Boarding School Juliet
by James Beckett,
How would you rate episode 6 of
Boarding School Juliet ?
“Juliet and the Sports Festival” is the appropriately titled continuation to last week's “Romio and the Sports Festival”, and it sees the Black Doggies and the White Cats facing off in all sorts of challenges to prove which house deserves the top spot at Dahlia Academy. Given the title, you'd expect this story to focus more on Juliet's fight for the title of MVP, and that's true up to a point, but Aby and Somali's underhanded scheming eventually forces Romio to take the spotlight when the drama really heats up. Dramatically speaking, this outing is significantly more satisfying than last week's episode, though it still suffers from some of the writing and aesthetic issues that have bogged down some of Boarding School Juliet's middle episodes.
For the episode's first half, “Juliet and the Sports Festival” is a fairly straightforward story. Romio and Juliet are supportive of one another, but their fierce rivalry hasn't gone anywhere, so both promise to have the Cats and the Doggies give it their all in the sports festival competitions. Romio, big dork that he is, wants to win the prize so he can make Juliet finally call him by his first name. Juliet, on the other hand, feels like the prestige would bring her one step closer to achieving the power and recognition she would need to truly reform her society's failings.
The teams compete in relay races, tug-of-war, balloon-popping competitions and more, but unfortunately, they're all either barely animated or covered in brief montages, which drains the episode's potential fun factor. Weirdly, even Romio's moment of redemption where he wins the boys' track competition is brushed over, which feels anticlimactic after how much of last episode was devoted to establishing that plot point. The story picks up more with the last two more complicated games. Bo-taoshi is an event that sees teams working to either uphold or topple a large heavy pole, and this is where Aby and Somali make their big move. Just as Juliet and Aby land the winning strike on the pole, Aby brings her cleat down on Juliet's leg, hurting her badly enough to knock her out of the competition for good.
This is a familiar brand of high-school anime drama, and I was a little disappointed to see Juliet taken out of the action in an episode that was supposed to explicitly focus on her. Romio's anger at not being able to come to the aid of his own girlfriend was endearing though, a nice reminder of the unique wrinkles this pair's relationship add to this otherwise standard romance story. Even when the stories they occupy are only so-so, Romio and Juliet make for a truly adorable pair, and I appreciate how they both continue to learn from one another and grow stronger as a couple, which is a dynamic that you don't see enough in shows like these.
So Romio is left to pick up the pieces and take revenge on Aby and Somali in the final game of the event, kibasen, which is a Japanese variation of chicken-fighting that combines shoulder-seated wrestling with capture-the-flag. This is the most involved and entertaining sports sequence of the week – side characters like Scott and Hasuki get some time to show off their skills, and Aby and Somali continue to rig the game with paid opponents and drugged water-bottles. Then Juliet arrives in her Julio garb to cheer her boyfriend on, which amusingly gets both Romio and Maru fired up enough to win the game. Aby tries to excuse his actions by citing his frustration with the strict expectations established by their materialistic and class-obsessed society, but Romio makes the right decision and sends him careening into the bleachers with the force of a small meteorite.
While I wasn't a fan of the episode's final third side-lining Juliet so much, the ending does a good job of refocusing on Romio and Juliet's loving rivalry. Not only is Romio too proud to accept Aby as his final opponent, he's cognizant of Juliet's need for a chance to claim the victory herself, so he calls her back out so they can have a legitimate battle for the title of Dahlia Academy MVP. I'm not sure if next week is actually going to follow up on this and play out the match in full, but I think it's a fitting gesture on Boarding School Juliet's part regardless. Whether or not Romio and Juliet win isn't really the point, after all. All these two lovebirds want is the opportunity to prove themselves; Romio wants to be Juliet's perfect partner, and Juliet wants to be the leader who will change the world. Even with the ups and downs the series has seen in its first half, the relationship at the heart of this story is strong enough that I think these two might have a shot of making their dreams a reality.
Boarding School Juliet is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
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