Everything hurtles towards a conclusion, but will they stay true to the source material in this area?
What They Say
Romeo and Juliet share a romance not meant for this mortal coil. Their love has the power to alter the course of time - and change the world they must if there is to be any hope for a future. Together they'll discover the brutal truths of both past and future while maintaining their devotion to a love once found only in fairy tales.
All the while, villainous Conrad Montague opposes their union and crushes Neo Verona with a boot to its throat. As their cherished city tumbles down around them, Romeo and Juliet have no choice but to face an otherworldly destiny that threatens to destroy them both.
Contains episodes 13-24.
The audo mix for Romeo x Juliet surprised me a little as the English language adaptation got a bump up to a 5.1 mix as companies are being somewhat stingy about which shows get those these days. The original Japanese stereo mix is included at 192kbps and has a good solid feeling as it plays across the forward soundstage. The English 5.1 mix, encoded at 448kbps, adds some extra oomph to the show when it comes to the action and the musical score, but not significantly so for the most part. There are minor moments when things stand out more, but it’s hard to discern if it’s really more significant or just louder. Both mixes are pretty good though and the English language mix makes out a bit better as the characters have something of a natural feeling for being in English considering how long I’ve been familiar with the basic story.
Originally airing in 2007, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The series is done in two sets of twelve episodes and this set has the first twelve split evenly across two discs. Though a bit soft, intentionally to some extent, the show has a very smooth and pleasing feeling as it plays up a romance set against an epic moment in history. It has a very soft color palette that really works well in its favor with well detailed character designs that have a wonderful flow to them. Though I don’t think it’s a knockout visual, it is one that I found appealing overall and reflective of the mood that the series is trying to present.
I’m of a mixed mind with the packaging because half of it is just pure love for me. The series is done in standard form for FUNimation these days with a thin slipcover that houses two thinpak cases. The slipcover is nicely done with its design as the front has the logo through the middle with the crest and that provides a vertical stripe as well which separates Romeo and Juliet, both of which are shown through a pinkish red filter. It’s a somewhat busy cover with its ornate nature in some areas but also because of the flow and the little touches within the character artwork. The back of the slipcover has a solid pinkish red background to it with the strip wrapping around here as well. The center is made up of a large ornate piece that has a number of shots from the show and a decent summary of the overall premise. The bottom has some basic production information and the technical grid is on the bottom spine.
It’s what’s inside that I really like though. The two thinpaks are done in a soft yellow and each cover has a different illustration piece in full color on top of that. The first one has a really great image of Romeo with Petruchio in a field while Juliet looks on from behind. The second cover has the pair together along with a few other characters/aspects that come into play during the show. So much of this show is obviously wrapped up in how the two relate to each other that I’m surprised it’s conveyed so well in just two pieces of artwork. The back covers are identical in layout with some crest material shown and a block in the center with a breakdown of the episode numbers and their respective titles along with a small piece of artwork featuring the two leads in different ways. The covers are also reversible as the back covers are the same but the front covers have different pieces of artwork, both with a much darker and sadder tone to them.
The menus for Romeo x Juliet are really nicely done even if they are very simple in their design. Sometimes that simplicity is all that’s really needed. The main menus use the artwork from the individual thinpaks which are soft but beautiful illustrations focusing on the two main characters and their love and attraction. With a bit of instrumental music that builds and swoops you up, they set the mood perfectly and get you ready for what’s to come. Though they’re zoomed in, they’re well zoomed and each piece is really captivating. The logo in the center adds a nice element of sophistication to it and the navigation strip along the bottom is straightforward and easy to use. Submenus load quickly but the usual problem of ignoring player presets continues as it defaults to English language with no subtitles.
The extras are about as expected with this set as they’re pretty minimal with just the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences and a new commentary track for the final episode done by the English side of the release.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After Gankutsuou several years ago, I have to admit I had a certain expectation when it came to seeing Romeo x Juliet. Gonzo's use of a literary classic and adapting into a future setting isn't exactly novel, but when they announced work on Romeo x Juliet, I had to think we'd see something at least a little similar. Much to my surprise, the “fantastic” elements were used sparingly in the first half and then more so in the second half towards the end. Other than a bit of the setting in general with the continent being a floating one and the dragonhorses, this series could easily have taken place in the same general era as the original work but just in a different way.
