There's something a little out of place about seeing the name "William Shakespeare" in the opening credits of of an anime series, but given the underlying inspiration of the story it's no real surprise. As with GONZO's previous adaptations, though, "inspiration" is definitely the right description...
What They Say
Until fourteen years ago the noble house of Capulet had ruled the futuristic aerial city of Neo Verona peacefully and benevolently. But an ancient grudge held by the rival house of Montague resulted in a mutiny and a bloody coup in which the city's rulers were deposed and all but one of the Capulets were murdered. The sole survivor was a young girl, Juliet Capulet, since raised by loyalists in secret disguised as a boy named Odin, and to whom her true identity would only be revealed on her 16th birthday. However, Juliet also leads another secret life as a vigilante, Robin Hood-like figure known as the Red Whirlwind, who fights injustices inflicted upon the common people by the Montague clan.
On the eve of her 16th birthday, Juliet unexpectedly finds herself attending the prestigious Rose Ball, hosted by the Montagues, and there she meets the heir to the family throne, Romeo, a young man unimpressed by his father's tyrannical rule. Although already forcibly engaged to a woman of his father's choosing, Romeo becomes smitten by Juliet's charms and sets about wooing this strange and entrancing girl. However, when Juliet learns the truth of her past, love, devotion and loyalty all become conflicted as fate deals a potentially tragic hand to the star-crossed lovers.
1 - Two People ~When They Met~
2 - Promise ~The Fragrance Of Memory~
3 - Love ~Cruel Mischief~
4 - Shyness ~Stuck In The Rain~
5 - Cold Whirlwind ~Burning Resolve~
6 - Desire ~Entrusted Tomorrow~
Audio for this release comes in Japanese 2.0 stereo and English 5.1 surround versions '" I listened to the Japanese track for this release. The soundtrack is clean and clear, with no obvious problems or distortions, but neither does it go out of its way to do anything particularly flash '" it's simply competent and does what it needs to do, which given the profile of the series could be a little disappointing.
Video comes in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, and for the most part looks very good '" there's an almost pastel touch to the colours used that give the setting a bright feeling without being too brash, animation is fluid, and there are no obvious encoding problems. Definitely nice to look at.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
Menus follow the usual MVM pattern '" static main screen, this time featuring the show's logo underlaid by a faded-out image of the star-crossed lovers, with options for Play All, Episodes, Setup and Extras running along the bottom of the screen, while the opening song plays over the top. There are no transition animations between screens, making it all quick and easy to use.
Along with the almost-required textless versions of the opening and closing songs, there's a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette detailing the production of the series. That's your lot.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
In the aerial city of Neo Verona, the feud between the houses of Montague and Capulet has dragged on for years - but now, the Montagues have seized power in the city and ordered the killing of every last member of the Capulet clan. Juliet, daughter of the clan, manages to escape the slaughter, but in the years after her escape there's a city-wide search for her, with anyone resembling her liable to summary execution. Fourteen years after the killings, the mysterious Red Whirlwind and his allies fight against this reign of terror, saving more than a few innocent girls in the process. It's a noble fight, but one that doesn't go down well in all quarters. In the meantime, Romeo - heir to the Montague family - is looking for a way to break free from the plan that his family have made for his life - could a chance meeting with Juliet be the trigger..?
Like Samurai 7 and Gankutsuou before it, Romeo x Juliet is based on a well-known work of fiction, in this case the Bard's famous tale of love and tragedy. But rather than being set in middle-ages Verona, the story has been transplanted to an alternate world, where the city of Neo Verona floats on air and the better-off residents get around on flying horses. The Montagues in this telling have also resorted to somewhat more drastic ways of dealing with their Capulet rivals than Shakespeare ever put on stage, with the result that Juliet is left orphaned, in hiding, and living the life of a young boy, all in the name of keeping her identity secret - as long as she's alive, the Capulet clan lives with her, and it's the threat that this poses that has caused the Montagues to embark on their ruthless search for her.
Juliet (now using the name Odin) doesn't initially know the full details of her tragic past, and during the opening episodes, many of those around her appear similarly unenlightened. She's accepted as a boy, carries out her heroic escapades as a boy, and tries to help those who are being accused of being Juliet escape their fates '" an all-round honourable hero(ine). Romeo, meanwhile, is having his life micromanaged by his father and just wants to break free and be his own person, should he ever get the chance. In short, both of them are living a lie, albeit for very different reasons - but they're about to be brought together, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of English literature should know what happens next, as a nobles' ball brings the two momentarily together and sets events on what should be the road to disaster. I'm assuming that whatever other changes GONZO have made to the story, they won't mess with the ending'
Most of the other characters that appear in the original story make appearances here, although they don't necessarily fill the same sort of place in events. There are also a number of new characters added to the mix, including playwright Willy. I can't think who he may be intended to represent'! Outside the core of the Montague family '" the Prince and his loyal servants, who are painted as true heartless tyrants '" most of the characters come across as people who are simply trying to make the most of a bad situation, as the Prince's rule becomes ever more deadly to those who live under him. This is where Juliet will face a dilemma: she's a girl with a strong sense of right and wrong, but when her past is revealed to her you don't get any sense that she's all that interested in reviving the Capulet line. Fighting against in justice, yes; fighting for vengeance, no '" especially when it becomes clear that any search for vengeance would bring her into conflict with Romeo, who otherwise seems quite inclined to help her. So, does she do what feels right to her, or does she let those who remain loyal to the Capulets control her actions? That's something for future volumes to address, but the possibilities are certainly intriguing, and this volume had no problems in keeping my full attention.
GONZO's adaptations of well-known literature works usually gain them a lot of credit - they're lavish productions (of the sort we probably won't be seeing many more of while they're in their current financial state), with high animation standards and enough tweaks made to the base story to give them a feel all their own, and Romeo x Juliet is no expection. It looks impressive, with Neo Verona beautifully detailed and the character designs very easy on the eye. The setting works well, too, and the ways in which the main characters are introduced quickly give you a feel for the lives they're trapped in. The idea strays a long way from the source material, though, so if you're a stickler for accuracy in adaptations, then this won't be for you. For those more forgiving of all the changes made, though, there's plenty here to enjoy - well worth seeing.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 5.1, English Subtitles, The Making of Romeo x Juliet Anime, Textless Opening and Closing
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.