For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
Well, never until I was forced to watch this 2007 "updated" anime version of the Bard's most famous play; then the woe flowed like a fucking river.
No, I take that back. Studio Gonzo's Romeo X Juliet isn't really all that bad, it's just incredibly strange and kind of boring for a good portion of its run. It COULD have been so much more. Hell, going by what the same writers did with another classic old tale — The Count of Monte Cristo (Gankutsuou) — I had hoped, nay, EXPECTED something of equal greatness. I mean hell, this was the greatest romantic tragedy ever written (because I say it is!); there was no way they could fuck this up!
Well, Studio Gonzo sure tried their darndest (to fuck it up... Keep up with me here). I'll get on to the plot soon, but first I wanted to explain what this show was before explaining what it was about.
Romeo X Juliet is NOT Romeo and Juliet. The only thing it has in common with Shakespeare's original play is the names of some of its characters. There are Montagues and there are Capulets to be sure, but their feud is not even close to the same as it is in the original (in the anime Lord Montague decimates the Capulet family, and Juliet [the last remaining Cap] is forced into hiding for 14 years). The remaining characters of this show are all taken from other Shakespeare plays, which in theory could have and should have been pretty cool. But don't forget that Communism works in theory too... Romeo X Juliet is kind of like a Shakespearean Giant Robo; but where director Imagawa expertly wove together the characters from half a dozen separate Yokoyama manga series into one "battle of the stars" production, RXJ just took the NAMES of certain famous Bard characters and gave them personalities and backgrounds VASTLY different from who they originally were. Examples: Fun-loving Mercutio was turned into a sniveling, power-hungry bastard; Escalus was turned into a giant fucking Laputa-like flying tree (not making that or any of this crap up); Antony was just a little sidekick kid; Cordelia's a wimpy handmaiden; Titus is a retarded advisor to Archduke Montague; Ophelia is a psychotic gardener to Escalus; Regan is a 12 year-old shut-in granddaughter of a stuffy butler; Hermione is Romeo's pampered betrothed; Portia is Romeo's mother (what?!); Tybalt is a vengeance-seeking, wrapped in shadows, wannabe badass (okay, he was closest to his original role); and Cerimon is now a military police officer in the Montague army (I knew some of these people, but thank you Wikipedia for the rest. Honestly, whenever a new person was introduced in this show I shot straight over to the Wiki for info on their original incarnations).
My only point is WHAT'S the goddamn point of just using a character's name, when one could have so easily slipped their personality into the part as well, making things that much more meaningful. Honestly, they could have done some really cool things here with this idea (characters from ALL the Bard's major plays rolled up in one fantastic uber-drama), but the idea falls flat. It's never really used to its fullest potential. Instead we get hackneyed storytelling, pathetic plot turns, and nothing but whiney, retarded pro and antagonists. Anyway, on with the plot!
Romeo X Juliet takes place on the floating continent of Neo Verona. The Capulet family has been all but wiped out by Lord Montague who wanted Archduke Capulet's title for his own. Though in his coup Montague missed a few loyal Capulet servants and the last remaining Cap of pure blood: Juliet. 14 years pass and Juliet has been in hiding dressed as a boy called Odin (a wasted chance to actually use a Shakespearean name, like "Cesario"... Look it up), and Romeo, Montague's son, grows up pampered and not questioning his father's bloody ambition and assholicness. Soon the two star-crossed lovers meet (had to use that term, it's a law that anybody writing about R&J has to spell it out), and then meet again.... and again...... and yet again, and then run away in order to be together without either of their houses messing up their puppy love idiocy.
And yes, that's all it ever really appears to be is puppy love. These two have only really met about 6 times for only 2 minutes or so at a time, and yet they're willing to run away together and forget or ignore their duties to their families. Yes, their relationship in the play was just as quick if not quicker, but this world that the animators created was set up to be, and played as much more realistic (at least in reference to actions and reactions and their implications in real world logic and politics). But the writers took the lazy way out and simply had Romeo stumble upon Juliet once per episode for the first half of the series, and that meant that they were totally smitten with each other by their 6th thirty-second meeting. They act like stupid 5 year-olds when they run away too: Like in episode 11 when they pledge marriage vows to each other in an abandoned church. Ugh. I was cringing when they looked deep into the other's eyes and fucking stars were reflected and glowing and shit. Honestly, that scene was played even too childish for 5 year-olds to imitate.
Anyway, Romeo is a total emo moper for a good portion of this series.... But then again so is Juliet, so maybe they really are made for the other. Whatever. I just wish I could respect the title characters more than the writing would allow me. And the character designs didn't help me to like anybody more either. Everybody had a generic anime look to them. Nothing in this show was new or stylized like it was begging to be. No, I didn't want or expect a repeat of Gankutsuou's incredible art and direction, but something different from generic, wide-eyed, mop-headed, been there, done that a million times before, production art. Nothing stood out at all in regards to the art style. Just another wasted opportunity.
