Critic's Log - Earthdate: February 14, 2013. Review #34: Romeo x Juliet
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents' strife.
The fearful passage of their death-mark'd love,
And the continuance of their parents' rage,
Which, but their children's end, nought could remove,
Is now the two hours' traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.
Ah, William Shakespeare, he sure has his way with words. Both poetic and HARD TO UNDERSTAND AT TIMES! Thank God for footnotes in later editions of his plays! Well, today is Valentine’s Day and I thought I’d do a special review today for this occasion. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I decided to review Romeo x Juliet, obviously an anime adaptation of Romeo and Juliet from William Shakespeare. I have seen this anime twice and I’ve read the play. This is Shakespeare’s famous tragic love story and I think it is somewhat fitting that I’d review this on this day. With that said, let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day with Romeo x Juliet!
This is a story of a young and tragic love, set in the aerial city of Neo Verona in the skies above. Tyranny rules this island in the sky after the Montague family took control 14 years prior when all seemed dire. The disparity among the wealthy and poor is apparent in the present state, the earth dries and water stagnates. The sky itself is wrapped in a deep dense fog. Both Romeo and Juliet's lineages are of present and past ruling families of Neo Verona. Romeo is the son of the current Montague dictator, Juliet (a beautiful woman) masquerades as a man she's the last descendent of Capulet the previous rulers who were killed by an assasin's dagger 14 years ago. Her true background is not to be revealed to her until her 16th birthday. The cruel hands of fate introduces 2 people who will become "Star Crossed Lovers".
To be technical, this is a Studio Gonzo production and I was skeptical at first when I saw this series and thank God that this series doesn't suffer from the usual crap that Gonzo is known for with it poor iteration of 2D and 3D animation. The animation is excusable this time for Gonzo regarding Romeo x Juliet
The music is something worth mentioning and something not to be ignored. It is composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto who was well known for the soundtracks of Final Fantasy Tactics and Final Fantasy XII. The music by Sakimoto-san is just great. It compliments nearly every scene giving some scenes emotional impact. I have played Final Fantasy XII and I really enjoyed the grand scale to that soundtrack while playing that game even though combat was a real slow pain in the ass to deal with. Now that Romeo x Juliet's soundtrack is done by this composer, it doesn't call too much attention but I can say the score is phenomenal. It is near-perfect and the only thing that bumps the music's chords is the first closing theme
This is a play written hundreds of years ago and I honestly think this closing theme was unfitting to the entire show. I mean, Rock music in a Romeo and Juliet adaptation? Why? Why was this in there? The song is great outside the show, but in the show... I don't think it fits at all. The second closing theme on the other hand is okay for the most part. Then there's the opening "Inori - You Raise Me Up" which was sung by Korean-American singer Lena Park. For any music buffs out there. "You Raise Me Up" was originally done by the duo Secret Garden with Brendan Graham as the lyricist and Rolf Løvland as the composer. You might be familiar with the song by Josh Groban which he did cover the song a year after it was originally written. It is sung as a contemporary hymn in church services. I sure like to hear that when I'm attending church. Now that I've digressed about the opening for a bit, allow me to tell you what I thought of the opening. Lena Park was terrific for her cover on this song. It is sung in Japanese in the opening. It is also sung in English for Episode 7 and the Final Episode. I don't know what else to say about her cover, it's just very good.
When it comes to voice acting, Get ready to boo and yell at me for saying this but please hear my plea even in discontent. This show is extremely fitting in the dub. Hear me out O purists or question me from thee jurists! This play was originally written in Modern English by William Shakespeare himself, so it would only be fitting to at least watch the dub for that. There's nothing wrong with the Japanese cast in the show. Takahiro Mizushima is fine as Romeo, Fumie Mizusawa is also fine as Juliet. If there's any standout performances in this version, that would be Koji Ishii as Montague and Kazuhiko Inoue as William (Yes, William Shakespeare is a character in this show. yeah...just go with it) This version also has Ryotaro Okiayu, Keiji Fujiwara, and Toru Ohkawa. With the dub, there's Chris Burnett as Romeo in which he sounds a bit dull but it's not his fault because he actually plays a good Romeo, Brina Palencia plays a terrific Juliet, As far as some standout performances in the dub, there's Colleen Clinkenbeard as Cordelia, J.Michael Tatum plays a terrific William, Maxey Whitehead is great as Antonio. Mike McFarland is also great as Tybalt. Sean Hannigan is the highlight of the dub as Montague. What makes the dub great in this anime is that they have some Shakespearean-like dialogue but the only problem in the dub is that it's not constant, you'll have to pay attention with your ears on that part though. The Japanese script does use some Shakespearean dialogue albiet in Japanese. Both versions are good but I strongly prefer the dub here.
