopping sword battles, one of which is an all-out gang war that breaks out in the first five minutes of the play. It's been a while since Boarding School Juliet indulged its flair for flashy action, but poor ol' Romio finds himself at the receiving end of Hasuki's blade this week, when he finally divulges his relationship with Juliet to the one Black Doggy who would have an especially hard time handling that information. This fourth episode also sees BSD further embracing stock romcom clichés, which doesn't exactly make this a bad episode, but it's easily the series' weakest outing so far.
On principle, I like the idea of a Hasuki-centric episode, since all we'd learned about her up until this week is that she's the one female Black Doggie that's gotten any lines, and she has a super obvious crush on Romio. I also thought that Romio's friendship with Hasuki was cute; his inherent stupidity drew him into Hasuki's studious orbit when they were just kids, and she's been serving as the House's academic drill servant ever since. It's the kind of corny “childhood friends” scenario that makes the most sense to me, and I appreciated how the Black Doggies' social dynamics contrast against the White Cats' more aloof nature.
Alas, when she confesses her longstanding love for Romio to his face, he feels too burdened by guilt to keep hiding the truth from her, and so Hasuki's destiny was to simply fall into the trap of being the jealous girl who's so distraught at learning the truth that she straight up demands to serve as Romio's second in a ritual suicide. And when that doesn't pan out, she pursues him like a maniac across the Dahlia Academy grounds.
Now, it's not necessarily the trope of the love triangle I mind so much – I knew coming into this story that romantic wires were going to be crossed between pretty much every central character, and Romio shuts down the worst avenues this narrative thread could pursue by making it clear that he values Hasuki's friendship and doesn't reciprocate her feelings. Really, I'm just disappointed that this story resolves in the most predictable manner possible, with Hasuki chasing down Romio and Juliet (and Char) through the woods until everyone ends up tumbling off a cliff, and Hasuki ends up crying out all of her emotions before resuming her friendship with Romio as usual in the morning. The moment where Romio blocks the replica blade with his forehead was touching, and I'm happy that Romio and Hasuki will stay friends, but the path to this resolution felt a bit too easy and cheap.
I get what the show is doing in setting up Hasuki as the Black Doggie counterpart to Char, and I'm glad the show didn't charge full speed into Love & Lies-esque levels of melodrama, but Hasuki's story this week feels like Boarding School Juliet at its most cookie-cutter. Juliet is reduced to a damsel in distress, Char becomes the caricature of the jilted lesbian lover, and Hasuki's feelings for Romio have been resolved in the span of a single episode. These problems may be somewhat baked into the foundation of the show's premise, but earlier episodes were able to rise above those limitations by focusing on Juliet's compelling characterization and her earnest relationship with Romio. When those elements are pushed to the side to focus on Hasuki's story, BSD's shortcomings are more noticeable. Also, the fanservice was quite a bit more in-your-face this week, which only further highlighted how the show felt like it was playing things more cheaply than necessary.
Overall, I think Boarding School Juliet is at its strongest when Juliet and Romio are the core focus of the story, and while a Hasuki-centric episode is a necessary evil at this point in the story, I think she and Char will play much better as secondary characters in the future. This was as well-animated and funny as any of the other episodes, but I look forward to seeing where the story can go now that this portion of the plot is over.
Boarding School Juliet is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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