Back to the plot, and just a warning but I'm going to jump into some major spoilers below (though honestly, if you don't see these coming by the end of the first commercial break in the first episode you should really get your IQ tested; and if the doctors recommend that you only wear velcro-laced shoes from now on, you should listen). Okay, so R&J ran away together, but then Papa Montague sends his soldiers out to capture his pussy son (why he wants him back I have no idea). Both R&J get captured, J gets freed by her Capulet servants and goes into hiding again. While in hiding, Willy (a character based on the Bard himself... only 5 times more gay than the real Shakespeare could have EVER been) writes a play for the Capulets that is meant to rile the populace into a revolution... which works way, way, WAY too well (honestly, the people of Neo Verona are just hypnotizable sheep).
So the people want the Archduke out of his castle and Juliet leads the charge. Montague goes crazy (as all shittily-written villains do in the end) and is reduced to blithering sociopath when he orders Mercutio to burn the city down (this dramatic turn goes absolutely nowhere in the long run). Then the revolution finally breaks into the palace, and both Romeo's and Tybalt's justifiable angers towards Montague are COMPLETELY GLOSSED OVER in order for us to get to the REAL threat of the story: Escalus, the floating tree that keeps Neo Verona high above the Earth, is about to die and Juliet needs to take its place... Just like the Bard meant in the subtext of the world's greatest love tragedy when he originally wrote it all those centuries ago. Truly, the only real tragedy is that this thing got so fucking bizarre in the final two episodes. Oh, and instead of R&J offing themselves because their love would never be accepted by either of their families (thus making things "tragic"), in the anime Romeo dies accidentally — impaled by a tree-woman, and Juliet then turns herself into a giant shrub to save the floating continent. They were both FREE of their familial bonds and COULD have been together at this point... But the writers of this convoluted trash apparently only remembered that the titular characters actually had to die after getting this far, and hastily chucked this slop to the viewers. Oh yeah, they knew how to tell a story better than William Shakespeare himself. Or should I say "Whilliam Shakespeare," as Studio Gonzo themselves had printed in the opening animation for the first few episodes. Really, how the fuck do you MISPELL the actual name of the person whose work you're butchering? The most famous playwright of all fucking time. Wow.
Anyway, other than the bizarrely retarded ending that they pulled out of their asses, there were quite a few other things that just rubbed me the wrong way after the final credits rolled and I had time to think about them — all the questions left dangling, for example: Like what the fuck was Escalus, the floating tree, in the first place? Why the fuck did Escalus need a Capulet blood sacrifice to stay alive? Why not a Montague? Why not Tybalt instead of Juliet (fucker didn't even offer despite the fact that he had nothing to live for at the very end)? How did Neo Verona come to be floating above the Earth in a Scrapped Princess sort of way in the first place? Who the fuck was that old, pipe-smoking douche who never gave any clear answers to R&J, but who seemed to be the only one who really knew what was going on the whole time? Why didn't anybody ever use those flying horses to shoot on down to the world below? And what the fuck was up with Ophelia? These are important questions in relation to the plot. They're not just things that if left unanswered make the world of Neo Verona seem magical and deep. Without them answered you just wonder if the creators themselves knew what the fuck they were doing when they threw all this crap together into one giant pile of Studio Gonzofied excrement.
Okay, this Shakespeare stuff was always boring back in high school, but leave it to the Japanese to make it all out shitty. This was a piece of shit, no two ways about it. I don't even think they had flying dragon-horses in the original play... Yes, I'm being facetious.
This show was equal parts boring, stupid, pathetic and lame. The main characters were total idiots, the bad guys were just evil dicks, and the plot kept jumping the logic train in order to get to certain story points that on its own devices it'd have no reason to arrive at. Chock full of schlock.
And why did they feel the need to redo Romeo and Juliet? Why not something we've not seen 50 incarnations of all ready? Pathetic.
To be or not to be, bitches! That be the question. Well, Holmes, not to be for me. As many not to be's as I can get.
This Rom and Jule was in the negative fashizzle, wizzle! It was all about flying unicorns and shit, and I was all with the "Whaaaaaat, honkey! No way, G, this is gayer than yaoi in the middle of the money shot!" And the show said back to me, "Yo, player, you ain't seen gay yet till you see THIS!" Then it blasts my ass with two stupid kids makin' da goo-gooey eyes at each otha's for about 5 minutes. No, thank you, you sick fucks. Who the fuck just stares into a chickie's eyes for 5 minutes without banging her lotus style, mothafucka?! Tha's jus'.... Wrong.
This thing was so gay it made Robin Williams look straight! It was so gay it made Ellen Degeneres's pubes look straight! That's a whole lotta gay in one small animated package. And speaking of packages, homey, mine's HUGE.