When it comes to characters, some of the characters act a bit different than the original play. There are some characters in this anime that are not even from the original play which I don't understand why they are included in this adaptation, but oh well. There's Ophelia, Camilo, and Petruchio which the names are most likely nods to Shakespeare's plays such as Hamlet, The Winter's Tale, and The Taming of the Shrew. The only character that's not a nod to any of Shakespeare's plays that is exclusive to this adaptation is Giovanni (and hey, that just so happens to be my first name I kid you not) Some of these characters exclusive to this adaptation are alright but I don't know what else to say about them really. The characters are great even though the characters based off the play do act a bit differently than the original play.
If the name "Neo-Verona", flying steeds, or the fact that William Shakespeare is a character in this adaptation wasn't enough proof that this isn't really a faithful adaptation to Shakespeare's tragic love story, then allow me to do some explaining. This is a more modernized, alternate telling with some fantasy settings.
Also, the scene that looks like this...
IS A HUNDRED TIMES BETTER THAN THIS!!!
I can't say I'm a fan of Twilight, but I have nothing against the fanbase. I do think it's overrated. BACK TO THE MAIN SUBJECT DAMN IT!!!
This loose adaptation may not sit well for fans of the original play and if you think this is the only adaptation that is much different than the original play, Allow me to mention another adaptation called Romeo + Juliet, a 1996 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Romeo and Claire Danes as Juliet. The Montagues and Capulets are portrayed as warring business empires and instead of swords, there are guns in that adaptation.
Some may not like that movie and I don't hear many people bitch about this movie and I have that same impression towards this loose adaptation of William Shakespeare's tragic love story. If there is something worth mentioning about this adaptation that some people do tend to overlook is that there are a lot of double entendres in the original play. If I were writing this play like Shakespeare would, such an example would be "I standeth with my sword raised high and I shall use mine sword to cut the maiden's head and I shall beareth that burden till the moment to die." these double entendres in the play were sexual and that example I just pointed out is in a manner as such. Call me a pervert if you wish, but hey... Shakespeare was kind of a pervert too and he got away with it too. Speaking of double entendres, there is no such a thing in this adaptation, making it the most sexually pure adaptation of Romeo and Juliet so far. Unfortunately, this adaptation isn't perfect though because even though the play is brilliant, there is one thing I can point out that they could have stuck to, and that is the ending. This adaptation does not have the tragic ending that the play was unanimously well-known for. This adaptation has more of a happy ending which I can't guarantee fans of the original play will like. I almost didn't like the ending, but I later found myself liking this adaptation's ending. What this adaptation stays true is that it contains the spirit of the original play it was based on even though it does not have the tragic ending. Reiko Yoshida took many liberties with Shakespeare's original play and makes it differ extensively and Fumitoshi Oizaki's direction isn't perfect but it isn't sloppy. Also, J. Michael Tatum deserves some credit for the ADR direction as well as R. Bruce Elliot for the dub. Kinda fitting that J.Michael Tatum was the ADR director for 2/3 of the show since he was the English voice of Shakespeare. With all the words I've writ, I bid this review adieu.
Romeo x Juliet is available from Funimation. The manga written my Reiko Yoshida is available by Yen Press. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare is available freaking anywhere and I'm certain you possibly read it at high school or college unless you somehow didn't get to read it in class. There are a number of film adaptations of the play which I don't care to list them all down because this would just make the epilogue much longer and there's not much ado about nothing that I even want to discuss all the movies. Look them up at your own leisure.
With all that said, Romeo x Juliet is a surprise adaptation of William Shakespeare's tragic love story which is a masterpiece by all means. I love this play. While this anime takes many liberties with Shakespeare's play, it has beautiful imagery for the most part with Gonzo's humble approach, it has a wonderful soundtrack, it has great characters even if they act different than they did in the original play, and the story is great (for an alternate telling that is). You might be skeptical at first, if you give this a try... you might be surprised on how good this loose adaptation can be.
I give Romeo x Juliet a 9.1 out of 10. It is EXCELLENT!
Feel free to comment below, and celebrate this day with LOVE AND PEACE!