Boarding School Juliet
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 5 of
Boarding School Juliet ?
Boarding School Juliet's fifth episode takes us into a multi-week sports festival storyline, introducing us to new foes while giving Romio and Juliet more opportunities to develop their relationship and experience all of the traditional woes of being forced to hide their relationship, lest their reputations be ruined and the school be enveloped in a bloody gang war. This amounts to a parade of the usual anime romcom clichés, such as the episode's first story, which sees Romio wanting Juliet to make him a bento, except there's just one catch: Juliet just happens to be a terrible cook!
This is one of the most overused anime sitcom plots that I can think of, and the only thing BSJ brings to the table is its usual mix of madcap Dahlia Academy shenanigans. Juliet gets the dorm cook to whip up a passable meal for Romio, but Char steals it for herself, until a passing branch catches her boob (because why not?), and the errant bento flies into the hands of Scott. Scott challenges Romio to a duel for it, everyone goes a little mad over the boxed lunch, and everything resolves exactly as you might expect. I don't necessarily fault Boarding School Juliet for playing it safe with familiar story beats; this is cotton-candy comfort food, after all. What drags this segment down, along with much of the overall episode, is how uncharacteristically janky the show's animation and direction turned out.
Throughout “Romio and the Sports Festival”, the main cast are consistently off-model, and their movements are noticeably stiff; extras are stuck frozen in place while the camera pans across static backgrounds, and several scenes go out of their way to hide characters' mouths (though one of these instances was admittedly setting up a joke, with Char faking out Romio to snag the aforementioned bento). None of these aesthetic issues are glaring enough to ruin the show's visual presentation completely, but many gags do suffer from some wonky timing, and the brief action beats don't fare any better. When it premiered, Boarding School Juliet stood out because of its pleasing production values, along with Romio and Juliet's adorable chemistry, and the show struggles to make a case for itself when one of its two central pillars starts to crumble.
Thankfully, Romio and Juliet remain as cute as ever, which is what saves this episode from feeling completely ancillary. While I didn't dig Romio's pushy insistence on having Juliet feed him a homemade lunch (and the tacky way the episode presented his request as cornering Juliet for sex didn't help either), I was relieved to see him reassure Juliet that she can be comfortable in her own skin around him, which means she doesn't have to be a good cook to make him happy. The bit with him repeatedly eating and spitting out Juliet's burnt cookies was one of the jokes that landed this week, as was his reaction to being invited to practice running a three-legged race with her, which was to scream in delighted panic for hours.
This practice session also shows Juliet and Romeo bonding over Romio's failure in the big race at last year's sports festival. Not only does Juliet want to win this festival for the sake of her own ambitions, she also wants to instill some confidence in her boyfriend – she tells him that she cares as much about him having fun and enjoying the festival as she does about winning glory for herself. It's a really sweet scene, probably the most well animated/directed sequence of the entire episode.
The big plot point that looks to be carrying us to next week involves two new rivals from the White Cats, Aby Ssinia and Somali Longhaired. Groan worthy cat-breed names aside, (“Ssinia” isn't even a word!) the characters are perfectly fine - they're the kind of pompous rich-kid antagonists you'd expect to see planning a hostile takeover of the dorky summer-camp from across the lake. While I don't appreciate their tomfoolery as much as Char's, next week promises plenty of snobby treachery to go along with the sports and romance, and I think I can get invested in that, provided the show reclaims some of its visual mojo first.
Boarding School Juliet is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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