Funimation // 2007 // 290 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Daryl Loomis // July 29th, 2009
Love is something you never regret.
Stop me if you've heard this one. A boy and a girl, children of rival families from Verona, fall in love. These families, however, will never allow these star-crossed lovers to be together, so they must take matters into their own hands, no matter that it leads to tragedy. Okay, you may think you recognize it, but did I mention Dragon Steeds?
You guessed it: the anime version of William Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet, though only partially. In this, the first half of Romeo x Juliet, director Fumitoshi Oisaki takes much of the basic premise from the original work, with the details an amalgam of many of Shakespeare's plays. Elements of King Lear, As You Like It, and Twelfth Night, and traditional anime make the story somewhat confused at times, but it also keeps a story we've all see a thousand times from utter predictability.
In this version, we open fourteen years before the present day and Lord Montague has had the entire Capulet family murdered before seizing power over Neo Verona. Unfortunately for Montague, however, two-year-old Juliet was spirited away to a safe house, where she grew up in safety, dressed as a boy to allay suspicion. Now, her sixteenth birthday approaches, as well as a big secret that will change her life. If that's not enough for a girl, she just met Romeo, the man of her dreams, never mind that he is the son of her family's killer. Juliet, however, must put her love aside to take the reigns of the Capulet name, the Capulet sword, and lead her people back to power. Oh, did I mention the Dragon Steeds?
Sure, maybe I'm too hard on these cutesy flying horses, but they're ridiculous and some of the first things you see in the series. Pointless at best and laughable at worst, they still are but a minor distraction from the action and, in the end, take little away from the production on the whole. Though the Dragon Steeds somehow manage to make the play even more melodramatic, Romeo x Juliet, Part 1 the first half of twenty-four episodes, is an enjoyable way to spend five hours. Oisaki starts playing with the story immediately and it never feels like a faithful adaptation on any level, but he keeps grounded in the play just enough so that it always works. What they add certainly doesn't contain the poetry of the original work, but it is mixed nicely to create a light romance with enough action to keep things going. I don't remember Juliet as a masked avenger, but it plays out very well the way they integrate this seemingly disconnected theme into the greater story. Outside of the relatively familiar romance, the main revolution subplot is executed even more skillfully, pulling elements from plenty of sources to give us a very enjoyable interlude from the romance, which can get sappy sometimes.
The animation is above average, nicely detailed but also not that special. There is little movement in the background at any time, making the action look too stationary sometimes, but it gives us the chance to enjoy the understated but interesting paintings and the quality work that the animators did do. The voice acting is quite good in both the Japanese and English versions. Unless you speak the native language, however, I recommend the English version. The aural translation is far more expressive than what you'll get from the terse, often misleading, subtitles.
Funimation's release of Romeo x Juliet: Romeo Collection, Part 1 is technically quite good, but short on extras. The anamorphic image is very good, a perfect transfer with no problems at all. There is some grain on the image, but this is a stylistic choice that works nicely with the soft tone of the production. The surround sound is always clear with decent separation, but never spectacular. The only extras are some unsubtitled songs and a short making-of featurette, but not much to write home about.
Romeo x Juliet is not the upper echelon of anime, but I'm more than interested to see how the second half progresses (though I think I can guess the ending: marriage?). This is breezy fare, but definitely worth a look.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 290 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Textless Songs