Romeo: the son of Montague, the man who took control of the floating city Neo Verona in a bloody coup. Juliet: the last Capulet, masquerading as a young man named “Odin”, is destined to be the person to lead a revolt and bring the Capulet faction back into power. Tensions mount as Montague’s grip on the city becomes more and more violent in light of growing restlessness against him, however, it is in these circumstances a fateful and tragic romance blossoms between Romeo and Juliet.
summary by Two-Twenty
Highs: Looks and sounds pretty; “Willy”
Lows: Strays too far away from the source material at the character, story and theme levels; irritatingly clichéd; you call that an ending?
When I heard Gonzo were doing an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, I met the idea with caution. Gonzo has a shocking track-record when it comes to writing a good story, however they have improved their game in recent years, and the last famous French literary piece they adapted, Gankutsuou, was absolutely incredible. Unfortunately, and much to the aggravation of every person who appreciates Shakespeare and/or good anime, Romeo x Juliet will go down as another one of their many failures.
The biggest problem with this show is that there are just too many detrimental changes from the source material. It’s fine to take a bit of artistic license when doing an adaptation, even a loose one, but there should at least be some semblance of similar themes, characters and plot structure. Needless to say, Romeo x Juliet is severely lacking in all three. I could write an entire dissertation exploring the ways in which Gonzo stuffed up (massive changes and omissions of characters, clichéd story catalysts, cringe-inducing moralizing, etc) and still not be entirely satisfied. All of these problems, though, seem to stem from one thing: Gonzo’s failure to understand the critical role love has in this story. Love, in “Romeo and Juliet”, is amoral and runs supreme over all other values, both good and bad; it’s passionate and beautiful as well as foolish and destructive. Love in Romeo x Juliet, however, is tied down to the one-sided notion that its power is pure and will triumph over all adversity; it attempts being uplifting and bitter-sweet but ends up being sappy and horribly clichéd. To top this off, they also somehow managed to mess-up the ending. That’s right, the most famous ending of one of the most well-known stories in English literature and they botched it. It’s no spoiler that Romeo and Juliet die, but the way in which they do, and the events surrounding it, just seems like the culmination of 24 episodes of Gonzo just plain missing the point.
To its credit, the art and music were nice enough, and the opening theme song “You raise me up” grows on you, but perhaps the only truly good thing that came from this adaptation is the character “Willy”. Basically, he’s a campy, flamboyant, caricature of William Shakespeare himself and he pretty well steals every scene he’s in.
I sincerely hope no one in Japan, or anywhere else for that matter, thinks this is a good representation of the play, because it’s not. Even if you do separate yourself from the original and judge it on its own merit, it still fails miserably for being clichéd and predictable. As for me, I’ve had it with Gonzo. I’m sick of raising my expectations time and time again only for it to amount to nothing. After this, I’m not watching another one of their anime until it’s over and everyone tells me it’s fantastic.
Romeo x Juliet is licensed in the U.S. by Funimation, and episodes may be viewed legally in the United States HERE.