The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Romeo × Juliet

Title: Romeo × Juliet
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Gonzo
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 4 Apr 2007 – 26 Sep 2007

Synopsis: “Once upon a time, in The Sky Continent known as New Verona where the all-powerful ability to hover in the distant sky breathes life and prosperity upon the people. However, foolish passions will someday transcend eternity. Now let me introduce to you the tragic story of innocent pure love tormented by fate in the midst of chaos, Romeo and Juliet.”

The Highlights
Original Play: More powerful and tragic than Gonzo can ever recreate.
Lena Park: Josh Groban would be so proud of her stellar cover version.
Adaptation: From complex sorrowful famous novel to warm subtle animation.
Animation: Fluid and sublime amidst surreal new world.
William Shakespeare: … in the show too!?

Apart from Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear, the original play written by English playwright William Shakespeare is perhaps one of the most popular piece of literary work in history. Its fame can be credited for setting the benchmark for an all-time tragic romance between two immortal characters, Romeo and Juliet. This benchmark includes the terms ‘star-crossed lovers’, ‘love at first sight’ and the romance that should have but never was. Hundreds of adaptations have been made based on the play, therefore making it utterly difficult for a piece of adaptation to stand out from the rest. Gonzo has attempted to do so in the form of their high-budgeted Romeo × Juliet.

Now, there is something Gonzo that I need to get off my chest. It is this: I don’t favor Gonzo‘s work most of the time. Why? It’s not due to their dreadful line of anime series like Gravion Zwei and Getsumen to Heiki Mina. It’s also not due to their reputation of throwing out potentially excellent anime such as Blue Submarine No. 6 and Saikano. In fact, it is due to their unpredictability. True, they do have a bad reputation for bad anime but there have been bona fide gems along the way such as Red Garden, Bokurano and their last novel adaptation from Alexander Dumas‘ work, Gankutsuou. Because of its unpredictability, it’s always giving me a hard time to decide whether to take up new series or not upon hearing its studio company. For their work this time round, it is neither a complete waste nor a complete success.

One of the risks Gonzo undergoes is its approach to recreating the plot to make it its own. The recreation includes the exchange of role play between the main leads and the various characters and creatures that are created based on Shakespeare‘s actual previous works. Risks are inevitable; Gonzo decides to go ahead with their approach and ends up having a series that unfortunately isn’t as powerful and memorable as the original play. Their alterations did render the series unique but they also took away the consequential powerful sentiments and intricate plot depth. Gone are the famous literary quotes, the pivotal relationships between the cast and the pivotal scene that defines the work into glory. In turn, in come the warm and simplified plot fueled by acts of greed, rage and naivety, and a two-dimensional cast that is shallow on depth – a far cry from the intricacy and brilliance of the former work.

Romeo × Juliet tries to shines itself among the other adaptations by recreating its world. Romeo × Juliet takes us into a fantasy world where mythical beings exist and laws of science are defied. A floating land, Pegasi and enchanted trees that flourish the land enliven the world of Neo Verona where the stage of this romantic tragedy is set. The skillful utilization of fluid animation and crisp computer graphics further enhances the aesthetic prowess of the series. Furthermore, Korean veteran singer Lena Park lends her voice to sing a cover of Josh Groban‘s famous sing, “You Raise Me Up”. She does so with such immaculate grace that it help shape the dramatic scenes and ambience.

Gonzo dared to make an adaptation of a literary work that many others have fallen into obscurity. While it did put up a brave fight, the weak plot and angst-driving characters dragged the series into mediocrity. True, there were shining factors about the series such as animation and music, but they are just secondary to what make or break a series – the plot, story and cast. Most significantly, Romeo × Juliet retells its ending from tragedy to fairy tale, which was what defines the original Romeo and Juliet. In the end, Romeo × Juliet is just an anime suited more for the orthodox viewers rather than the contemporary. “For never was a story of more woe / Than this of Juliet and her Romeo” is how the original play ended. It’s too sad it didn’t end like this in the series.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: AC

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