Romeo x Juliet has certainly diverged greatly from the source, particularly in how it cutely and smartly uses elements and piece from other Shakespeare works, but with a show like this you do have to wonder whether they'll really carry through with a proper ending or whether they'll adapt it in a feel good way. Before the show can get there though, it has a lot of material to work through. The twelve episodes in this set covers a lot of ground but like the first set it goes by so quickly. Few sets feel like they fly by like this, mostly because I couldn't wait to get to the next episode to see where it would go. The previous set had everything changing as Romeo and Juliet were on the run, but their journey didn't last all that long in the end and the two have again found themselves separated.
For a large chunk of this set, the show is split among three basic stories. The story that I enjoyed the most was Romeo's, even if it was the most predictable. After past events, he's been sent off to administer one of the prison mining groups that's far enough away from Neo Verona to not be a bother to anyone. Romeo is taking to heart what he and Juliet have wanted out of life and so he spends his time doing what's needed, from helping in the mines themselves to sharing his food and generally caring about them. It baffles the other officials and guards there as much as it does the prisoners, but Romeo has such a straightforward and honest way about him that as time goes on and their world changes, he does become a natural leader and charismatic man at the right time and right place.
Juliet's story is a little bit less interesting at first, but her progression is just as engaging. On the run with those closest to her, she uses the kindness of Will and finds a place to hide out in for awhile. It's during this time that she really has to come to grips with what her role in everything is and whether she's going to do everything out of revenge or something more. She has her conflicts to work through with this, but the relationship with Romeo has changed her and her outlook on what needs to be done. There's some good moments as her ideals conflict with what some of her followers want, but she is intent on find a new way instead of repeating the same old mistakes over and over. Juliet's growth is a good solid piece that exemplifies some of the best of anime as Juliet is a strong woman who is just as involved as everyone else.
The third story that's followed is that of Montague himself as he keeps control of Neo Verona with an iron fist. Montague has felt that he's been able to clamp things down after dealing with Romeo and sending him off, as well as essentially running Juliet to ground while keeping an eye out for word of her out there. As events start to spiral out of control though when Juliet makes her way back to Neo Verona, Montague becomes unhinged in a classic way and begins to really exert control over the city and the nobles. The extent to which he does so is actually quite striking, using his position to ensure the nobles do as instructed, but also in how he deals so bluntly with the citizens of the city. It does serve as a rallying point for others, but Montague is just off the deep end. And sadly, his background piece is very minimal overall so we never really get the full sense of what his motivation is for everything in the past other than he wasn't loved enough. It fits in with the theme of the show, but you want a little more complexity and depth to it after all of this.
Romeo x Juliet has had its science fiction elements, but they've been fairly muted overall. That ends during the last couple of episodes as the issue with the Escalus tree and its role in keeping the continent afloat comes to the foreground. Small obvious hints have been placed throughout the show, a bit more in this half of the series than the first, so there isn't exactly a sense of surprise when they tie the fate of the continent to her life as a sacrifice for it. Juliet's position on it is part of her motivation and evolution in the series and even though I knew it was coming, I liked how they adapted the concept and feeling of the ending of the original into this framework while giving it some new meaning as well. It's not quite as tragic as the original and some other interpretations – if anything it's almost uplifting – but it ends the way it needed to and helps to cap off the emotions of the youths involved.
I had mediocre at best expectations for this series in general, but Romeo x Juliet has turned out to be one of the best shows I've seen in 2009. It's slickly produced, solid animation, an engaging interpretation of a classic and they kept true to a lot of the basics. The young romance is well played, though more so in the first half, and it's very easy to get swept up in everything that's in play here. It's filled with a lot of characters and a lot more stories it can tell, but it keeps things generally well focused and runs with it. With the show being handled creatively by mostly a younger set according to the extras in the first set, it really does show here as there is a certain kind of energy and enthusiasm that's infectious. Romeo x Juliet is definitely worth checking out.
Japanese Language, English Language, English Subtitles, Act 24 Commentary, Original Trailers, Textless Songs
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.