|Cirque du Review: In Neo Verona, Where We Lay Our Scene...||3 out of 3 users found this review helpful.|
Welcome, one and all, to the Cirque du Review! I am your Master of Ceremonies, Monsieur Pi-Face, ready to welcome you to a brand new world of reviews, where I take on the various manga, anime, and movies that it has been my pleasure (or displeasure) to watch.
For the first act, I will be taking on that wonder of romance and story, of tragedy and comedy, of beauty and youth and sorrow and joy and everything in between. Yes, folks, I am talking about Romeo x Juliet, that cosmic spin off of Shakespeare’s classic tale. Please remember, though: there may be some spoilers here and there, so this review is NOT for the uninitiated or faint-of-heart.
Story: I must first confess to one thing before continuing with this review: I have always HATED the storyline of the original Romeo and Juliet. Although I’m not saying that Shakespeare lacks in craft in his technical writing (he makes good use of metaphor and characterization), the story just bored me to tears. Romeo and Juliet themselves are one dimensional, with Romeo moping about after every little thing, and Juliet doing almost NOTHING besides pretending to be dead. Yes, yes, berate me for hating on the classics, but you know it to be true. Romeo and Juliet are the protagonists, yet they lack almost any sort of redeeming quality except for their love for each other, ad yet even THAT grows tiresome rather quickly.
When I took up Romeo x Juliet, however, I was intrigued with all the comments saying that there was barely any resemblance to the original story. And, after watching the full story, I’d say that statement is MOSTLY true.
Instead of seeing Juliet as a whiny and lovesick child, I’m glad to see her re-imagined here as a strong, independent woman, ready to grab destiny by the horns. And although Romeo’s role has been demoted to make room for Juliet’s personality, he’s still able to fulfill his job as a lead, albeit with slightly less characterization than I would have liked. But, probably, the biggest improvement I can see from these two is the fact that the romance between them, although filled with tragedy, is never over done. Unlike the original, when the emotion between the two seems a bit forced at times (although this is excusable at time, considering that plays cannot run for very long and must cram a lot of plot into the space of a few hours), the relationship between the two develops very naturally. Although they do fall for each other in the beginning, it takes several episodes for the two to become comfortable with each other, ad with their relationship, which I really appreciate.
The cast of colorful side characters also works wonders for the mood of the show. Each character was enjoyable, with an interesting personality and role. Even the character that I first hated the most, Mercutio, eventually grew on me and developed as a character. The fact that many characters also changed their roles from the play, and even showed up when they had never been in the original, intrigued me from the start, and even with a minimal knowledge of other Shakesperean works I loved and enjoyed each character, and the role they had to play in this tale.
The one thing that really irked me about the story, however, is the inclusion of the slightly convoluted plot device that is ESCALUS, a.k.a. giant… glowing… tree… thing. For an anime heavily grounded in real life situations and relationships (barring the dragon horses), it’s inclusion as a plot device was strangely jarring. Although the inclusion of (spoiler) Juliet having to sacrifice herself for the good of other’s was very Spock-esque was interesting, and Ophelia was one of the most frightening and amazing characters barring Lord Montague, Escalus was more of a nuisance than a decent plot twist. Otherwise, the story was immensely enjoyable and satisfying.
Animation: What can I say about it except that Gonzo Studio have outdone themselves? The colors are crisp and fresh, the movement is fluid, and the attention to detail is ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR. Seriously, they must have been slaving over this for ages. My biggest complaint? The fact that, somewhere in the second half of the series, episode 12 or 13 if memory serves, the quality in animation deteriorated a bit, leaving me wishing that they had received a larger budget for this series. Nevertheless, the quality managed to pick up for the epic finale, which I have to give the animators kudos for.
Audio: I must confess that I never actually watched the original Japanese language track, and I’m glad that I didn’t (don’t hate if you watch subs, please!). The English dub was excellently done, with every voice fitting with the characterization and personality of each person, not to mention the use of Shakespearean English peppering conversations, and actually WORKING, makes it more authentic than the Japanese language track could ever have been (sorry, sub watchers, but no matter how good, Japanese seiyuu wouldn’t have been able to convey that sort of dialogue accurately…). Special shout out, however, to Sean Hennigan, the voice of Lord Montague. The man was SPECTACULAR. Being able to convey the range of emotion he does, as well as to basically frighten everyone even with the most mildly spoken word? Now THAT is talent.
As for the music…. Eh, there’s nothing particularly amazing about the soundtrack, barring, of course, the theme song. Every episode, I sat through the theme song, and every time I found myself on the verge of tears. And then, they used it as the ending song, and I burst into tears…*coughs* But, otherwise, the soundtrack was merely serviceable to my untrained ear. It evoked the mood required, but did nothing particularly amazing to stand out.
Overall: Romeo x Juliet is probably the pinnacle of
romance-based anime, and one of the very few that I am willing to watch. It’s
got a good story, in-depth characterization, and genuinely heart warming and
tear jerking moments. Although it’ll never receive an Oscar of any kind, the English
actors have done an amazing job. However, there are a few flaws that prevent me
from giving this wonderful series a maximum mark, so I’ll stick with giving it a
4 and a half. This is a charming, enthralling, bewitching, and overall
wonderful series that I recommend to everyone except Shakespearean purists.
BE WARNED OF SPOILERS FOR THIS NEXT BIT!
Best Moment: Definitely Mercutio taking out Lord Montague. It was unexpected, but certainly within logical grounds. His insanity was also portrayed in an intensely frightening, although slightly unrealistic, way, which I really appreciated. Either that or when the Doctor sacrifices himself in the guise of the Red Whirlwind. It was SO touching and tragic, and helped to further Juliet's characterization, which is always appreciated~