Reviewby Michelle Yu, Mar 7th 2011
Romeo X Juliet Collection 1
This is a story of a young and tragic love, set in the aerial city of Neo Verona. Tyranny rules this island in the sky after the Montague family took control 14 years prior. The disparity among the wealthy and poor is apparent in the present state, the earth dries and water stagnates. The sky itself is wrapped in a deep dense fog. Both Romeo and Juliet's lineages are of present and past ruling families of Neo Verona. Romeo is the son of the current Montague dictator, Juliet (a beautiful woman) masquerades as a man (Odin), she's the last descendent of Capulet the previous rulers who were killed by an assassin's dagger fourteen years ago. Her true background is not to be revealed to her until her 16th birthday. The cruel hands of fate introduces two people who will become "Star Crossed Lovers".
Romeo x Juliet draws its storyline and characters from the well-known Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet. The series is still about the two “star crossed” (that is, cursed by the heavens) lovers who find love despite their two feuding and hateful families. However in adapting the centuries-old play into an anime series, the writers seemed to have taken great advantage of what is known as artistic license. Whether this is perceived as a good or a bad thing is up to the individual viewer, but in Neo-Verona they ride flying dragon and Pegasus-like creatures, not horses.
In Romeo x Juliet, the Montagues (Romeo's family) and the Capulets (Juliet's family) are not on the same level in the playing field. The Capulets are revealed to have been murdered in Juliet's early childhood leaving the Montague family to seize the throne and rule Neo-Verona with an iron-fist to this day. This has created an ever-widening gap in social class and the living standards of the citizens of Neo-Verona as well as brewed hatred for the ruling family. This is another deviation from the original storyline and in a way forces to viewer to begin taking sides. Because the original storyline has been adapted into a series of episodes rather than a theatre production to be viewed in one sitting, it is obvious that the deviations are an effort to keep things interesting. But in my opinion, the series could have still worked well without a cross-dressing Juliet and a masked vigilante.
The rose motif used in the original Shakespearean story has also been abandoned in favour of a different, less colour-intense flower which is unfortunate as roses are probably the flower most widely associated with passion and romance. Although it is a small deviation from the original, the impact on the experience was huge. It may have been due to the fact that it is still early days for the series as a whole, but the romantic side of the story seemed to have been toned down. The other possible explanation is that the series is made for a younger target audience and thus the writers have made it more age-appropriate.
The series starts out quite slow for the most part, with the pace quickening at certain points. At first it was not particularly pleasant, a similar feeling to the first time on a long bus ride. But like bus rides, eventually the rhythm problem tapers off and you find yourself settling in quite well. I was even a bit sad when I finished the last episode on the disc as I wanted to know what happened next.
The use of the song “Inori- You Raise Me Up” by Lena Park (essentially the song “You Raise Me Up” by Secret Garden sung in Japanese) as the opening theme somewhat establishes the nature of the romantic bond between the lead characters- light, fluffy and sweet. This makes the series sound like a vanilla soufflé but luckily the episodes are punctuated with blood and violence as Shakespeare intended. The music throughout is not bad, but not fabulous either. Most viewers will probably find themselves putting one or two songs off the soundtrack on their iPods and forgoing the rest.
Visually, there is not much to complain about. The art is quite beautiful, but not overly feminine which suits the overall experience. Animation is smooth enough but not cutting-edge; though it's unlikely that it will pose a problem for anyone.
The editorial copy of Romeo x Juliet Collection 1 had no extras, so unfortunately no comment can be made on that. However according to the detailed release information on the Madman website, special features on the full release include a behind-the-scenes feature and text less songs- great for the AMV enthusiasts. It also only came in the English dub so no comparison between the subbed and dubbed versions can be made.
It is recommended that viewers watch Romeo x Juliet with no preconceived notions of how it should be. Even better if they have little to no knowledge of Shakespearean works, that way it will probably be all the more enjoyable. Just sit and be taken on the journey, and do not ask questions. I will probably re-watch it myself when I can purge my brain of preconceptions.
© 2007 GONZO/CBC ・ GDH ・ SPWT
Overall (dub) : B
Story : B
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B
+ Nice artwork and animation.
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