Creator/Studio: William Shakespeare (sorta)/Gonzo
No. of Episodes: 24
Suggested Age: 13+
My Rating: 10/10
Summary: This anime retells the story of the classic Shakespeare romantic tragedy Romeo and Juliet. It relocates the story in a fictional world called Neo Verona and completely reimagines the concept. The Capulets are now overthrown nobility and Juliet hides her identity as the Zorro-like Odin, also known as the Red Whirlwind, champion of justice. But one fateful day, she meets Romeo, heir to the thrown of Montague and enemy to her family. Will their love truly never be?
Review: I must advise you to forget all you know about the Shakespeare play this is inspired by. It is really best described as “Romeo and Juliet in name only.” The story is still the same, but the locale, the time, the people–everything is original. Neo Verona is a floating island and there are even flying horses! We even get to see the Bard himself, reimagined as a hammy playwright eager to sell his next masterpiece.
The animation is really awesome, one of the best anime done by Gonzo. I’ve often thought of Gonzo as Japan’s most underrated studio. While not every title I’ve seen I’ve enjoyed, this is certainly one of their best in terms of animation.
It’s also one of the best in terms of characterization too. A fellow reviewer recommended this anime to me when she learned I liked William Shakespeare. She told me it would blow me away with how well it paid tribute to history’s greatest writer. I have to say I am inclined to agree. It takes everything established in the play and expands it. We learn a true reason for the feud between the Montagues and Capulets. Instead of an understated reason, we learn that the Montagues overthrew the Capulets and have oppressed the people of Neo Verona, who the Montagues’s patriarch sees as grapes to be harvested or crushed at his will. Romeo disagrees with this and wants to see them happy instead. Juliet is given a Zorro-like backstory, and I cheered her on every minute, because she reminded me very much of one of my favorite saints, Joan of Arc. Like Joan, she was willing to throw down her very life not only for her family, but for all of the world. She didn’t care if she died in the process, freedom was all that mattered. When Romeo and Juliet do fall in love, it isn’t teenage hormone-filled lust, like it seems in the play. Instead, it is true, honest love. They do all they can to work out their problems. Romeo is imagined as a character with true depth, unlike the play, where he’s pure cardboard. All in all, I think Shakespeare himself would be proud of this play.
Sub/Dub: Both versions are done very well, but I like the dub best because it really feels Shakespearean. Shakespeare’s plays were originally written in English anyway, so I feel this should be watched in English.
Music/Score: Here’s a real surprise: the opening itself is actually a Japanese version of the Christian worship song “You Raise Me Up”, popularized by Josh Groban. This version is sung by Japanese songstress Lena Park. The lyrics aren’t even close to the original song, but I really don’t think that matters. As much as I enjoy the original song, I feel Lena’s version far surpasses Groban’s. It feels more heartfelt and her voice is just beautiful, almost angelic. The first ending theme I didn’t like so much, but I enjoyed the second ending theme very much.
Violence: (6/10) There is quite a lot of bloodshed in this story. One or two characters die, and of course, you should know already how the story ends. There is also a scene where someone burns himself alive.
Language: (2/10): A few curse words, but then Shakespeare had a few curse words in some of his plays too, if I recall.
Religion: (5/10) SPOILER! Late in the story, we learn that the Capulets made a pact with a goddess to ensure their victory in the feud. The goddess agreed, but there was a catch: Juliet would have to sacrifice herself to the goddess.